Pads (typically a synth patch with a long attack and release) are a great way to fill out the sound in any band, but can be tricky to use live. Here are 7 ways to tame your pad sounds:
1. Play less and hold.
Many keyboardists will overplay pads, using the entire keyboard to get a wide range. Think smaller and play just a couple of notes at a time, and let them hold for longer durations.
2. Use the cutoff to add drama.
Adjusting the cutoff (usually the mod wheel) on a pad will add excitement, and can really push the song along dynamically.
3. Stay away from the other instruments.
If you can avoid overlapping sonically with other instruments, do it. Try to stay out of the middle of the frequency range, and don’t hold low notes unless the bass isn’t playing.
It sounds so simple, but it’s really important to listen to what the other musicians are doing onstage, and work around there parts.
5. Don’t play all the chord changes.
Too many chord changes can create unwanted dissonance with a pad. I recommend keeping your pad sounds holding on the tonic and dominant as much as you can, and don’t ever play chords closer together than two beats.
6. Adjust the release.
If your pad sounds too “mushy” or it’s holding on too much when switching chords, adjust the release setting on your synth to make it cut off quicker.
7. Add reverb.
Reverb is the secret sauce of every great pad. Add a little bit for longer release times, and remove it for a clearer, quicker sound.