Real world transitions between song sections and what happens with MultiTracks

We get the odd email at Worship Backing Band asking us about the transitions between song sections when people are using the repeat, loop or jump functionality. They find that sometimes it can sound a little “ragged”.

This isn’t actually an error in the software but what is realistically likely to happen from a musical and congregational perspective when sections of songs are repeated whether live or with backing tracks.

song sections

Looping and skipping to new song sections using Worship Backing Band is easy with either single key strokes or a simple pedal but be aware that not all songs are written with looping functionality in mind so it’s often better done with a live lead singer to avoid a “ragged” sound.

In reality, there are many songs across the board where the vocal line doesn’t start bang on beat 1, it uses a pick up bar so might start on beat 3 or 4 of the previous bar. But this only is really to do with the vocals and not the rest of the music, so if you wanted to go from, say, the Chorus and back to the first verse and switch off the vocals those changes will work seamlessly together.

Given that the Worship Backing Band MultiTrack Player is a tool designed for filling in for missing musicians in a real world worship band context rather than really being designed as a substitute for the entire band. So in a typical use case, if you play the track whether with a live band or tracks and take the song in a sudden, and not anticipated direction you’d need a good lead singer to guide the congregation into that change anyway. So in all real scenarios your singer would fill in for that change across the bar and if they couldn’t sing that change live its something that’s probably unlikely to happen congregationally from purely a musicality perspective.

Pro Wav Band MixThis is why most even pro live bands without backing tracks tend to only repeat big chorus’s at the end of the song, maybe a ‘building’ section or go back to an early verse where you bring the dynamic of the entire band back down. To do much else doesn’t make much ‘musical’ sense. Similarly if you wanted to jump from say a really quiet verse in a song straight into the big final chorus at the end it would line up metronomically but you would notice and massive and sudden jump in the volume dynamics. This could be seen as not having a seamless ‘join’ even though its timing correct, but in reality its not something that would do in a time of worship.

So in working with the player you have to make a real world judgement call on what is likely to happen live. If you’ve got a great lead singer, do switch the vocals off, have a go at jumping around the song and the changes will follow you in time, but we do recommend that if there’s no lead singer the congregation are unlikely to be able to cope with an ‘off piste’ manoeuvres anyway.

Tips for using the MultiTrack Player live

 

Using vocals with key change function

The pitch shift function allows you to change key 6 semitones up or down. As with ANY pitch shift engine, not just ours, vocals can be shifted up or down a lot less than the instruments before they start to sound unnatural. Therefore if you are using key change AND leaving the vocals in we’d recommend not going further than 2 semitones higher or lower. That said most churches using the key change function use it to suit their own lead singers’ vocal range so are likely to mute the vocals anyway. Do also bear in mind that to keep a song congregationally singable you probably won’t need to pitch any song more than 3 semitones in either direction.

Using tempo change

The tempo function lets you double or halve the speed of any song. Faster will of course push the dynamic a bit and slower is great for learning song parts but one word of caution…  We tend to find lots of churches play worship songs simply too fast in an effort to make the song dynamic more exciting. Do be careful with this as not only does it make the song more difficult to sing but it can lose some of the emphasis in the theme and lyrics. Listen to a pro band playing worship songs and they’ll often play them a lot slower than you think. Brenton Brown plays the song ‘Lord Reign in Me’ slower than anyone I’ve ever encountered – and he wrote it! The key to keeping the dynamic up without the speed is to play with confidence and lock tightly into the groove. Less notes, better timing, more authority. One more tip – the save song mix and tempo are independently reset so if you reset the tempo you still need to hit the save song mix button afterwards otherwise the next time you play the song it will play at the previously chosen tempo.

Using the vocal cue

The vocal cue stem is designed to give you prompts for count-ins, endings, hard to remember lyrics and band cues for the structure and arrangement of the song. If you don’t want the congregation to hear it, simply use the stem’s left/right volume slider to set up two mixes, one for the congregation through one side of your stereo output and the other side for the band. I.e. use a splitter cable from your computer’s headphone output into two channels of your church mixing desk. Then drop the stems volume slider to 0% on the congregation’s channel and boost or cut the volume on the other slider to taste into the channel that goes to the band’s fold back.

Fattening up the mix

It goes without saying that setting up and saving a song mix should be done well before you use it live in church. Most people mute the instruments stems they have playing live – but do try experimenting with leaving the some of stems unmuted that you have playing live but at a lowered volume level – e.g. 20%. Then have the live players exactly mimic those parts and it can add some real fatness and depth to the overall sound. Also if your congregation has trouble keeping with the timing try boosting the level of the drums and/or boosting the treble in the mix on your church sound desk. The treble frequencies will help bring out the top end and snare of the drums which in turn will give both congregation and band timing cues.

Playing with a click

If your team aren’t used to playing with a backing track or click do be aware it needs much more practice than you might think! Most of us think we’ve got a pretty good sense of time but you’d be surprised how easily most musicians fall ahead or behind the beat if they don’t practice to a click. So in short do try it lots in rehearsals before you use backing tracks live with a band in a service.

Click needs to be loud

Do experiment with boosting the click stem level if there’s lots of stage volume or especially if you have any older musicians who have lost some of the top end frequencies in their hearing. Research suggests this starts to happen to all of us from around age 30!

Practicing sections of songs

If you want to learn or practice a specific section of a song you don’t have to start from the beginning of the track. Simply use the < > keys on your keyboard to scroll to the desired section and hit G key (for go) and the song will instantly play from that section. As with learning any new part, make sure you practice it way more than you think you need to – both individually and collectively as a band!

Using a footswitch

The player any musician or sound tech but its primarily designed to be used by a  worship leader or musical director whose probably playing an instrument. I.e. no spare hands! Therefore once you’ve set up a song mix and playlist all you need to is hit the spacebar to start each song (remember its automatically cued up in the playlist anyway). If you’d rather use a footswitch to start the song instead try using any keystroke based foot pedal designed for gaming. Gaming footpedals generally come with a small piece of software that allows you to very simply ‘tell’ it which key strokes you want the footpedal to trigger. So setting it up to trigger the spacebar will give you total hands free operation. Gaming foot pedals are readily available online – try Ebay or Amazon.

Use the hot keys

We have programmed a number of hotkey keyboard shortcuts as follows:

esc => stop
space => play
left arrow => back (prev)
right arrow => forward (next)
‘m’ => mute
‘p’ => pause
‘>’ and ‘<‘ => scroll to section of song
‘g’ => play that song section “go”

 

Using foot pedals with the Worship Backing Band MultiTrack Player [Video]

The three button usb footswitch in the video is designed as a gaming footswitch by a company Scythe (Amazon affiliate link).

We don’t especially recommend that pedal over any other, it is simply one that is readily available on the web and is made of metal so quite robust. That said any similar keystroke 3 button pedal should work for you. Continue reading “Using foot pedals with the Worship Backing Band MultiTrack Player [Video]”

Why Worship Backing Band MultiTrack is mono/mono rather than stereo

Worship Backing Band

We’ve had a number of queries recently on the topic of mono vs stereo outputs on the Worship Backing Band MultiTrack Player. Here’s why we decided to go the mono/mono route:

Mono/mono mixes

The stems in the player are actually mixed mono/mono (not just mono) with identical left/right mixes but crucially with completely independent left right outputs for both channels from your headphone output. It’s not a pan control, those two separate left right outputs allow you to put them into two channels of your mixing desk and are totally independent to give you a variety of options. You can pan each stem if you like to give a sense of imaging from the desk, but this only works well if you are seated in the centre of the stereo image.

Why stereo is far from ideal

If mixing in stereo, for the congregation seated off centre or further to the extreme right or left of the auditorium they only get to hear certain elements of the sound, which is why most churches mix mono anyway.

Why two independent mixes work well for a live band

Worship Backing Band’s mono/mono set up is designed for giving you two independent mixes for front of house and foldback monitors. So yes, you could just feed the click to the fold back mix only (don’t forget too that there’s a separate two bar intro click, a shaker click and a spoken word vocal cue that can also be sent to foldback) but typically if you had a not very confident lead vocalist you could feed a lot of the vocal or BV stems to fold back and then a little to front of house to boost their confidence of even have a lot more vocals in the house mix to support an out of tune vocal. Conversely the electric guitar may want a little of the multi track in the foldback to remind them of the recorded part but with only their live part being audible out front.

Also do remember most instruments (apart from keyboards) are mono anyway…

Solutions for churches that do still want a third output

Obviously the headphone output only has two outs so, a 3rd to carry a click track isn’t really an option. If you want multiple outputs we do supply a pre configured Ableton session within the stem pack of each song, so if you want to use Ableton with our tracks you’ll find all the routing flexibility you’ll ever want and much more. Do remember the Worship Backing Band Player is designed as a very straightforward solution for churches with limited technically know how so sound card routing options are beyond the knowledge base of many of our users.

 

The MultiTrack Player Stems Explained

Here is a detailed description of the format of the stems (individual instruments) used on the MultiTrack Player. For ease of use we’ve standardized the audio into 14 stems so as you download a new song you know where you are:

Each stem is explained below, but its also worth pointing out that each stem has a separate volume fader for the left and right hand sides of its sound. We’ve given you this for one very important reason. If you use a standard splitter cable out of your computer’s headphone socket it allows you to put the left and right hand sides into two channels in your church’s mixing desk. Then you can feed one channel to the congregation, known as a ‘Front of House’ mix and use the other side as a foldback mix to your band. If you’re brand new to this, the band basically need to hear different instrument levels to the congregation, with some stems boosted and others cut out all together in order to follow the music leader and the song.

 

2 Bar Click Intro This 2 bar intro click is standard on every song and helps everyone come in on cue. If you don’t want the congregation to hear the click then just put it in your foldback mix and mute the other side (see below for explanation)

Lead Vocals Even if you have a lead vocalist, this is useful on many levels. Set them low to ‘fatten up’ your own vocal or to set them high give you extra confidence and sing along. Remember not all competitor’s backing tracks have lead vocals and its pretty difficult to follow a backing track if there’s absolutely no vocal cue at all.

BV’s – Backing Vocals
These are great as a training tool too. Solo them (this mutes everything else) to hear the harmonies and then add your own harmonies for wide lush BV’s

Acoustic Guitars Most songs have acoustic guitar, where we didn’t include one we just didn’t think it needed one.

Electric Guitars 1 There are two distinct guitar parts in each song. One could be textural and the other a lead line, or two rhythm parts playing in the same place. Again try soloing the parts in practice to learn some great guitar lines for you to play live or set it low in the mix and find your own voicings to compliment what’s already there

Electric Guitars 2 As above

Keyboards 1 Keys 1 and 2 could be any combo of piano, synth, pads, Hammond organ etc. We just chose the most appropriate combinations for the song.

Keyboards 2 As above

Bass What can we say? Session standard bass guitar parts. Switch them on or off or learn the parts yourself to play along live

Drums The whole drum kit, in one stem

Extras Vary from song to song but are other elements designed to give width and texture to the recordings that are not easily grouped into the standard stem format. So programming, percussion, loops brass, extra guitars, strings pads etc

Click Track Again set this just in your foldback mix (if you don’t want the congregation to hear it) and it will help keep the whole band in time, not just the drummer!

Natural click Use the shaker loop to keep in time if you want a more ‘natural’ click sound (or aren’t using separate congregation and foldback mixes)

Vocal cue This spoken word vocal cue just reminds you of difficult to remember lyrics or song structure points, e.g “intro starts with guitar riff….2 3 4” or “repeat chorus…blessed be the name of” or “all instruments pause for soft chorus …2 3 4”

What do all the song section abbreviations mean in Worship Backing Band?

Timeline

We’ve had a few customers asking about the song section abbreviations in the timeline of the Worship Backing Band MultiTrack player. We’ve tried to make them as self explanatory as possible but of course there are one or two that might mean different things to different folks. So below is a list of all the abbreviations we’ve used over the 150+ tracks we’ve produced so far, and If we’ve missed any do let us know! Of course, not every abbreviated term is commonly used by every person, so I’ve described a few of the less obvious ones below.

I – Intro – is always an intro so will never come in the middle of a song so not to be confused with and instrument (INST)

TAG – a short repeatable section often after a chorus, but not to be confused with a Bridge or a Link!

L – Link. Generally a simple 2 or 4 bar section between the end of a chorus and the start of the next verse. These tend to be very simple short chord sequences are often repeated at various points of the song so wouldn’t qualify as a BND or INST. Also L2, L3 etc. are likely to be all the same chord sequence.

BND – Band – an individual section with only the band playing that doesn’t seem like a full instrumental. Perhaps 4 gentle bars after a big chorus leading to a very quiet verse.

AL – Ad-lib. There are one or two of these and they are generally over the chorus chords. They are designed to encourage worshipers to sing something ad hoc or spontaneous. If that’s not your particular worship tradition then either sing the chorus again or miss out the section completely using the player. Also we often number each section so it’s easier for the band to understand whereabouts in the timeline the song is jumping if you choose to move from the standard arrangement. E.g. V1 and V3 may have the very same lyrics but perhaps a different dynamic so the numbers help everyone to know the difference.

Here’s the full list

I – Intro

V – Verse

VA – Verse part A

VB – Verse part B

PC – Pre-Chorus

C – Chorus

L – Link

B – Bridge

INST – Instrumental

AL – Ad-lib

BLD – Build T – Tag

BND – Band S – Solo

R – Reprise

O – Outro

E – Ending

FC – Final Chord

What about the stems?

This article explains all the instrument stems in detail.

Which Worship Backing Band option is right for your church? [Flowchart]

Flow Chart MultiTracks

Confused about the options for MultiTracks, Split Tracks and Backing Track DVDs?

Start with the question in the orange box “Do you have any musicians?” Then follow the flow chart to the best solution for you.

Here are quick links to all the products mentioned:

We’ve also got a helpful comparison table here.

Which two questions are always asked about our MultiTrack Player and tracks?

Interestingly we get asked the same same two questions almost every day about our MultiTrack Pro Wav Player…

Can you use multitracks from other suppliers in our Worship Backing Band player?

In short, yes you can – but they have to be in WAV (not MP3) format and of course you will need to programme the verse/chorus/bridge ‘marker’ points into the player yourself. We go into detail as to how to do this on our FAQs and ‘how to’ videos.

However… we’ve designed both our player and our tracks specifically for use in live church worship AND for people who aren’t necessarily technically minded. So if you find Ableton or regular DAW software complicated or time consuming in setting up a play list of songs for worship we’d suggest using both our Worship Backing Band Player and our MulitTracks as they work seamlessly together without the set up time. We’ve a good selection now – you can see a full listing here.

Using our tracks has other advantages too…

They have both lead and background vocals. Most other suppliers multitracks don’t have any vocals. Have you tried following a track without any vocals? It’s really hard! Plus there’s nothing to help you if you get lost! Why not set up our vocals at a low level in your monitor mix to help cue you? All our tracks also have a spoken word vocal cue to remind you of what section is coming next and even hard-to-remember lyrics. No other multitracks do this plus the background vocals are perfect if you don’t have any harmony singers.

They are recorded in congregational keys with congregational arrangements. Some churches prefer to sing all with the original artist multitrack recordings but we don’t think that’s always such a good idea. Firstly many original tracks are recorded to sound best with the artist’s own voice but most of the time the key is too high. We record all our songs in congregational keys and we also look very closely at the arrangement, so there’s always band friendly chord changes, intros, outros and song lengths suitable for average sized churches. I.e. We make the 12 minute ‘Bethel’ arrangements much more succinct!

They are cheaper! Yep, they are substantially lower priced than the competition. And there’s even quantity discounts so the more songs you buy the better the deals get! …Then the second question;

Can we use tracks from CDs or from YouTube in the MultiTrack Player?

The answer to that is no. Tracks from CDs, iTunes, and other MP3s etc aren’t multitrack recordings. In other words you can’t take a standard stereo recording thats been mixed together and retroactively split out the multitrack instrument parts. It’s simply not possible on our system or any other.

MultiTracks are made up of the separated instrument “stems” and our player lets you play them together, simultaneously, allowing you to mix, mute or solo any individual instrument . When you buy a MultiTrack recording from us you are buying 14 different versions of the same song, all featuring an individual instrument.

And there’s always a third question about how flipping expensive the tracks are compared to buying a song off iTunes!

People mention the financial outlay to get up-and-running with MultiTracks in comparison to buying a single backing track or song from iTunes.

We respond very honestly to this. Firstly, as we’ve said Worship Backing Band MultiTracks are cheaper than the tracks you buy from the two biggest alternative suppliers. PLUS our tracks include lead and background vocals which our main competitors tend not to include. Our main customers are small churches with limited cash, rather than those that have paid worship leaders and a generous worship budget, so we have tried hard to price accordingly.

Secondly, do be aware that when you buy a MultiTrack you are buying a LOT more than just a song file from iTunes, what you’re really buying is 14 very high quality song files that fit together seamlessly. This is basically the track as recorded in the studio in high quality WAV format – quite a valuable commodity. These WAVs are chunky uncompressed files (perhaps as big as 500MB – that alone tells a story about how different they are to a 4 mb MP3 with inferior compressed audio).

Finally, we’d ask what value you place on your worship? These songs will be sung many many times by your congregation. That’s generally a few cents a song for each congregant. We charge what we need to to cover our recording costs, the development of the Player, the production costs of the tracks and our marketing and admin overhead. And a pretty large chunk goes out to the song writers and publishers each time a track is sold.