Ambient Pad Setup

(Note: this is an older post, and I now record with recording gear, and load the mp3’s onto iPhone’s. Most of the description in this post is still correct, and I added a new video, but this page is a little more current: Ambient Pads.)

Download ‘Bridge: Ambient Pads: III‘ for free

Download ‘Water: Music for Meditation (Ambient Pads II)‘ for free

After the last Guitar for Worship Workshop, I got a ton of questions on how I run the ‘ambient pad’ that goes along underneath what my guitar is doing. Yep, that was in March. And yes, it’s June now. In short, I suck. But, here it is!

The idea started from playing in band after band and worship team after worship team without keyboardists. And that wonderful bed the keyboards make for the other instruments to lie on was sorely missing. So I started doing it with my guitar on intros and low parts and such. Throw on some delays and a volume pedal and there ya go. But then I realized I needed to play guitar, too. (Novel thought. Sometimes I can get off in my own little ambient world pretending I’m Sigur Ros and totally miss every downbeat for about 5 minutes. And please note, that this is not a good thing, unless you are Sigur Ros.) And I realized that when I’m doing pad stuff, I’m ‘doing’ very little. Too much gets out of control fast. And honestly, if you ever want to give yourself a lesson in tastefulness, play ambient for a while. You’ll find just how far one note can go, and just how bad the ‘sort of okay’ note lasts. In a quick run, ya, the 4th can work over that chord, I guess. But when you’re creating space, suddenly the choice of notes becomes very, very crucial.

So I decided to record the pad, in every different key. I bought a little Fostex multi-track, specifically an older model that had no bells and whistles, so as to record the signal as purely as possible, and to make playback and switching tracks as quick of a process as possible. And then I recorded about 7 minutes of my guitar doing ambient swells in each key as a different song on the Fostex, and then set the loop points so that it’ll just go on forever. And then run it into a tube amp with decent clean headroom to give it back some of the warmth it’s losing in the digital recording. And since there’s no way to control it per se, I just run it into a passive volume pedal. (Is it bad that Britney Spears just came on my itunes? Come on now, some of her stuff is really catchy, even if she didn’t write it and it’s the pitch correction software singing.)




(*good photo of Britney Spears not found*)





And it’s worked very nicely for the last few years to start songs, end songs, meld between songs, and just generally create a nice bed underneath what the band is doing, or what my guitar is doing if I’m playing solo. The keyboardists like it, too, because in general, most of them play pad because they know it helps the song……but it’s not the most particularly fun thing to play. (Most of them just hit a chord and then hold the sustain pedal with their foot, and then make a big show about using their hands to eat coffee and donuts or something. hehe) So when they hear what I have running, they usually get excited that they can play more piano. And those who want to play pad and actually have it worked out to where they can create space and pad is ‘their thing’, it actually melds nicely with that, too. Part of the reason for that is that it is a guitar recording…and I’ve worked hard to make my guitar ambience sound more like an analog synth. There’s no digital synthesizers or anything. And this helps it sit in the mix much better. It tends to ‘appear’ when the music is thin, and disappear when the music is heavy. Plus, I’ve got it on a volume pedal as well, so I’m very ‘hands on’ with bringing it up and down when needed.

Now, there are some cautions to using this, but I’ll go over that after the video demo:

(hehe And yes, that was me ripping off Desperation Band, who ripped off U2’s ‘Streets’, who probably ripped off some classical composer or something. Nope. Every chord progression U2 has ever had is completely original. I believe it with all my heart. Even With or Without You. 😉 But I used those two worship songs in the video specifically to show how the pad will work during a worship set.)

And here is a new video, about four years later, showing how I use the pads in a different context, and a context I think worship music is moving towards:

So that’s a little bit of what it does and how it sounds. However, you will notice that it is exactly what I recorded. And it’s kind of ‘set and forget.’ So, that’s the reason for recording a warmer, less digital guitar signal into it, and for running it through a tube amp…so it sits in the mix better. And by ‘better’, I am meaning less pronounced. And, of course, this works nicely with modern music and worship music, where we tend to stay in the key almost exclusively. But it’s not changing chords! It can background fill around the I, IV, V, vi, and every once in a while, the ii. But start doing some Larry Carlton, or Yes, or anything jazzy, progressive, or classical, and you need to shut it off. This is crucial. You NEED to shut it off. hehe It can get ugly quick. Also, when you’re recording it, you need to prepare yourself to be bored for 7 minutes. My first batch of recordings, I would start to get bored of the simple chord swells and triads at about the 3 minute mark. And then the next 4 minutes would be me doing a bunch of other stuff. All stuff that sounds cool if you’re controlling when it happens; but once recorded, it now shows up randomly. So anything but the triads, some suspensions, and a few major 7ths, is completely out of the question. This pad is meant as a basis for everything to play, not for it to necessarily ‘play.’ And lastly, this is a tool; just like another instrument. If it for whatever reason happens not to work in a particular song, even though logically, it technically ‘should’ work, shut it off.

But even though there’s a lot of cautions to running this, and admittedly it might be more headache than it’s worth, it has been invaluable for me. It can start sets, end sets, give ambience while changing guitars, allow me to play less during the songs, fills up the dead space in the songs, and allows me to play less (did I say that already? hehe). And you’ll know you’re running it right when you don’t necessarily notice when it’s there, but you notice when it’s gone. There’s been two times over the last few years when it has gone out during a set: once, the amp died; and the other time the adapter for the Fostex died. And wow, immediate difference. I’m going, ‘Why is the set so empty today?’ And then afterwards I realized there was no sound from the pad.

So that’s the lowdown (that’s homie talk, from the streets, for those of you who didn’t grow up in as rough of a middle class suburb as I did…one time I saw a cop…I know, crazy stuff) on the pad. And apologies to those of you who saw this post and went, ‘Well that’s a lot of work for like, no payoff. Give me another pedal demo!’ I understand that this one is a lot more time, effort, and thought in its implementation. But I did get a lot of requests for this post, and it has been 3 months since those requests, so I figured it was about due. And I’m trying to think of something clever, memorable, and just generally spectacular to say at the end of this, but nothing is coming. Deal. (Again, the rough neighborhood…sorry, I try to hide it, but it comes out sometimes.)


100 thoughts on “Ambient Pad Setup

  1. Thanks, Karl. That’s really inspirational to listen to. Do you learn those parts through charts or ear? Not the pads, but the riffs you played.

  2. sweeeeeeeeeeeet , you da man Karl i noticed alot of switching ,and it was almost like witch witch is witch but i see your board is an extention of your foot . man you do have a sound i also have been waiting for this post . im always on the edge when you do the effects ! that is a nice way to fill for a lack of keys kudos my freind . im calling are keyboard player when i finish he he . ps. you aught to see the ladys in my CD collection love a good voice !!!!!

  3. Warning: off topic

    Warning: Don’t know if this has been mentioned on here before.

    Warning: I’m an Edge fan but not manic like some, so go easy on me.

    Warning: I got goosebumps and those always seem to be good

    Warning: Google ” It Might Get Loud”

    Warning: Very very cool!

  4. “It can background fill around the I, IV, V, vi, and every once in a while, the ii.”

    Isn’t this pretty much 99% of contemporary praise arrangement/progression 🙂

    like i said in my youtube comment, your tap dancing was awesome 🙂

  5. how could this best be acheived with one amp? I dont have the cash for a separate rig… I like the idea it is recorded and doesnt have to be set up on a looper for each session… or are there loopers that can hold a bank of recorded material for later retreival?
    Is there something that could merge the guitar signal and pad signal to the one amp well?

  6. LePaul–thanks for the kind words. Nice band, by the way!! Love your site. And, of course, welcome! Great to have you here!

    James–um, most of it I’m just making up. I did do two actual parts towards the middle of the video, and those are both parts from worship songs, which I learn by ear. 🙂 Which is why they’re probably not right! hehe

    Craig–thanks, bro! I think it just all depends on what you’re into. For instance, I switch out my pedals constantly, and rarely forget where anything is. However, I lock my keys in my car like, once a week. It just depends on where your mind and excitement is, I guess. lol

    And am I reading this right, that you might have some Britney Spears songs you like, too?! Sweet! Not alone! hehe

    Jason–is that out yet?! I’ve seen a couple clips, and I’m stoked to see it!!

    Mike–Ya……I guess that’s the new phrase for ambient, effects-laden stuff? They call it ‘shoe-gazer rock’, because you just go off into your own little ambient world, and never look at the crowd. I think. I’m actually not really sure…just wanted to sound cool. 😉

    Rhoy–lol Exactly! That’s why the pad works so well, even though it’s not dialing up chord changes. But a couple of the worship guys, like Tommy Walker, go all over the place jazz-wise, and so I won’t use it on his songs. But, uh, I can’t remember the last time I played one of his songs. hehe One, because I’m not a huge fan, and two, because I’m not talented enough. 😉

    I am an awkward dancer…on pedalboards and otherwise. hehe

    Mark–very awesome! That’s a good unit right there.

    Cam–there are loopers that can can store things even when they’re off. But most of them are still limited by space. A recorder like this one has either a hard disk or a hard drive, and has a lot more room to store things.

    And yes, you can totally do it without a separate amp. You can run it into a direct box, which I’ve had to do on occasion when an amp has died. The three reasons I run it into a separate amp, are 1) to recapture some of the warmth that is lost in a digital recording, 2) to be able to practice with it when I’m not playing live with a sound system (although you could do this with just a cheapo solid state amp, provided you did the actual recorded sounds with your main rig), and 3) so that I have a backup amp is my main rig goes down. Which has actually happened a couple times, and then I just use the pad amp as my main amp, and plug the Fostex into a direct box.

    🙂 Hope that helps and is kind of clear. I’m afraid that might have made it more confusing. hehe Sometimes I explain things very suckily.

  7. Very nice, I wondered about this myself, actually.

    Cam- You could do what Karl does here except run the pad signal into an ABY box that combines the pad and guitar into one signal, which goes to an amp. Or do the DI thing, that’s probably cheaper, but not as cool.

  8. Very nice. I almost always have a keyboard player, but he never wants to do much in the way of pads. Old-school piano player.

    So on the triads etc for the pads, is it essentially an arpeggio with whole notes. I have a Boss DD7. How long of a delay are you setting, heavy feedback? Lots of repeats?

    I doubt I’ll play the pads as a “second rig” but might very well just play them during the song when it’s a song where I can’t find much else to do with electric guitar ( when backing on guitar rather than leading worship )

    • * makes note to rip kenrick off after he’s ripped karl off

      Karl, it’d be cool if you made those pad tracks available for download (it’d make it much easier to rip off). I’m just sayin’…

      • Karl, I am in agreement with Jamie and Kenrick… you cold make a mint by making these pad tones available by download.

        I remember the first time i heard those pad sounds when we were playing and I thought how is he doing that and playing at the same time? But alas I saw the pedal you were using…

        Just brilliant stuff. Gotta figure out a way for us lazy guys to get those pad tones…


    Great stuff, you have your own voice and it’s very inspiring for me to read and watch your stuff
    thanks for sharing

  10. very awesome….

    Seriously, it would take me hours and tons more effects to pull this off, but it would be SOOOO much more consistent than getting the keys to pull it off @ just the right time during a set. I’m willing to help fund your next crazy pedal purchase for a copy of these. Grab em’ off your Fostex, upload them to a site (I’ll even provide the space) and sell them to your loyal followers (I mean readers 😉 for $??. 🙂

  11. Found another site with some discussion of ambient pad type stuff:

    But you know, perhaps we need to find our own sound ( once in a while ) . The shortest route may be to avoid reinventing the wheel. If folks like Karl have made the discoveries, done the hard work, put in the time AND are willing to share it with the rest of us, why not make use of it? Yes, I agree with that completely.

    But it’s like the dotted eighth U2 thing and how everyone tries to mimic it. If Karl and U2 and ( insert your favorite worship band ) start using bagpipes tomorrow, will I?

    Just a thought. ( can you run a bagpipe through a fuzz and delay? ) 🙂

  12. Great link Randy! I may have to end up going that route (recording keys into a loop pedal) I would love to do something like what Karl has, but I just don’t have the funds to buy the gear to pull that off.

    you’re exactly right on about creativity…
    … no bagpipes for me (even if U2 or Karl start using them), I don’t look good in a kilt 😉 lol

  13. I’m guessing if you wanted to go totally overboard you could create pads that go from one key to any other key, ya’know, just so there’s no silence even on those pesky ones where the key changes? 🙂

  14. Colty–thanks, bro. And ya, you could totally combine the signals into one amp. However, I prefer to have my amp signal path processing only one signal at a time…especially when the pad is going to play ‘random’ notes that might not always stack properly with your guitar sound when both coming out of one amp. And then also, if you mic it live, now you have your sound guy trying to run one channel with basically two instruments in it. But, who knows? Maybe it’d be a good randomness, and it might invent a new sound! 🙂

    Randy–exactly!! I use pads a ton in worship during songs or passages when any traditional guitar sound is going to kill the vibe.

    And I’m playing normal chords, with the 1,3,5. But when I put in a quick note swell before going back to the chords, just for some color, it usually works best to stay on the 1 or 5, and sometimes the 3.

    I’m running through a good amount of pedals, but a DD7 should be able to cop the sound. Mix is actually about 12 o’clock, lots of repeats, and a fairly long delay time…and then it’s just matching the timing of your swell with the timing on the delay. You want your delay time long enough to let everything carry out for a while, but not so long that when you swell in with either the volume pedal or volume knob that it delays too much of your entrance, if that makes sense. 🙂

    Kenrick–please do! Everything I do is just a rip off of Edge anyway. 😉 Well, the poor man’s version…this is how to do pad with your guitar without the benefit of Skrydstrup craziness switching. hehe

    Jamie–I’ll try! I’ve been meaning to make some new ones anyway. 🙂

    Sal–hehe Thanks, brother! I don’t think I’d sell them, though. Maybe list an address to which people could donate cool pedals, but… 😉

    Ben–thank you for the kind words. 🙂 Like I said, though, it’s just inventing new ways to rip off U2 and Coldplay. hehe

    Steven–haha Honestly, I will try; but I’m not going to sell them. Donations maybe…anybody got a Varidrive? (Accidentally sold mind. hehe)

    Dan–haha Nice!

    And whoa. I didn’t even think about that. ‘Britney yes, Brewster no.’ That sounds terrible! But I’m going to have to say, ‘Yep!’ lol Of course, Britney is on a song by song basis. And this is ‘musical listening’ only. If it was to hang out at the zoo (hmm…not sute why it’s the zoo, but that’s what came out), then definitely Brewster, not Britney! hehe

    Randy–that guy does some cool stuff! Very cool musician.

    And you are welcome to rip me off, because I am so going to rip you off with the bagpipes into fuzz and delay idea! That is sheer genius. 🙂

    And in answer to your question, if U2 started using bagpipes would I suddenly try to implement them in my next worship set?



    Steven–kilts are underrated. However, ya…on stage? Elevated above the congregation? I must agree that that might not be such a good idea. hehe

  15. Ben–sorry, we must’ve been typing at the same time!

    Ya, there are some occasions where rather than switching songs on the Fostex, if I know we need a really quick key change, I’ll record one pad in one key on track 1 of the song, and another pad in another key on track 2. This way, I can fade one down while I fade another up just using two fingers while I let a chord ring on my guitar or something.

    It’s a little more work and has more potential for something to go wrong such as forgetting to turn one of the channels down for the next song, or missing the change, or getting the loop points set properly for two separate recordings. But it can be done, exactly like you said, to avoid that terrible 5 seconds of silence between songs that, when on stage, feels like 30 minutes of silence! haha

  16. for those on an ultra budget…

    what about recording pads (or stealing yours…) and putting them onto an MP3 player -> volume pedal -> DI. would this work? obviously it is not the tonal taj mahal but would fill space and is the cheapest thing i could think of without having someone else controlling the volume… wouldn’t be great if you wanted to use multiple pads in the set as you would have to get onto the floor and re-select on the MP3 player but I think i would only want to use a pad for a song or to a set – prob in the same key…

    • I’m using a Boomerang looper that has a line in and 4 seperate loops. I use my mp3 player to dump the stuff I’ve made into the looper after I get to church (The looper doesnt’ retain any information once it’s shut off.). I’ve run it DI and also through a seperate tube amp. Depending on the effect that I’m looking for, either way will work. Lazy Mark likes the DI. Picky Mark likes the stuff into a Princeton. I just started doing this and it takes a bit of coordination and cooperation from the rest of the band. I did a thing a couple of weeks ago with a U2 like delay thing on the looper and me playing over the top of it for our “Uh…Church is starting folks…time to get your behinds moving!” song. It worked.

  17. @Cam…that’s what I’m hoping to do (should I be so lucky as to get my hands on Karl’s sonic-pad heaven :)…I’ll just use my iPod (set to repeat). I tried for about an hour to recreate that sustained pad sound with my M13 today…I think I’m missing about 3 more pedals to make it happen 🙂

  18. I can get an ok Pad sound on my Multi-Effects unit using reverb/chorus/phaser/delay/dirt but I think Karl’s sounds more keyboardy… which is good! my big qurestion is would a signal from an MP3 player work with a volume pedal? would it be enough/too much? I have my eyes on a Boss FV-50H… nice and cheap 🙂

  19. Well, yeah, but that was mostly in response to Cam’s question of how to do it with only one amp.

    Also, wearing the kilt on stage while playing, that’s not that bad, but wearing the kilt while running sound and having to run to the stage to hand some batteries to the leader in front of the whole congregation…that could end badly.

    Gosh, that just wasn’t the wisest choice, wearing my kilt that day.

  20. Keith–thanks, bro. I’ll definitely try to work on it!

    Brian–thanks. And ya, most of the time I bring two amps. If there’s a set with a huge band with a couple keyboardists, or I know in advance it’s going to be a bluesy or folksy set, or if it’s going to be a quick practice just to get songs down or something, then I’ll leave the second amp at home. But 95% of the time, I’m bringing two amps.

    Cam–that should work! 🙂

    Steven–I’m sure the M13 will do some incredible pads! But ya, I do have a couple ‘up my sleeve’ pedals that bring it just enough into the keyboard realm.

    Cam–the only problem you might run into is that in a band mix it might disappear too much, or sound too different when mixed with live instruments. Not sure, though, as I’ve never done it. Definitely worth the experiment!!

    Colty–oh, gotcha!

    And did you really wear a kilt at church one day? Is this what I’m reading?! 😉 Do tell.

  21. I’m working to implement a similar thing where I can use prerecorded materials controlled by a volume pedal. Mainly pads but also more rhythmical stuff, weird textures etc. In my mind the perfect machine for this which I use is the Digtech jamman: 99 storeable loops with up to 6 hours time in total, loops can be started/stopped or switched via foot control and be edited on computer, too.

  22. Karl,

    What’s the model /nameof the fostex recorder you’re using for this?

    I’m looking at a couple on ebay don’t know much about them.


  23. Yup, totally wore a kilt to church one day. I have a kilt for formal-ish type stuff and I didn’t have any clean pants that day, so I just wore my kilt and a t-shirt. It was all good until I had to run to the stage. The sporran (man purse) had to be kept still while running, that’s not a lot of fun having that whack against…things…

    The whole youth section was snickering while I hopped onto the stage. Again, it was not the best choice. I made a promise to myself then that whenever I ran sound, I would wear pants.

  24. Marko–love it! That sounds killer.

    Josh–it’s the Fostex MR8. There’s a newer version that’s black, which is way less awkward than red. 🙂

    Jason–:) If I can get people to buy more gear, than my blog has done its job. lol 😉

    Colty–wow. That is all I can say. And…hehehe

    “I made a promise to myself then that whenever I ran sound, I would wear pants.”

    –Words to live by. 🙂

  25. I’ve been doing pad sounds lately as well, but simpler… Using my Nova delay in ‘manual’ mode I’ll turn the feedback to 100%, level at nominal, and time at 600-1000ms. Then with an analog delay (keeley ad9) and modulated reverb (boss rv-5) before that, I’ll do volume swells, adding several I’s and V’s on each other. Then, turn off the Nova (or switch to a different preset–make sure it’s on “continuous trails”) and get on with the rest of the song.

  26. Jesse–good stuff! Nice and inventive! 🙂 I’ll do that with the Timelines every once in a while to switch keys. Fade in on a pre-recorded or like you said, ‘pre-played and trailing’, pad on the Timeline while fading out on the Fostex. but then I eventually fade back in on the Fostex once I switch its key, as I like the separation of not having the pad and guitar sound come out of the same mic’d speaker for too long.

    Very cool, bro, and nice blog by the way, too. I’ll add you to my blogroll if you don’t mind. 🙂 Cheers, and have a great day!

  27. Pingback: M13 settings videos « mapleneck

  28. ok, so I come up with a nice group of effects that gives me this sweet swelling pad-like sound exactly like Karl’s. Ok, about 2% of what Karl’s was. Actually about as similar to Karl’s as a dog is to a cactus.

    Test it, tweak it, play with it. At worship practice on Thursday, it’s great. Pre-service practice today, it works great.

    Time to roll it out live – some weird seagull sound comes out of it and goes into some echo loop that we can’t kill. What an end to an absolutely incredible set.

    “nice seagull effect” is what I get from everyone…


  29. haha That’s an awesome story, bro! And it happens…that’s the problem with delay; it sometimes takes on a mind of its own, and when it does, it also delays it. hehe

    I’ve probably mentioned this before, but years ago I had what I called my ‘cello tone.’ It was basically a fuzz into a tube preamp that I could turn on with one bypass looper, and then into a quite unnecessary amount of delay pedals. It was awful. But for some reason, I thought it was original (which I guess it was, but only because no one in the history of the world had ever actually wanted that sound), and I loved it. And one time it did create a bassy feedback loop through the house system, and no one could hear the vocals, and everyone’s staring at the bass player like it’s his fault, and the sound guy is on stage yelling at me to stop, and I’m just thinking how everyone at this church just doesn’t know what ‘worship’ is.

    So, ya…I’ve been there, too. 🙂 Out of curiosity, what pedals were you running? Was this a live thing, or a recorded thing, and did you ever find out what went wrong?

  30. Pingback: Line 6 M13 Ambient Guitar / Pad Sound « mapleneck

  31. Karl,

    This is great stuff man. I’ve been recently putting together my first personal rig – amp, pedalboard, etc… and I would love to have the pad capability! Sorry if you have already answered this but when you record the pads what effect pedals are you using? Your post mentions delays and volume pedals I was wondering if you could enlighten me on which you’ve gone with to get that pad sound! I’ve heard good things about the Boss RV-3 Digital Delay/Reverb pedal and its ability to produce a semi-pad background. But I wanted to hear what you had to say. Again sorry if you answered this already!


  32. Hey Austin, no worries. My exact signal chain when recording the pads is:

    George Dennis active volume pedal–>

    Subdecay Quasar phaser (gives it that watery, synth sound)–>

    Damage Control Timeline digital delay (long setting, this is the one responsible for the main part of the swell sound)–>

    Diamond Pedals Memory Lane analog delay (for warmth, modulation)–>

    Damage Control Timeline digital delay (multitap setting low in the mix, for spaciousness)–>

    Arion SAD-1 analog delay (more of a chorus setting to meld everything together)

    🙂 So basically, one volume pedal with one delay will do it. Throw in a few more delays and a phaser for just more ambient space.

  33. Thanks for taking the time to share this! BTW, did you play for one of the worship sets at the National Worship Leaders conference in Austin TX back in 2006? I saw a guitarist do the same thing during a worship set. I heard this really neat synth pad in between one or two songs, but no keyboard player was on stage. Then I noticed him reaching down to a Boss Loop Station to fade-in the volume. That’s when it dawned on me what he was doing. In talking with him after the worship service, he mentioned that he had saved different guitar/pad loops for different keys in some of the Loop Station’s user memory slots. If that was you, thanks again! 🙂 [and if it wasn’t, thanks for such a great blog site! I just found this tonight… I’m going to send all my younger guitar players here — good stuff!]

  34. hehe No, unfortunately that wasn’t me. I’m definitely not famous enough to be playing at a national anything. lol But way cool to hear about other guitarists doing this. It really helps fill space, especially like you said, in the absence of a keyboardist. And thanks again for the kind words! Cheers!

  35. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE it is possible to get hold some recordings of those pads you have made, its such a great idea.

    Failing that, how does the fostex multitrack work exactly? More specifically, how do you record the sounds onto the multitrack (line out?)? and secondly do you have 12 of them for each of the different major keys lined up ready to go for any situation?


  36. ok scrap some of that, i just needed to watch the video again to find out how you recorded them, derrr. Still interested to know how you select the different keys on the Fostex.

    seriously this is the single greatest thing i have seen any guitarist invent in worship music ever.

    jim (again)

    ps. pleeeeease?!

  37. Hey Jim! Thanks for the kind words. I’m currently looking into what it would take to make the pads available. Not sure of all the details quite yet. As for saving different keys, the Fostex is a multi-track recorder, so it’s set up to be able to save different songs. So I just record a pad in a key, and then save it to a song slot. Then I name it, like, ‘A’. Then I record another pad. I save it in a different song slot. Then I name it, ‘C’, or whatever key I was playing in. 🙂 Hope that helps! And I’ll let you know if I can start making these available! Cheers! 🙂

  38. i’m sure you could run your fostex into a computer then use if you have a mac garage band. Just create different tracks for each key and record each one seperately in and your good to go.

    by the way your stuff is awesome

    and by stuff i mean your gear, guitar, pedals, and what not all throughout. love it

  39. Cole, thanks for the kind words! And ya, I could do that with the Fostex, but there’s some white noise and such in the pads (as most of them were recorded years ago on a totally different rig…kinda weird when I think about it). So, I’m definitely working on making them available; but if people besides me are actually going to use them, I want to record all new ones with less white noise. 🙂 Cheers, bro!

  40. Listen to “In the shadows of the glorious cross” Don’t I hear some ambient pad work there? First song at this site, click play music.

    Might find it here also:

    Lyrics and chords here:

    I like that Southern, “down-home” feel. Woh, the 2nd song that came on at sounded like ZZ Top. I’ve been hearing some buzz about these folks lately.

    But that first song does remind me of this one — talk about a DARK feel.

  41. Nice! I’m not at a place where I can turn the sound on right now, but I’m checking those out as soon as I do! Almost all bands layer pad behind their songs in the studio. One of those things you don’t notice, but you’d notice if it wasn’t there. Not a ton of them do it live, though. The big ones do, and the ones who rely on a more sonically full sound. 🙂

  42. Hi Karl,

    Been reading some of your reviews and stumbled onto this. You put a lot of work into your site……. It never ceases to amaze me how much a person can accomplish when they are passionate about something. Cool.

    Hey I was wondering which Fostex recorder you use. The idea of recorded guitar pads intrigues me. They sound great by the way. I have always loved analog synth pads. Very few worship keyboardists have the gear to actually do them, and I personally don’t like the digital keyboard sounds much, except for Kurzweil, I’ve been playing worship music for about 23 years, and its time to learn something new.

  43. D.B., I’m so sorry I missed this comment! Thanks for the kind words on the site. 🙂

    And I’m using the Fostex MR8. And I’m totally with you! Nice to meet someone with the same tastes. Kurzweil is some of the only digital keys stuff that I like, too. 🙂

  44. this post inspired me to come up with my own Pad Rig. I thought I’d share what I’m doing.

    I purchased the new JamMan solo. This stompbox pedal has an SDHC card input so you can store all kinds of pads and loops. DigiTech also just released software to help manage the loops you have stored on the SDHC card viz USB connection.

    I really like this setup because it saves on board space, you can use the optional 3 button FS3X switch to make maneuvering to different pad keys or loops a breeze, and its all controlled by your foot!

    Thanks for providing the pads, Karl. Love your ministry here!

    • I’m actually looking at the JamMan Stereo for this. The reason I’m leaning towards the stereo is that is has a dedicated click track output so when I’m using the loops on it, I can send a separate click to our system to put in the monitor mix. It also has that 3 button external switch integrated right into the box.

  45. CJ Mills–that sounds great!! Totally awesome. Props to you, and sorry that I missed this comment last month!

    KennyG–that JamMan sounds great!

    Sam–thanks a ton! 🙂

  46. Hi Karl,
    Thanks again for making the pad tracks available. I’ve been testing them out, and also working on my own pad sound. I just bought an M9 as my main effects. Wondered if you or anyone has tried for a pad sound on the M9, and what they came up with. It’s pretty simple to get something decent, but there are so many choices, it’s been very challenging for me to settle on something.
    So far, I like the barber pole phaser into the auto volume swell mod delay, into the octoverb. Skipping the phaser and adding the cave or particle verb is nice, too. I need an external volume to be more effective, but the auto swell delay works pretty well. I just wish I had about 3 more slots. I could add some more with my Adrenalinn 3 afterwards, but I really want to be able loop the pad with the M9, which may turn out to be tricky anyway.
    I know it may be pedalboard heresy, but you should check the M9 out if you haven’t. A LOT of versatility for the price you are used to paying for single pedals!


  47. Matthew–wow, sorry I missed this comment last month! I know Dan over at Maple Neck (in my blogroll) has done pad sounds with an M13. You might want to check with him. And I do think the M9 and M13 sound good for the price. I’ve played both, but in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But I do know a lot of folks who are making wonderful music with them. 🙂

    Art–when I used the Jamman, I used it in line with my pedals into the same amp. When I run pre-looped pads either with an iPod or external recording device, I use a separate amp. 🙂

  48. Hey, no worries, Karl. Thanks for the reply. I’ll definitely check out Dan’s blog. I did pick up a volume pedal, and it’s a big help.
    Also, I’ll add a tip that hopefully can help anyone listening (reading?). I wanted a simple playback means, which led me to my iPhone, but it lacks the ability to smoothly loop track. An easy, but perhaps easily overlooked, solution to the dilemma was to just string the track as many times as needed in an audio editor, then exporting it back to your device. Twice (14-15 minutes) has be plenty for my uses so far, but you could obviously string them together as many times as you want, and be ready for any contingency. The tracks have worked beautifully, by the way; thanks again Karl for your efforts and generosity.

  49. Hey Karl, Just started reading your blog and watching your videos on youtube. I am really excited to hear your pads they are close to this sound that is in my head I have been trying to work out. I have been playing guitar for a little over 2 years and have come a long way fast. Not at your skill level yet but I learn fast. I am in college and play for our worship band. I really want to try your ideas and adapt them to what I have. I was hoping you could give me tips and clues at to how to set my pedals in line and how to adjust the setting for a sound similar to your ambient pads. I have a gretsch hollow body and 2 amps a fender super amp 4-10 60 watt tube and a Vox ac30 with alnico blues. a 5 looper tuner/truebypass from loop-master. I have limited money and my pedals I have accumulated over the years. they are. 2 Ernie ball volume pedals, Boss CS-3, Boss DD-20, Buddah wah pedal, 2 Line 6 DL4’s, Cream-tone overdrive, And from electro harmonix I have a Small clone I modified to have tremelo, vibrato and a depth knob, a POG, A Big Muff Pi, and a Cathedral for the reverb unit. Again I have gathered them over the years on sale or on ebay and they are all working great but I cannot figure out how to set my board up and how to get close to your pad sound. I can tweek well, but I have no Idead where to start and oder or what else I need to do. I was just gonna use my macbook pro with a tascam interface to input and record and then to play them back through my amp with itunes or something else. Any and all help would be deeply appreciated.

    Thanks for considering, Jeff

  50. Matthew–great idea. Love it! 🙂 And no worries on the pads. Glad they’re working for ya!

    Jeff–cool! All you need at the core for the ambient sounds I’m doing here is the DD20. Set it to about 60 bpm on quarter notes, tape mode, roll off the tone to about 10 o’clock, turn the feedback level almost all the way up, and turn the repeats to about 9 o’clock. Then turn your volume knob down, strike a chord or note, and slowly turn the volume knob up. You should be there.

    It’ll take a bit of practice to get to where you find the sweet spot on the speed of increasing the volume knob; too fast and you get a choppy decay, but too slow and the delay doesn’t hear enough signal to swell anything.

    Once you’re set for that, add in the volume pedal behind the DD20. (Guitar–>EB volume–>DD20.) That’ll be easier than turning up your guitar’s volume knob. After that, try adding one of the DL4’s after the DD20 at an analog setting with about 12 repeats, lots of modulation, and a tempo of about 400 ms. Then try adding another DL4 after that at a lo-res setting. Then run into the POG. Keep the mix low, and turn up the double octave all the way, with the double octave mod up 75%. The other octaves stay down. Then run into the reverb. The settings for that will depend on how washy you want your sound.

    Lastly, you can add the Small Clone in before the volume pedal to add a little color if you like; or after, between it and the DD20. Then add the Big Muff in before that to turn on every once in a while for violin-like swells. The CS3 before that to add sustain if you want, but I don’t really like compressors. I’d sell it. hehe

    If you wanted to get really crazy, send one output from the second DL4 into the Super Reverb, and then send the second DL4’s second output into the POG and Cathedral, and then into the Vox. 🙂

    So, your chain would be:

    Big Muff–>
    Volume Pedal–>
    Loop 1–>Small Clone
    Loop 2–>DD20
    Loop 3–>DL4–DL4
    Loop 4–>POG
    Loop 5–>Cathedral

    Now, obviously with that setup and using the second amp out of the second DL4, Loop 3 would actually in essence turn the second amp on and off. Which might be cool. Or, just throw the second DL4 after the Loop-Master and run both outs from that. Or sell one of the amps for pocket change or more pedals. Really depends on if bringing two amps to every gig is important to you or not.

    Hope this all helps!

  51. So in my swells with the worship team time, I am wondering if I should manly just swell the root, because I find myself wanting to swell in the root onto every chord thats played, but I can feel this may not be the best way, then if I stick just to the tonic it seems kind of stale.

    HELP! So for this song, my team plays that intro like 2 or 4 times, we call it the verse, its like to chords, I &V, and when I swell the one, I naturally feel like I should then swell the V, but it seems like overkill.

    • love this song … Vineyard UK 🙂

      i remember the first time we played this song … right after we played it, our Pastor said with a big smile: “That’s beautiful”! … classic!

      • Yeah bro, we are doing it in A, during the slow Adoration time, mainly acoustic and piano lead, but we will hit the climax strong 🙂 I never heard the cd version till I pulled that song up to ask Karl. It is dramaticly different than any way we have ever done it. 🙂 Some songs no one on the team has ever actually heard, and this can get upsetting, especially when the song calls for a driving eigth bass line and the bass player is doing a boom chuck right along with the piano :puke:

  52. Hey Guy, I’m hearing the I and the IV in the intro, rather than the I to the V. I believe it’s C to F9, at least in that youtube video.

    In which case, I would capo 5 so that you can play G form chords. Play a normal G, but don’t hit your lowest two strings. So you’ll have stacked G C G C…which works for both C and F9. So throw on some delay, and just swell on the downbeat of every other measure.

    When the song moves to the B section, which sounds like vi-V-IV to me, or Am G F, hit the exact same position for the Am, then for the G, do the same position but drop the high e string a half fret down and only play the top two strings so that you’ll have stacked G B, then go back to playing all 4 strings and G C G C for the F9.

    Technically, because of all the ringing notes, you’ll have C(no3) and F2add9(no1, no3) for the A section, and Am7add14(no1, no5), G4, and F2dim5add9(no1, no3) for the B section. (I guess technically it’s voice leading, but those are the actual notes going on…might not be written properly! haha)

    But practically, you should just have ambience. All the transient notes make for just enough dissonance to mask the chord changes and make it feel less blocky.

    And sorry, I suck at explaining this stuff! It’s actually way simpler than I’m making it sound. If I have a chance, I’ll try to record a quick video. Really sorry for the reply, but hopefully it helps at least a bit! 🙂

  53. Oh yes, excellent post! Voice leading! Great, yeah I IV, it was late and I forgot the exact chords.

    Thanks so much Karl, and well done on the Japan CD

  54. Cool! Glad it can be of some help, brother. 🙂

    And thanks for the kind words. It’s nice that just a small bit of help can get to those folks.

  55. Karl,
    I just bought an RC2 that i want to put some pre-recorded loop pads on. Here is my question. I want to be able to fade the loop in and out with a second volume pedal (maybe). What i dont know how to do, is how can I use my current pedalboard and just one amplifier to accomplish this. Or should I just bite the bullet and get a second amp for that?

    • What you need is a parallel loop to mix the two signals to a single output. However, I have found that having them on their own line to the FoH gives much better results.

  56. Oh yeah, and the reason why i want to keep it all one rig is because there are a couple of situations where I like to do some sound on sound stuff within a song that are not pad sounds and i want to be able to use the rest of my rig for that. Here is my current setup.
    Wampler Ego Comp> Ernie Ball VP jr> RMC Wizard Wah> NOC3 Pure Drive> Seymour Duncan Shape Shifter> Boss RT20 rotary> Eventide Timefactor > Behringer Reverb> Boss RC-2 > Rivera Fandango 1×12.

    • There are a few out on the market. I have one from T1M that works well and wasn’t very expensive at all. The best bet would be to email Dan and tell him exactly what you’re trying to accomplish and I’m sure he’ll be able to hook you up. I know there are others out there as well but, I can’t remember who makes them off the top of my head.

  57. I’m actually already beginning to wonder if this will be that worthwhile without a second amp. Reason being is i think that by being on one channel in the FoH im gonna muddy things up. I feel like i will have more flexibility with having it all on one signal, but I think its gonna make things sound more on top of each other than i want.

  58. Hate to say it, but ya…for the cleanest sound, and the ability to run sound on sound through your main rig, you might need a second amp and a second RC2. One to run pre-recorded pads through, into the second amp, and one to keep in your main rig for sound on sound. But then, hey, you get to buy more gear! hehe

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  61. For spontaneous pads as a guitarist…you could install a midi pickup and expression pedal them in real time based on whatever you’re playing…even beyond pads…I think using loops and live midi at the same time may be a path to consider. Best of both worlds. There is something to be said about playing multiple sounds from one output…that’s why I’m into hybrid guitars. This site looks awesome…I’m new to the looping (other than real-time guitar phrases) so I’m absorbing all that I can. Thanks for sharing!

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