by Wade Huggins
Loops and multi-tracks are a tool – just like your guitar or keyboard. They can be used to truly improve the overall sound of your band. However, if you do not use the tools correctly, they can become a distraction and cause a great deal of frustration. Get the best out of the technology by using some of these techniques.
- Prepare your tracks. This sounds obvious but I have made this mistake myself. The week gets busy and you forget to go through and make sure everything is set up. As leaders, we have to prepare for rehearsal more than we expect our team to prepare. Rehearse going through the setlist – triggering the loops (regardless if you are actually the person triggering them). You wouldn’t show up to rehearsal with two broken guitar strings you have to change out. Show up with your Ableton set (or LC Prime) ready and tested to go!
- Give the team an accurate song map of the song (before rehearsal). There are several ways to do this. If you are using planningcenteronline.com or something like it, consider uploading an .mp3 of the actual multi-track split file so the band can practice with the actual form of the song (with the right cues and click) that will be used in the service. Email is another great tool! A lot of times, I’ll send the band an email the day of rehearsal so they know what I’m looking for in a particular song and I don’t have to spend time at rehearsal talking them through builds, transitions, and forms. Most worship teams have one rehearsal, a sound check, and then it’s go time. The more you can do to clarify the form of the song and service BEFOREHAND the better off you will be and the more effective your rehearsals will run.
- First run through the song, from beginning to end. No stopping! When I was first using loops and multi-tracks, we would get to a place in the song where we got lost or messed up a transition and I would stop, explain what happened, tell them what I was looking for, and then I’d have to navigate through the track to get us back at that same spot and we would run it from there (or even more time consuming, start over from the beginning). This made sense to me at first because it was how I used to run rehearsals before I started using loops and multi-tracks. Without loops, you could mess up and stop, then immediately pick up where you left off. What I have learned in this is basic – most musicians know when they messed up and what they need to do to fix it. Since I started doing this, my team knows that we will run through the song from start to finish. If we mess up, we all take a mental note. After we have been through the first time, I’ll touch on the places where we made mistakes and clarify what we need to do. Then we move on. It helps rehearsals be much more productive and efficient. It also teaches your team to keep going even when you make a mistake.
- Run trouble spots with only a click. Set up a way to solo just the click track and run trouble spots without the loop. It is sometimes beneficial to take the loop out and touch on spots. Less instrumentation helps the band hear the individual parts and get tight as a group without the loop. As a leader, you’ll also hear things you might not hear with the loop blaring in your ear.
- Practice Transitions. This is equally important as getting through the form, maybe more important. Make sure you take the time to run the transition several times with the band before you move on to the next song.
- Make sure everyone can hear the click/cues. Ask them, “Can you hear the cues? Click?” I have found cues and click to be one of the most helpful tools for rehearsal efficiency. Another thing you can do from time to time is record custom cues where you talk through the song and throw it in the cues track to give extra direction for rehearsal. This is especially helpful for songs that are a little more complex or for if you want to do something different than the original track.
Any other thoughts? I’d love to hear how you use tracks in rehearsal!
A passionate leader and talented singer-songwriter, Wade Huggins currently serves as Worship Pastor at First Baptist Athens. His primary passion for leading is the local church, but Wade also serves as a speaker, trainer, writer, and leads for retreats and camps. Wade manages the blog for loopcommmunity.com. He lives in Athens, TX with his wife Kristin and their two chihuahuas: Verdell and Schubert.