Do tracks limit freedom in worship?

There are many benefits to using a click and tracks in worship, especially if you use Ableton Live to run them. But a question I often hear is “does using a click and tracks limit flexibility or spontaneity in worship?” My short answer to this is “no.” But in this article, I’ll explain how you can build flexibility into your Ableton Live setlist and make the software follow you instead of the other way around.

The question of the day: how do you program flexibility into your setlist while using a click and tracks? Let me know in the comments.

Worship leaders who hesitate to use a click and tracks in worship often give the excuse that they do not want to be tied down to a particular song arrangement while playing with a click and tracks. It limits freedom and spontaneity in worship. To be honest, if you wing it when you lead worship and you and your band never know what the basic structure of the song will look like, then using backing tracks probably is not going to work for you. You can still use a click because that will at least help you keep a consistent tempo. But continually jumping around to different parts of the song will make it nearly impossible to use tracks.

Most worship leaders I know plan out their song arrangements ahead of time, and when they get to the end of the song, they want the flexibility to go back and repeat a bridge or chorus depending on how they feel God leads them at the moment. In this scenario, you can make a click and backing tracks work. Here are the two most common methods I use to build flexibility into my Ableton Live setlist.

Method #1 - Create a looping pad at the end of a song.

Within my setlist, I identify where I want the flexibility to pray and repeat a section of a song. The easiest way to do this is to add a few minutes of ambient pad at the end of a song in Ableton Live and then create a loop cue that will continuously loop that pad with the click until I tell it to stop or I cue up the next song. The pad helps fill in the sound as well as gives me the flexibility to stop playing my guitar without experiencing awkward silence.

Method #2 - Create location markers and cue them with a MIDI foot controller.

Since I use Ableton Live to run a click and tracks, I can create different location markers within a song and then assign a button on my Looptimus foot controller to the appropriate locator. When I press the button, Ableton will bring the playhead to the locator on the next downbeat. I recommend practicing the timing of when you cue up different sections of your song and doing it in such a way that your band will be able to follow along easily.

You can program however much flexibility you would like into your Ableton Live setlists. The more time you put into it, the more freedom you will have in your worship set list.

If you want to get started with Ableton Live in worship, download my Lead Worship with Ableton toolkit, linked in the show notes. It’s my quick list of software and gear to help you get up and running with Ableton in worship. Click the link, complete the form, and I’ll send you instant access to the guide so you know what to buy and how much it will cost.

Let me know in the comments how you program flexibility when using a click and tracks in worship.