Keys, Click & Loops

These days, in a modern worship setting, keyboard players have a lot going on: sounds, click, loops, faders, you name it. We’ve created a setup at Calvary for our players from novice to expert that is used to efficiently manage all the moving parts. Here I’ll give a brief explanation of the gear and technology our keyboard players use across our many church campuses. We’ll talk a little bit about keyboards, MIDI controllers, Click, Loops, and interfaces. Let’s dive in!

Keyboards & Controllers:

At the majority of our campuses, our keyboard players use the Nord Stage 2 HA88 for it’s built-in synths, its Rhodes and glorious piano patches. We also use it as a MIDI controller to play presets and custom-made patches in Ableton, Omnisphere and MainStage. To control, enable, and edit these computer patches, we use a NanoKontrol: a small piece of MIDI mapping hardware with faders, knobs, and buttons. It can be used to map volume, on/off triggers, frequency, reverb, delay, etc… Virtually everything in Ableton can be MIDI mapped. The NanoKontrol brings a physical control to the computer and takes away the need to be focused on a computer screen at any given time.

Click & Loops:

Ableton is the primary platform we use to run click (metronome) for the band through an in-ear monitor system and loops in the house. Loops are a collection of audio tracks used to supplement the band with the sounds that cannot be reproduced live. We use them to make songs sound more full by adding some extra synth, bells, or percussion tracks to our already full band, or filling in space left by the occasional absent instrument. For us, these are most commonly MultiTrack stems from the original recordings of songs, purchased from MultiTracks.com and formatted for use in Ableton.  In addition to the loops, we use a few other tracks in our sets:

 

  • The click track is a custom-designed looping MIDI clip that gives us variety in clicks, counts, volume, and subdivision.
  • The Tempo track holds clips that we use as a tempo master for each song.
  • The Stop track holds clips that are MIDI mapped to stop playback for extra precision in transitions.
  • The Markers track acts as a map of the song.
  • The Original Track holds MP3’s for reference in case we need to listen to certain sections of a song during rehearsal.

We custom add these five tracks to every MultiTrack we download.

Keys Rigs:

A few of our campuses are equipped with a rig that consists of a 10-channel audio interface, a 5-channel MIDI interface, an 8-channel DI, and a bunch of internal wiring that lets us run ins and outs in a clean and efficient way. It’s all contained in the box so that it’s easy to transport if necessary, and is always ready to plug straight into without having to make a lot of connections for every service. All of these ins and outs give us the capability to run stereo outs of the Nord, split loops into different channels (separate synth, percussion, synth bass, etc.), sync guitar delays with the master tempo, trigger lights through Ableton, and more.

This (above) is the front of the box where we plug everything in on the front end: the Nord’s 1/4” cables, power supply, whatever XLR’s we need, and any MIDI ins and outs we want. 

 

The back of the box (above) is where all of the magic happens. We run an 8-channel snake out of the audio interface into each of the inputs on the DI. The four 1/4” patch cables run the signal from the Nord, through the front, and into the DI. The MIDI patch cables also run into the back of the MIDI interface. We also use the box to store a USB hub and extra USB cables in case we use a secondary MIDI controller for a service. Everything we need, from a typical service to a larger production, is all tucked away into this small box.

 

Hopefully this give you some insight into how we manage our keys setup and provide resources for our players. If you have any questions or would like to know more, feel free to contact me at ScottyB@calvaryftl.org. I’d love to answer any questions you may have! Happy playing!