Hi! My name is JP, and I oversee our tracks team at our Hills campus in Sydney. We had so many questions about our tracks setup when we posted a short video at Easter, so we thought we’d do a rundown of our Ableton playback rig for anyone that might benefit from it! Please feel free to ask questions or share suggestions in the comments section, we are always adjusting and changing our template to make it work better for us!
Our entire rig is designed to make tracks behave like every other musician in the worship team.
What does that mean…? Well, allow me to share 3 principles that steer everything about how we run tracks.
ONE. We are part of the band
We’re not just the Ableton tech, we are one of the musicians in the worship team. We approach tracks like an instrument, and interact musically with the rest of the band. Our goal is to have the same flexibility as the rest of the team … not to be locked in to a grid, but able to follow the worship leader and pastor leading the service. This affects how we approach everything – from our preparation and approach to our communication.
TWO. We are part of the Creative team
Just like everyone else in the team, we are part of a larger picture. We actively pursue collaboration with our audio team and music director (MD) and adjust according to their needs. We listen and seek out feedback, and are proactive in communicating before, during, and after a service.
THREE. We are worshippers
Yes, I saved the best for last. We bring our best, as worship unto God. We are not in it for ourselves, but for the glory of God. Our role is to help the congregation turn their eyes on Jesus and engage in worshipping Him together! We serve open-handedly and with excellence, and are constantly improving what we do.
Building on those 3 foundations, let’s dive into the nitty gritty!!
Allow me to throw in a massive disclaimer – this setup is tailored to serve our needs as a worship team at Hills. We tweak it constantly, working with other areas of our team (audio, band, worship leaders, etc), and we are always learning and figuring out better ways of doing things. Many elements of this setup may not serve your church’s needs, but we hope it’s helpful.
So here’s the 30,000 foot view.
One of our main outcomes is to be just as flexible as any other musician or person on the team, and we’ve designed our rig with that in mind. This means things like being able to adjust the song arrangement on the fly, changing keys and tempos at the press of a button, transitioning seamlessly from song to song, and controlling each layer of the tracks individually and mixing it to follow the band in real time. The possibilities are endless!!
We run Ableton Standard on 2 computers, running the same Cloud-synced Ableton project, and we use a MIDI keyboard controller to trigger and operate both computers simultaneously.
The rig is offstage next to the monitors desk, with a view of the MD and worship leaders, and a talkback mic that goes to the band.
We send 14 channels of audio to the audio consoles, with this breakdown (currently)
– PERC & SFX
– BVs & CHOIR
– SYNTH BASS
– CLICK & CUE
We operate Ableton for every song of the service, regardless of if we have backing tracks or not …
– we also have percussion loops (shakers, tambourines, etc) and FX swells ready in any tempo and time signature, that we use for songs we don’t have backing tracks for
– we usually run a MIDI click instead of audio click, so we have greater control over tempo & time signature changes, as well as greater consistency in the level and tone of the click
We run our Ableton project in Session View instead of Arrangement (which I know also works great for this too). We’ve attached a screenshot of one of our recent Sunday service sessions below.
I hope this brief rundown is helpful for any of you out there running tracks at your church! Feel free to put questions or suggestions in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!