What is a Vocal Cue?
A vocal cue is a recorded vocal track that gives clear direction to your band when using loops or playing to a click track. For example “Verse, in 1,2,3,4,” then you are into the verse. Vocal cues allow each band member to know what part of the song is coming next and when it starts. Some of you reading this post haven’t thought much about vocal cues, but I challenge each person who is using loops live to enter into this conversation. Though this post is geared towards worship leaders using loops, vocal cues are beneficial for all bands and musicians.
What are some benefits of using vocal cues?
1. Vocal Cues cause you to be prepared to lead.
When taking the time to create a vocal cue you have to study the song you are going to lead. You will have to layout the arrangement and compile all your parts into a cue. This has helped me to be prepared for my rehearsal times and ultimately a successful worship time. We need to take the time when we are building loops and arranging songs to ask the Holy Spirit to speak through us in our preparation. I believe God is honored and can use our preparation greatly in a worship experience. So many orchestras and other music groups have scored out music that is telling each musician exactly what they are supposed to play and when to play it. This is a similar concept of what a vocal cue is accomplishing. A set arrangement of where the band is going each time we play each particular song. On the other hand I see that sometimes the worship set can go in a different direction than we expected. So I create my loops and cues with the ability to go into a tag or repeat a chorus at the end of the song. I run a swelling pad through ableton live in the key of the song and control it with a volume pedal. This allows me the freedom to bring a pad in at the end of a song if I don’t have a keyboard player or even if I do. Think about it… Leave a comment or question.
2. Vocal Cues help direct the band.
I have experienced this first hand when introducing the song “Go” by Hillsong United. This was the first time playing through a brand new song (with a loop) and feeling good about it because we had the direction of the vocal cues. I stress to the musicians not be dependent upon the vocal cue, but to use the vocal cue as a tool to help them focus on the part they are playing and not be worried about what part comes next. I hate the feeling of playing through a song and guessing where the worship leader is taking us next. Using a vocal cue in the introduction of a new song will help the band in their preparation for rehearsal and help the rehearsal run smoothly.
3. Vocal Cues are another step we take towards EXCELLENCE.
Striving for excellence should be on the forefront of each worship team or Band. Using vocal cues forces your band to play to a click, if you are not playing to a click you should. This will push your band to the next level and also make you sound a lot tighter. Countless times I have gone back and reviewed worship sets where we didn’t use a click and you can here the drastic difference from when we did play with a click. Using a click and vocal cues leave less opportunity for error or distraction in your worship experience. If you are just venturing into using loops, start out by implementing vocal cues and you will save yourself tons of trouble introducing a new loop to your band. People are more willing to play new music if it is clearly laid out and they know exactly where to go. If you do not clearly communicate to the band they may get lost in a loop, which can cause an easy train wreck.
Where do you find great vocal cues?
I have spent ample amount of time setting up my gear going through my songs and recording my vocal cues with a nice condenser mic and…they were alright. Honestly the best vocal cues that are out there are right here on loop community. If you are a contributor to the site, you can get them for free in the resource center. They are very easy to work with. I just got done putting vocal cues on my “How He Loves” loop and the time I saved using the vocal cues from loop community was very beneficial. You can get these cues in a reason file or Ableton files. They are easy to drop into your Ableton session and use automation (this link helped me understand Automation and AIC drivers http://vimeo.com/8303676 ) to set the song to trigger its self when recording to a split file. So now open up Ableton live and spend all night putting vocal cues on your loops and share them with the world through Loop Community! If you have questions or comments about anything in this post, please continue the conversation.
About the author: Jake Sterno is a worship leader and songwriter from Rockford, IL. Check out his music here: http://www.inallthingslove.com