Alright, I'm going to try not to ramble but I'm needing some advice.
I'm in a small church where I am the only musician (keys) and the worship leader. I run drums through a second keyboard that has the capability through a pedal to switch the drum pattern 2 times (1 for verse 1 for choruses). We have an awesome worship culture in our church; however, I have ran across some resources and purchased resources (like www.flyworship.com) that will allow me to use multi tracks that I can loop, that I can adjust the dynamics of the song- live. Great right?
I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around using the computer/tracks instead of playing with my limited resources live. Part of me feels really constricted about not being able to move into the next song with ease- (i am a chronic if two songs are in the same key and they have the same drum tempo- let's just mash them together) I want each song to have it's own identity (right now- it's very hard to distinguish what song I am playing from any of the other songs) and there are some songs that I would love to do but can't because I know my limitations. I feel like as a worship leader- i'm struggling to actually LEAD people into worship because there is SO much to do on the musical front (playing the main melody of the song on the piano, input-ing drum patterns, stomping on petals to adjust drums, singing, etc). I feel with this resource I would be able to focus on my abilities to lead the congregation- i just don't want to sacrifice the freedom of moving through the song. That being said, is there really any difference to playing live with a keyboard and a drum machine a song all the way through in the same way every time- than using a track to do the same exact thing?
Alot of people in our congregation love what I do now- so I don't know if I'm just nervous that making the change to the computer- people won't love it or if there is a real reason I've got this reserve about going for it.
What do you think? What would you do?
(the option of finding musicians in the congregation is not going to work- there are none available- trust me i've tried.)
My feeling is that you're going to make even more of a burden for yourself and eventually it will all bury you.
I would suggest simplifying, bringing it down to you & the congregation working together to get into God's presence. Rather than make a bigger and bigger sound, look for the key elements of the songs you want to use, then develop ways in which you can just use them to give people the feel of the song without needing an electronic backing band. However if you feel you MUST do it then make sure you are well rehearsed so that it's not a total shock to your system.
Of it helps you to know, when I play I usually use a guitar synth in church, very often alone as a musician. I just use the guitar to bring a sense of rhythm plus highlights and accents to the music from chording and arpeggios, while using the synth to fill or add atmosphere. It doesn't have the power of a full band, but it works within the limitations I've been set.
The one place I have found where worshipping to a backing track seemed to work was an experimental church in Oxford called hOME. Much of the singing was done to backing tracks played on a laptop. However this wasn't using the worship repertoire found in most churches. The songs were more like chants (often drawn from parts of the liturgy) and backing tracks were ambient grooves. The person leading could repeat as much and whenever they wanted and the backing would still fit.
It sounds like your present set up, while feeling a bit constrained, still gives you some freedom to repeat sections (and presumably drop the drums in and out) as seems appropriate. That said, it looks like the FlyWorship system will do that the videos on their site are impressive); the main challenge might be that you doubtless won't be able to buy all the songs you might want for it and, even if you can create your own tracks, that is going to be pretty time-consuming.
Thats not a problem using an arranger keyboard say like a Korg PA3x or a Yamaha Tyros 4 etc. This is what a lot of small churches and one man bands use, doing all that you just discribed, but find it too hard to do on a synth style keyboard; which is what I guess you are using, am I right? You can setup rhythms, transpositions, drums and backing instruments to do all the hard work for you. It is way harder to do that on the fly with a synth, but you just need a different keyboard.
Most churches frown at using an arranger - they call them home keyboards, but they come into their own ( the professional ones that is ) in this type of enviroment. The new arranger style keyboards are way ahead in their abilities than the lowly home keyboards, but with the current sound engines of the Motif and Fantom etc of the big synths.
BUT, on the other hand you can use something like a Roland BK7 module that does the same thing but just midi'ed to your current keyboard. Another option is using a software like " One man band" or "Band in a box" but are usually more or less fixed and not dynamically changeable - that's been my experience.
Be careful not to expect a too high a standard on yourself either. Remember they used to have just a piano or an organ to do worship with, not that long ago lol - ok maybe more than 20 years ago, in a lot of churches if not all of them.
I used a similar system for a while. I used Cubase, attached to a midi foot controller. I used Cubase to record the backing parts, then arranged them into verse/chorus etc, then used the pedal to trigger the loops. That way, I could let each part run as much as I wanted, and then skip to whichever section I wanted on the fly.
On the plus side, it sounded very professional - It gives the sound of a full band, and yet you can still improvise to a certain extent. I stopped using it, though, after a while. The reason being that although you can control which part of the song to bring in next, it still had a sterile feeling, to an extent. You can't flow with tempo or feel changes, it's all a little too rigid. It organised the work of the Holy Spirit out of the worship, and it ended up becoming a professional performance, which is something I hate.
Whenever it's just me now, I'd rather it was just me than using loops, which although they sound better musically, they are too restrictive for true worship.