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How to Create a Warm Worship Pad

Why do you need a Warm Pad?

Introducing an essential ingredient to your worship sound palette: the warm worship pad. It’s the silent hero that sits seamlessly under your band’s mix, acting as the cohesive ‘glue’ to your sound. Whether it’s enhancing quiet moments of worship or providing a backdrop for reflection, warm pads are indispensable. Simple, ambient, and atmospheric, they’re the cornerstone of almost all worship patches I create; my go-to ‘bread and butter’ sound.

In this comprehensive guide, I will walk you through crafting the perfect MainStage Warm Worship Pad… and here’s the kicker: not only will your MainStage Worship Pad meet the above criteria, but it will also respond dynamically to your mod wheel, granting you precise control over its brightness. This versatility ensures it’s equally at home in intimate verses and bold choruses alike.

While this tutorial focuses on Apple’s MainStage software, fear not if you’re a Logic X user – the same principles apply, given their shared channel strip and plug-in formats. Let’s dive in and unlock the secrets to creating your signature warm worship pad.

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Apple’s MainStage or Logic X software and the required components of the built-in Sound Library need to be installed. I highly recommend installing the full sound library, to avoid any missing sounds. Learn how to install MainStage and the sound library here.

MainStage 101: Add a New Patch, Channel Strip, and Software Synth

Open MainStage and navigate to the “Edit” mode. MainStage’s “Edit” mode is used for creating and designing patches. Add a new patch by clicking the “+” button on the patch list. Add a channel strip to the new “Untitled Patch” by clicking the “+” button in the channel strip area. If you don’t see the channel strip area, you can toggle it on and off with the channel strip button in the top right corner.

MainStage’s channel strips are like channels on a sound board. You can load a virtual or analog instrument into each channel strip. A patch can contain multiple channel strips, each with a unique sound.

On the new channel strip, select “Software Instrument” and then “Create”.

Find the input field of the new channel strip, and click the “Instrument” button to display a dropdown list of the available virtual instruments.

Find “Sampler (Multi-Sample)” in the list, and select it’s stereo option.

The Sampler instrument is a sample-based synthesizer. It works by playing back samples (recordings) of the different instruments available in it’s sample bank. Sampler differs from MainStage’s other synths (Retro Synth, ES2, etc.,) that generate sound from scratch in real-time, rather than playing back audio recordings.

Load a Warm Pad Sample into the Sampler Synth

If the Sampler synth does not auto-open, simply click in the middle of the blue Sampler button that you added to the channel strip.

In the top left of the Sampler window, click the “Default Preset” dropdown and navigate to: “App Presets” > “Synthesizers” > “Synth Pads” > “Fat Jupi Darkpad”.

The Fat Jupi Darkpad probably consists of samples from one of Roland’s iconic Jupiter synthesizers. This sample is one of my favorites, and will work great for the foundation of our warm worship pad.

Sound Design: Sampler’s Synth Section

Find the Amp section of the Sampler synthesizer, and then the volume knob. Set its value to “-20”. Locate the Filter 1 section and set the cutoff knob to “51%”, the reso (resonance) to “0%”, and the drive to “10%”. 

By default the filter is set to low pass mode, meaning it will let the low frequencies pass through, while removing out the high frequencies as the filter is closed. Adding the small bit of drive to the filter adds a bit of grit/analog tone to the warm pad sound.

In the top right of the Sampler window, select the “Details” button to show more of the synthesizer’s controls. Set the transpose to “0”, unison to “2 Voices”, and then toggle the “Details” button to hide those controls. By default the transpose is set at “-12”. The change to “0” shifts everything up an octave on the keyboard. Adding unison multiplies the signal produced, and really thickens the warm pad sound.

Sound Design: Sampler’s Modulation Matrix Section

Locate Sampler’s Mod Matrix section and click the “-” button a few times to remove each modulation slot. Now let’s add the ability for the mod wheel to control (modulate) the filter 1 cutoff. Click the “+” button to add a new modulation slot to the mod matrix.

Set the the source to “Mod Wheel”, target to “Filter 1 Cutoff”, and amount to “+15.6%”. After making these changes, notice how there is an orange extension on the filter 1 cutoff knob range. This range is the additional 15.6% that the cutoff filter will open as the mod wheel is physically moved up.

Play the sound while increasing and decreasing your MIDI controller’s mod wheel position. Notice how as the mod wheel is moved up, the synth’s cutoff filter is opened allowing higher frequencies to come through. The volume of the sound also increases as these new frequencies are added, so we will balance this by adding an inverse modulation to the volume control.

Click the “+” button to add another modulation slot to the mod matrix. Set the source to “Mod Wheel”, target to “Volume”, and amount to “-46.4%”. Notice the orange extension added to the lower range of the volume knob. This negative extension represents the “-46.4%” that the volume knob will “turn” as the mod wheel position is moved up.

Lets add another modulation control to our sound. This time, we will setup the range of our MIDI controller’s keys to determine the amount the filter 1 cutoff reacts as it is opened via the mod wheel. We want the sounds played with the notes on the higher range of the keyboard to be more responsive to the filter opening, while the lower register notes are less impacted by the filter.

To create this modulation, add another slot the to the mod matrix. Set the source to “Key” and the target to “Filter 1 Cutoff”. Set the amount to “+24.6%”.

Sound Design: Sampler’s Modulators Section

Find Sampler’s Modulators section and locate the Env 1 Amp area. An envelope is a way of shaping sound over time. Sampler’s Envelope 1 is always linked to the amplitude. Though amplitude isn’t technically the same as volume, it can be helpful to think of it as such.

Set the “A” (attack) to “51 ms”. The amplitude attack length corresponds to the time it takes from playing a note until the max amplitude (volume) level is reached. 51 milliseconds is quite a fast attack for a warm pad. Let’s add an inverse modulation control to make the attack slower when playing at a softer velocity (and faster when playing hard). Thus, the warm pad will be more expressive/reactive to our play-style.

Add another modulation slot and set the source to “Velocity”. Turn on the “Inv” (invert) button for the source. Set the target to “Env 1 Attack (Amp)” and amount to “+869 ms”. Playing with a softer velocity will now fade-in the sound, while playing harder will lead to a faster attack time.

Going back to the amp envelope, set the “Vel” (velocity) slider to “24.5 dB”. The velocity slider is used to determine the playing velocity’s impact on the sound. The mid-range setting is desirable for our warm pad sound. Finally, set the “D” (decay) to “977 ms”, the “S” (sustain) to “57.1%”, and the “R” (release) to “327 ms”. These values correspond to the amplitude as the sound is held out and eventually release the keys.

At this point, we are done with the sound design of the Sampler synth. Close Sampler and lets start adding effects to our warm worship pad.

Sound Design: EQ

On the channel strip you created earlier, locate the Audio FX area and click in the top slot to add an audio effect plug-in. Select “EQ” > “Channel EQ” > “Stereo” from the dropdown. Open the Channel EQ effect and make sure the eight frequency bands at the top are enabled.

Right click the gain slider (you need to click one of the scale numbers) and choose “Linear 60 dB”. This will show a broader EQ graph view than before.

Turn off the “Q-Couple” button at the bottom and match the EQ band settings to those in the image below. Three settings exist per band.

The overall warm pad volume is significantly lower with these EQ adjustments. This is because our EQ is subtracting a lot of the frequencies. Increase the gain slider to “+7.8 dB”.

Our warm pad is still a little too quiet, so let’s adjust the volume in the synth. Open Sampler and increase the volume knob to “0 dB.”

Sound Design: Chorus

Add another effect to the channel strip right below the Channel EQ. Select “Modulation” > “Chorus” > “Stereo” from the dropdown.

Open the chorus effect and set the rate to “.767 Hz”, the intensity to “20%”, and the mix to “30%”.

The chorus effect adds a detuned copy to the worship pad sound, with “movement” on the detuning. This serves to thicken the warm pad, while adding an analog flavor to the tone.

Sound Design: Reverb

Add an another effect below the chorus in the channel strip. This time select “Reverb” > “SilverVerb” > “Stereo”. 

Match the settings to the image below.

The reverb effect adds a nice tail to the warm pad and helps to blend the sound. The modulation section of the SilverVerb plugin creates detuned chorus sound.

MainStage Mappings

At this point the warm worship pad is ready to go! If you want to take this sound to the next level, consider adding mappings for on-the-fly control. Some potential mappings may include: reverb, shimmer, swell, chord triggers, side chain, and octave.

If you want to learn more about creating custom mappings, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and YouTube channel.

I have created a version of this patch with custom mappings, available for free! You can download this patch here (just download the free version of KeyStudio).

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