3 Keys To Artistic Padding

Have you ever heard music being played at other times in a service besides when a song is actually being sung? If you have, then you have experienced the art of “padding.”  Here are 3 keys to helping you craft your art of providing that pad.

You’ve heard this perhaps during announcements, an altar call, or even while the pastor is preaching. It’s the idea of playing ‘background’ music while someone is speaking. Why? For some reason, music just helps what is being spoken. This doesn’t mean to say that it’s a requirement. But in many cases it helps alleviate any awkwardness of hearing a single voice by itself. The idea is to provide a ‘bed’ of music that focuses people’s attention on what’s being spoken. As I said earlier, it’s an art. 

1. Listen!!!

You have to listen to what is being said. This isn’t a time for you to ‘solo’. It’s a time to listen to what is being said and how it is being said so that you can ‘pad’ the right music. Most likely you will be using a pad sound from your keyboard. You can also use a melodic sound like a piano, but I would make it as ambient as possible. The point is to play chords and long tones so that the focus is on what is being spoken and not on the melodies that you are playing. You can incorporate a light melody here and there but you always want to the focus to be on the speaker.

Listen to what is being said so that you can know what to play. A pad for the announcements should probably be different from that of an altar call. If you are playing behind the announcements, then you can probably play something a little more lively and upbeat. The altar call needs something more reflective and solemn. 

Playing a musical pad under a speaker is no time to solo.  Make sure the focus is on the speaker and not on you.

Listen to how it is being said so that you can know how to play. You want to complement the mood. If the the mood is reflective, then be reflective in your playing. Long chords and tones go a long way here. If the speaker is soft, the you don’t need to be loud. If the speaker builds their volume, then it’s ok to build with them. Just always make sure the focus is on the speaker and not on YOU!

2.  Don't Overplay

There’s nothing worse than a solo ripping in the background while someone is trying to speak. Take the KISS attitude: "Keep It Simple, Stupid!" Again, long chords and tones go a long way. Feel free to lightly play or arpeggiate a chord and WAIT! Then move to the next and WAIT. Get the idea? Again, it’s ok to include light melodies, but make them vague. You don’t want to ruin an altar call by playing ‘Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. You may get some smiles from some people who recognize it, but you run the risk of distracting people from a life-changing moment. 

3. Always have a song on your heart

The easiest way to pad is to play a song that you’ve been mulling over. Just don’t include the melody. Play the chords. Slow it down. If you have a song on your mind and heart then you’ll never be without something to pad. 

Listen to how and to what is being said so you can complement the mood appropriately.  Simple, long tones go a long way.  Share the song on your heart.  Put these three keys into practice and you’ll soon become a pro at the art of padding.

Ryan is currently the Worship Director at The Church at Wills Creek in North Alabama. He has been the keyboardist for many Christian artists and has served with several churches including Christ Fellowship and Church of the Highlands. Ryan is the keyboard instructor for WorshipArtistry.com and also works as a producer, music educator, and studio musician. Ryan has two children, Josiah and Vivy, and they love spending time on their 100 acre farm.

3 Keys To Artistic Padding

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