One of the hardest jobs of a keyboardist playing at a worship service is preparing patches. Here are 5 steps I use to stay on track each week:
1. Take notes of how many sounds you need on each song, and what kind.
You’ll be surprised how few separate sounds you need for each song. In a lot of modern worship songs, there may only be a piano and a atmospheric pad. I others, their might be an arpeggiated synth, and several more complicated sounds. Writing down a list of what you hear will help you know how much time you’ll have to spend doing sound design.
2. Talk to your MD about how they want you to approach the track.
Last year I got a call to play a worship set with a young CCM artist. I spent around 7 hours painstakingly designing patches for a massive 40 song set, only to have the MD tell me at the venue that they were going acoustic, and all I needed was a Rhodes and piano sound. Always ask the music director what he needs from you before you start building your patches.
3. Search/design for your patches.
Many times even elite musicians will use built in presets when making records, and often you’ll be able to find a close match with a little bit of searching in MainStage. If you can’t find a close match, get a sound that’s similar to what you’re looking for, and tweak it from there. Or you could make it easy on yourself and get my MainStage Complete Worship Patches Collection and have patches for 160 worship songs, and a bunch more.
4. Put each patch in a folder for each song, in the sequential order that they appear in the song.
Once you’ve found your patches, you can either put each patch in sequential order and toggle through them throughout the song, or map all of them across the keyboard in zones. I recommend using the sequential order method at practices, and then if you feel it’s necessary you can always zone map certain sounds later.
5. Map a button on your midi controller to advance through the songs.
This keeps you from fiddling with your laptop onstage, and will allow you to switch patches much faster.