Modern Worship Keyboards: My setup for loops, clicks & keys with MainStage

After affectionally being called “vintage” I have decided to stick with that title as a worship leader and worship keyboardist. But, volunteering on our church worship team requires thinking beyond my vintage roots to support a modern worship band at the keys. Aaron, my worship pastor, is a keyboardist as well. So, when he asked me to consider playing more often I knew he might hear every wrong note and vintage mistake. Of course I felt up to the challenge as he is a nice-but-demanding fellow and I love skillfully leading worship–whether its singing, playing an instrument, or any other means.

For Easter, Aaron created a hollowed-out old piano to make as a keyboard station. (Aaron is going to write a guest post about that project, which came out super cool for our church The Bridge.) The church supplied a Yamaha Motif7 controller that fits perfectly in the old piano. Huge issues for me to solve where how to trigger two separate tracks of audio for our click and loops while sending two channels of live keyboard (R-L) to the FOH for mixing and monitor sends. This is a total of 4 audio sends and the more separated things can be, the better for the in-ear monitors as well as the Front of House mix. I need to be able to change patches, advance the audio tracks, and do this all live for our worship services and of course for rehearsals. I did break a sweat when I realized all that was involved. You surely can take vintage and make it modern cool, folks.

MainStage by Apple is a program that allowed me to do all I needed, including use of my Native Instrument patches I previously purchased. The digital audio conversion and mixing is pipped through my MOTU 828mkII. This older Firewire 400 device has 10 analog sends and has been a staple in my home studio while its mixing features make a live use fitting as well. I used four of the sends for my setup easily patched through with MainStage’s interface. MainStage allows me to put EQ, limiters, and anything else I want through the patches and sends. I have MainStage bus a custom mix of what I am sending to the 828’s headphone outs to physically monitor when no FOH operator is present.

My keyboard patches have synced delay to the tempo of the prerecorded loops and clicks. The triggering is all done on a nice interface showing me in a custom way what I want to see–even our church logo. I named each patch by song and added a couple generic patches (pads and piano) for prayer and transitions. Based on the prominence of the patch in a particular song, I can adjust the output. This saves a lot of knob, fader, or pedal action when playing. Using two of my favorite Native Instrument piano patches layered with MainStage’s sound generators so far has provided the sounds I need. But, I can always add more and will as I learn more of our band’s song list.

Here is the equipment list on my current setup. Of course, I say “current” as it is a work in progress:

In live worship, a lot of our band guys own custom, molded in-ear monitors. I wish for that, but I have found the Westone UM1s surprisingly comfortable and full-sounding. I forgot I was wearing them! Also, MainStage has the ability to map anything, so as I experience more issues I can solve things by creating a key to start and stop the track, go to markers in the track, and to advance patches. The AxiomPro 61 will next be on the side to trigger some additional sounds, layers, and actions. This way I can work on my next project which is adding a second screen to view the Planning Center Live order and the Music Stand software (to view the music charts).

What is your keyboard setup? And, please ask for clarification on my setup. I left out some detail as to not create a mammoth post. Happy worship keyboarding!

Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

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