Multitracks for Worship: A thought Challenge

    The short answer (and personal opinion) is that it’s not the best thing to happen to the church and I wish we’d never use it. I hope to challenge, at the least, get you to question multitracks for worship.

    First, let’s talk about something that sounds so off-topic, but it really makes a point. My point, at least.

    Barber poles. As promised, (seemingly) off topic.

    Without getting too much into the history of barber poles, the short story is that the red was to denote that the establishment was a “barber surgeon”. Yes. Back in the day, there were barber surgeons. You could get an enema or bloodletting here. The red and white, actually represents blood and bandages.

    The red, blue, and white poles were to denote that the establishment was a medical surgeon. Enough with the odd facts. I can easily go down that rabbit hole.

    Prior to the 1950’s there were 4 barber pole manufacturers in the USA, the most notable being William Marvy. In 1960, they sold over 5000 barber poles. However, over the years, demand for barber poles decreased. Ever since the Beatles invaded America and crop tops were popular, demand for barbers were fizzled out.

    Barber poles never made a comeback. Unlike the mullet and trash stash of late 2022 and 2023.

    As of today, there is just one remaining company, William Marvy. They sell just about 500 barber poles a year. Honestly, even that is a surprisingly large number.

    Yes barber poles and multi tracks for worship are related. We’ll get to that.

    Back to multitracks for worship, and the topic at hand.

    A while back, I wrote an article about how I wished music stands would go the way of the barber pole. Demand for music stands would be so low, that there’d be just one company producing them. The reason being that worship teams would learn songs at home and show up on Sunday, ready to play from the heart and not the chart.

    Bold statement: Multitracks are worse than music stands.

    Multitracks are just high-tech music stands.

    Conrad. Who else?

    Yes, I sincerely hope that all churches will do away with multitracks. Here’s why. I sincerely would love to hear a compelling case for multitracks for worship – not performance. We’re talking Sunday service, not a touring CCM band.

    In order to be objective, here’s what the internet has about this topic. If you google “pros and cons of multitracks for worship” you’ll find the same blog that’s been posted on a few sites and a really interesting podcast as well. This blog that advocates multitracks, is from Worship Backing Band – so, you can guess the angle before reading the blog. I suggest you read a blog advocating for multitracks and listen to this podcast as well!

    As of today, the pros for multitracks are strictly, and almost exclusively, to match the recording. There is no mention of worship. Blogs can be updated, so you have to take my word for it that as of April 3rd 2023, the only pro is: better quality.

    The cons were more focused on technical issues, such as; reliable & expensive Macs, technology can crash mid service, and so on.

    Here are some of the pros and cons from this fantastic podcast.

    Multitrack Pros

    • Guide cues. If you’ve used tracks you know what this is. It’s just a voice queuing you into every part of the song.
    • Easy musician replacement. Your second guitarist bails? Simply unmute the second guitar track.
    • Big sound for small teams. Only two people on stage? No sweat, you can sound like an orchestra.
    • Access specific parts. You can turn down all other instruments and listen to just the bass.
    • More options for sound guy to work with. Your sound guy can shape the sound much better.

    Multitrack cons

    • Limits creativity. Musicians simply learn their parts.
    • Limits flexibility. You can’t change things up. You can’t make music.
    • Easy alternative to raising people in your team. Can’t find a second guitarist? Unmute a guitar track rather than raising and training that willing 10th grader.
    • Bandmates don’t listen to each other. Musicians just focus on their 1% contribution to the song. No need to listen to each other.
    • Chops up the set. Difficult to flow from song to song.
    • More work upfront. You have to build it in Ableton
    • Import another church’s sound into your context. No matter your church’s style, you’ll sound like Bethel.
    • Did not increase participation & engagement. Tracks don’t magically increase engagement.
    • Not feasible & expensive. For smaller churches, this could be an investment.

    Again, this is in no way to bash this podcaster or to debunk him point for point. Far from it. In fact, he was the only person who made really good points. Since I made a bold statement of why multitracks should go the way of the barber pole, it’s fair that I offer someone else’s perspective to balance mine, & your opinions. Not for me to criticise.

    And honestly, the whole point of this blog is to rattle ideas, challenge them, and not simply accept it because someone else did it. If you can question your use of multitracks, meet it head on and be honest, and then decide to use them, great.

    Take the poll. Are you for or against multitracks for worship for Sunday services?

    A little history about me and my journey with worship teams.

    None of this is to validate my view or to build my case. You can read more about me here.

    The short answer, from a musical standpoint, I’ve played guitar and bass since I was 16. From playing dances and parties from 7PM to 7AM to touring and playing with my death metal band in college. Played and recorded with an alternative band for a bit. Finally, I found Jesus when I visited a Vineyard church and since then I’ve played and recorded with Vineyard Music. I’ve always felt led to contribute to the church I attended.

    I’ve played at churches without a click, with just a click, and full blown tracks. Needless to say my experience pre church was just raw rock n’ roll. No click, nothing. Needless to say, this does not translate into me being old school and just writing it off as new fangled tech or unlike the glory days of rock n’ roll.

    No one scenario is better than the other. But, before you read on, it’s important for you to know a little about me.

    I was in a worship team long before I found Jesus.

    Last off topic note: Jesus exaggerated. A lot.

    I heard a message a long time ago about how Jesus exaggerated to make a point. For example, when a child asks for bread, would the earthly father give the child a snake? Snake is an exaggerated example here, but it makes a point.

    In my journey to be like Jesus, I’ll exaggerate a little bit, to make a point 😉

    Here are my thoughts on multitracks for worship.

    I challenge you to constantly wrestle with established ideas. That’s the only ask. I’ve read the blogs and listened to the podcast and entertained other ideas. I’ve chewed on it. I’ll continue to wrestle with it. I’ve even used multitracks for years. I’ll respect a viewpoint that’s been thoroughly wrestled with.

    Would the church be willing to ditch multitracks? See how it sounds and feels?

    Which is why, I respect the podcaster’s views. It appears to be a thoughtful one. I just don’t agree with it. We can’t look in the mirror and forget what we look like the second we walk away. So, when you wrestle with an idea and you have a resolution, you can’t walk away from it without remembering your reflection.

    1. Musicianship

    Multitracks do not push musicians to learn entire songs. If there were two guitar parts, then I spent my time learning just my guitar part. Most times I had no clue what the underlying chords were. All I knew was that when the voice said interlude, it was my time to play the interlude (99% chance of it being a triad, a la The Edge style lead line). Then, stay silent for 30 seconds till my next cue.

    I’ve spoken with other guitarists, this is their approach. How many worship musicians in multitracks bands are sharing videos like this on a Wednesday morning – or whenever the setlist is published?

    The countless texts of “Hey! you play the guitar at the top“. This grated me a lot. It did not feel like taking ownership of the song. It felt like the Government was organising a worship team. You clock in at the 30 second mark and clock out at the 3:12 second mark. Thank you, next.

    Multitracks is the teacher that teaches to the test. The students have no need to learn anything else. Just memorise these specific things and it’s all A+


    On Sunday morning, if the power went out across America, and all the generators failed, how many musicians in the worship team could pick up acoustic guitars and strum along to the songs? Multitracks creates an environment where musicians focus on doing 30 – 50 seconds perfectly but not knowing the remainder of the song.

    I’m guilty of learning only my parts. I’ll write another blog on how to practice. We’ve been on too many detours already.

    2. Musicians just translate music

    Interpreting music is much more fulfilling and personal. It truly is an offering of what you have, to God. When you play it like the recording, it’s like your mum passing you some money to drop into the collection.

    It’s a bit more meaningful when you drop a check from the money you earned.

    This is a must watch video on the role of a musician and the difference between translating and interpreting.

    Are worship musicians growing musically? Is the church encouraging and raising up musicians or is the mega church raising translators?

    Everything is pre programmed

    If the Holy Spirit isn’t programmed into Ableton, there’s no room for Him. Forget it. Once the set starts, nothing can stop the machine. Maybe, the biggest names like Jeremy Riddle have the confidence and authority (I’m assuming) to disrupt a million dollar service.

    Much “smaller mega church” worship leaders don’t have that “star power” (authority) to disrupt a service and do what the Holy Spirit leads. Theres pressure to just complete the set because it’s only 8:30AM and there’s 4 more services to go. Tick tock, Jesus.

    There is no room for the Holy Spirit to disrupt man’s plans to worship Him.


    This is my biggest, and should be the only, con for multitracks. Multitracks are the clanging cymbals that we just accept because the mega church down the road uses it. Or, the polished YouTube videos of the mega mega churches that the mega church aspires to create.

    Worship is such a personal thing and yes, quality is important. A band that is messing up constantly is a distraction. We are called to serve a King and we should, of all places, be the most excellent here. But Jesus always talks about the heart. It’s more than a shiny facade.

    I’m not equating worship teams that use multitracks to a shiny facade. Rather the relentless seeking after shiny facades.

    1. When was the last time we heard from the Holy Spirit during worship and shepherded the congregation
    2. Are musicians worshipping or is the voice from the tracks, and the worship director a disruption?
    3. Is there a worship producer saying “big end! Crash! Crash! Energy!” or is the Holy Spirit whispering “Stop, pray for x”.
    4. All these distractions in worship feels like the vendors in the temple. Have we allowed these distractions into our temple?
    5. Multitracks determine the setlist. If the church needs a song but there aren’t tracks, it just does not make the cut.
    6. Is the setlist just a collection of songs with the best marketing? Are we as worship leaders drooling over polished YouTube videos?
    7. Are musicians too comfortable to make music together, as a band?

    Have you ever been to a Mexican restaurant and heard that sizzling sound and almost everyone turns to find the waiter walking over to some table with a sizzling plate of Fajitas.

    When you take away personal connection, that offering of your gifts and talent, that “organic thing”. It’s like walking around with an empty tray of impressive sizzle. But there’s no fajitas. No meat.

    Makes for a great brand video, though.

    My hope, if this is the right thing, for multitracks to go the way of the barber pole.

    Here are the Pros and Cons of Multitracks for Worship Summarised.

    1. Enhanced Sound Quality: Using multitracks allows for a clearer and cleaner sound, as individual instruments can be isolated and processed separately.1. Loss of Live Authenticity: Utilizing multitracks can sometimes diminish the raw, live feel of a performance. Some purists believe this can make the music sound too polished or artificial.
    2. Flexibility in Mixing: Each instrument or vocal can be adjusted separately, allowing for greater control over the final mix.2. Complexity: Working with multitracks requires more equipment and expertise, which can complicate the recording and production process.
    3. Easier Error Correction: If a particular instrument or vocal take has a mistake, it can be fixed without re-recording the whole band.3. Over-reliance: Bands might become too dependent on multitracks and not focus enough on improving their live performance skills.
    4. Experimentation: Bands can layer sounds, test out different effects, or add additional instruments without having to re-record everything.4. Time-consuming: The process of recording, editing, and mixing can be much longer with multitracks than with a simple live recording.
    5. Consistent Live Sound: When playing live, using backing tracks can help recreate the studio sound consistently.5. Potential for Overproduction: There’s a risk of overproducing a track, making it sound too dense or cluttered.

    Now that I’ve shared that opinion, you should see the entire Easter service generated by GPT4

    Posted by Conrad Abraham

    Hey there. I’m Conrad from Atlanta, Ga. I’ve a passion for worship, In fact, I’ve been worshiping before it was official – or before I accepted Jesus as the one true God and as my saviour.

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