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Using Tracks in Worship – Part 1

This is a guest post from Steven Morris. He is a twenty year old student at the University of Nebraska (Kearney) who is passionate about worship.   He works part time at a local photography studio called Chetsy Photography, and volunteers weekly at Kearney eFree Church where he coordinates middle and high school youth groups and events, run tech including sound, light, video, and of course drum! Twitter |  Facebook. Learn how you can contribute here.

Worship is a major factor for many people in their relationships with Christ.   For me, I am very passionate about worship and have seen its production from all sides, including being a drummer, running sound, and even coordinating the songs along with the pastor’s message for that day.

In our college, and also contemporary Sunday morning services, we have used tracks for songs from artists like David Crowder*Band, Hillsong United, etc.   Some of these we produced, but most we retrieve from community sites like Bwack’s Forum. Most tracks we use are sounds that usually can’t be reproduced easily live.   These tracks include a click for the drummer and other musicians to follow. For an example of a track, here is DC*B’s Everything Glorious that we use often: [audio: Everything Glorious_Click in C.mp3|titles=Everything Glorious – Click in C|] [download the track here]

What I have seen over time are three things that tracks allow us to do:

The band knows what will happen next

If you have ever been involved in leading worship, (aside from the worship leader), we know that worship leaders can sometimes go off on their own and take a song in their own direction, adding another chorus, two extra runs of the bridge, or even write a third verse on the spot. (Okay, maybe that last one is just me). By adding tracks, this allows the band to know the exact order of a song and that way those crazy worship leaders won’t be going off on a tangent.

Solid Foundation

As Jon discussed, and was completely right in his post, “You’ll Suck as a Drummer Unless You Start Using A Metronome!”, metronomes and consistent tempo are KEY to a solid foundation in worship.   In music, we see our foundation come from drums and bass, but your drummer isn’t worth anything if he/she cannot follow a consistent tempo.   These tracks add a requirement that your drummer must be able to lead your worship team in a tempo, because if he/she gets off the tempo, the track will be off, and different parts will not be in sync with the band.

Reproduction of Recording

By reproducing a similar sound to a song that people will recognize from the radio or from their favorite albums, we can further reduce distractions from major differences that people may not like or be comfortable with.

So there is a flyover of what tracks can do for a worship set. In my next post, I will talk about how I run the tracks for a worship set, and some cheap and easy ways for you to get started!


Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Nicely structured post, but I have to disagree a bit here, maybe a little “devil’s advicate” too. I too am passionate worshipper first, and a drummer second. I personally strongly dislike playing with the metronome, even greater dislike loops or tracks. This could be because I like harp and bowl types of worship quite a bit more than radio versions of songs. I agree that the loop can add some nice layers and add some dimensions, but it can be distracting. I personally think that Worship leaders should have the freedom of going “off on tangents”. I believe that’s when the best worship experiences can happen.

    I do agree that it is a drummer’s responsibility to keep the band on tempo, so if you can’t keep your tempo, you should practice with a metronome in your spare time.

    • Jason,

      I guess I should have expanded a little bit, but when your trying to keep things short, its hard to hit every point.

      I do agree and also in practice, we do not use tracks for every song. Sometimes those tangents are great and yes I agree are amazing in worship. I guess what I was trying to hint at is why one reason the tracks can be good is that they solidify and order when using them. Our worship leader has even continued another chorus or bridge after tracks acoustically, but he knows that he can’t change order during the track.

      As for loops being distracting, I may have picked a more fun and what could be distracting track. I have found that Everything Glorious is a very fun song to sing and dance to, but isn’t the SERIOUS worship song compared to something like “Came to My Rescue” or ‘How He Loves.” (Those happen to be the songs I listened to while writing this comment.

      Above all, thanks for the comments!


    • Jon Manna says:

      hey JBrad 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Really appreciate it.

  • Arik Jones says:

    I’ve used tracks maybe 2 or 3 times in the 10 years that I’ve played on worship teams. They’re great if your band knows how to play with and around them. But for me personally, they just aren’t as useful. I’ve spent a lot of time building my internal clock practicing with metronomes and songs on CD that it’s no longer difficult to be come the “un-waivering” back beat many worship teams need.

    Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not always spot on for every measure, but I’m reliably consistent. As far as how that works for fellow members of a worship, it is just as valuable as instituting a track.

    But I will say that playing with tracks makes fills, accenting, etc a lot easier. Tracks also eliminate questions and confusion about arrangements.

    • Arik

      I do agree, it is vital for your band to be able to follow you. I have worked with some musicians that like to set their own tempo and don’t follow the drummer. To use tracks you do need skilled musicians that understand you need to follow the drummer. I am very thankful that our most of our musicians here understand that.


    • Jon Manna says:

      Hey Arik, love where you’re coming from with this. That internal-clock is where the money’s at!

  • Nick Lou. says:

    I think that on live Church worship,a drum machine is not appropriate.For many reasons.Can a drum machine be guided by the Lord?It is not a person.A drummer should never be just a cold- time click,although his/her technique must be a lifetime improvement issue to be solid.With simple words,a trial to be better and better from time to time,to play skillfully to the Lord.He/She must primarily though be anointed and guided by the Lord,(and this is No1,the Lord Jesus first over all other things).It is important to use a click/drum machine to improve yourself on the technical part on your personal practice.And it also needs prayer,asking for guidance and anointing,the more,the better,and have a heart for worship!
    Also,a drum machine will not let other musicians make any mistake.It will not slow down,it will not wait,just be there to move on.And because we are people,a mistake can always occur.Also,there are hymns-songs that have an increasing tempo.Machine Cannot understand that,unless it is programmed to do so(difficult).
    This is my opinion….

    • Jon Manna says:

      Nick, thanks for sharing! I agree with you that it’s not appropriate for all settings/environments and songs. On the flip side, I also think that using a track is worth exploring when the context is appropriate. Love your heart!

    • Arik Jones says:

      I’m with Manna. Like all things, use in moderation and with good judgement.

  • Matt says:

    Hey Jon…love the website.

    Using loops and tracks has been something I’ve wanted to try for quite sometime. I’ve got a macbook and want to start compiling some tracks for a test drive. Where is the best spot? Which program should I use for the tracks?

    And…how do you hook into your church’s system from the mac to run?

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