Incorporating Multitracks In Worship

April 05, 2023 |

The possibilities are endless, and it’s worth the work. Excellence isn’t easy, but it’s worth pursuing. Start implementing tracks and watch as your team gets better, the quality of the sound increases, and more opportunities to be creative present themselves.


I remember one of my first Sundays using tracks in a worship service. This was before Playback, and even before I got into Ableton. I figured out a work-around in Mainstage, which was exciting, because Mainstage was only thirty bucks! Rehearsal was going smoothly, until it didn’t. The tracks, click, and guide sounded like they were…melting. The tempo slowed down, the key was completely off, and the guide track sounded like a pitched-down monster voice. It was quite the nightmare.

Incorporating tracks into worship can feel daunting, and rightly so. Turns out, when you have different sample rate settings on your interface from your DAW, it won’t go well for you. But that was many years ago, with limited tools and limited knowledge. Live tracks have come a long way, and it’s never been easier to start using them. It’s going to take some work on the front end to get adjusted, but when you finally hear the difference, it pays off.

With a live band, it can be hard to get a sound that compares to the huge, anthemic-sounding reference on PCO. That’s because what you’re listening to was masterfully crafted, one instrument at a time, with multiple takes of keys, guitar parts, and programming. More than likely, everything wasn’t played live, or even all at one time, so it’s hard to recreate that sound with a live band. 

Multitracks fill in the gap, and give you the additional layers that add the “polish” to the sound. I prefer to use tracks as an enhancement, not a crutch. But sometimes, you get that Sunday morning call from your bass player, and you don’t have time to find a sub! Incorporating tracks allows you to have a dependable backup plan, with any instrument stem ready to be used if needed.

DIY Tracks

When I was primarily leading a volunteer band, I tended to be disappointed with the overall sound. I had great players, but they all came from different musical backgrounds. On some Sundays, I didn’t even have enough people for a full band. It never really compared to the original recording. 

When I wanted to start using tracks, I didn’t have the budget to pay for the original stems. So out of necessity, and a little bit of obsession, I started programming my own tracks for every single song in our song bank. Hours upon hours I spent scrolling through synth patches, trying to get a sound close to what I was hearing. 

This was one of the best things I did to develop as a producer. By having to painstakingly reverse-engineer the sounds I was hearing every week, I learned what it took to give a song’s production that final polish. Though it was all consuming, and maybe not the best use of my time, I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. 

As I slowly got better at making my own stems, I started to get more creative with our arrangements. Being able to add unique sounds instead of just copying the same arrangement breathed creative life into my set planning.

A Disclaimer: Click and Guide

If you want to use tracks, you need to use a click. Playing with a click and guide is a big adjustment, but it really helps tighten the band. 

First of all, if your band isn’t playing with a click/metronome, start. The whole band will get tighter, more cohesive, and will improve in their timing. Guide tracks can be distracting at first, and limiting to some, but to me it’s really freeing. I don’t have to remember how many bars each instrumental is, or focus on counting how long a song section is. 

Having a guide track frees up mental space for me to be more present in worship leading. You don’t have to use it all the time, or for every part of the song. Leave room to be Spirit-led, and add structure to be less distracted.

This could be a big adjustment for your team if they’ve never played with tracks before. One way to mitigate this is to start introducing guide and click tracks for a few songs, but with no tracks. This way your team can get used to it without worrying about getting off the grid. Once it feels solid, start adding tracks for a few songs a weekend, until a whole set doesn’t seem to be too big of a stretch.


For tracks, I’ve used everything from Logic, Mainstage, Ableton, and Playback. I even have friends who swear by Pro Tools! But honestly, there’s several great ways to get tracks to work well for your context. 

Do you prefer ease-of-use and flexibility, will little prep time required? Playback is great for that, and recently I’ve enjoyed how quickly I can build sets using it. 

Do you want an ultra-reliable, more technical and customizable approach? Ableton can be as complicated or as simple as you need it to be. It takes some wizardry to learn how to use it to its full potential, but there’s a reason why Ableton has been the standard for live tracks for a long time. 

It’s Worth It

Tracks offer a gateway from the studio to the stage, providing an easy way to implement sounds and textures that would be out of reach for the average worship team. 

While some may feel boxed in by tracks, to me it’s another tool I can use to bring out-of-the-box creativity into my worship sets. Add in some jingle bells for an Advent service, or some fun synths for a service oriented towards kids and their families. 

The possibilities are endless, and it’s worth the work. Excellence isn’t easy, but it’s worth pursuing. Start implementing tracks and watch as your team gets better, the quality of the sound increases, and more opportunities to be creative present themselves.

John Marc Kohl

John Marc is a worship leader, songwriter, and musician dedicated to glorifying God through creativity. From being on staff at a few churches, to supporting other artists and ministries, John Marc has always loved to lead others to connect with Jesus through worship. As a result of releasing music in different genres, he also realizes the need for worship music to be as creative and as beautiful as Jesus is. John Marc and his wife Lila live in Dallas, TX.