Last month I got to play keys for a couple amazing live worship conferences. These were events with jam-packed schedules and minimal rehearsal time.
For one particular conference we played seven different sets across two days, with only 3 or 4 hours of total rehearsal time and lots of last minute song swaps and changes.
In this video I want to show you how I put my entire conference keys rig together so I could handle such a frantic setup and schedule.
This is the gear I'd recommend for any time you need to just 'show up, plug in, and get playing'.
Sunday Keys App
The Sunday Keys App for iPad will enhance and empower any worship keys player with amazing sound quality and powerful features. Every sound, feature, and workflow is designed with worship teams in mind, unlocking dynamic live performances in a user-friendly environment any keys player can use.
Sunday Keys brings incredible modern worship keys sounds to your fingertips with fully customizable audio and MIDI effects and intuitive control of your sound.
The Sunday Keys App can be installed on any iPad device running iOS14 or newer. We’ve tested the App across a range of supported devices including the base iPad (as early as 6th generation), iPad mini, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. Experience will vary from device to device with more powerful devices capable of better, faster, and more reliable performance. The App has been programmed to accommodate all various iPad models and you’ll be able to adjust relevant settings within the App for your device including adjustable Audio buffer size, adjustable Patch loading settings, and graphics optimizations all focused on optimizing CPU usage.
Same Apple Silicon chip as the iPad Pro, with a slightly smaller screen.
Best Overall Experience
The 12.9" display gives you plenty of space when interacting with the Sunday Keys App. This is the refreshed model with the new M2 chip.
Best Budget Option
This iPad is still very capable and is what we would recommend if you are on a budget, or looking for a smaller investment that volunteers can use, take home to practice, etc.
More Budget Options
If you are looking to save more, you can find used iPad models with an A10 Fusion or newer around $200. You will need to optimize settings if using an older iPad.
Try searching your local used marketplace or certified refurbished iPads from Apple or Mac of All Trades.
For iPads with a USB-C Port:
If your iPad features a USB-C type jack, you can use a USB-C hub that features “Power Delivery”. You’ll connect the hub to your iPad and plug your hardware peripherals into the hub’s ports. Then, connect a power brick/power supply capable of providing plenty of power to all your connected devices to the “Power Delivery” (often abbreviated “PD”) port on the hub.
Important: The charger that came with your iPad is likely not capable of providing enough power to the hub AND your iPad. You’ll want to acquire a dedicated power brick/power supply for this purpose. We recommend purchasing a power supply capable of delivering at least 30 Watts of power as a good baseline for most setups.
Hardware options for this setup:
Here’s a example setup of Sunday Keys with an external MIDI keyboard (connected via USB), an auxiliary MIDI controller, and an audio interface:
Here’s a example setup of Sunday Keys with an external MIDI keyboard (connected via MIDI Cable), an auxiliary MIDI controller, and an audio interface:
For iPads with a Lightning Port
If your iPad features a lightning jack, you’ll need to set things up a little differently by utilizing the “Camera Connector Kit” available directly from Apple. This plugs directly into your iPad’s lightning jack and gives you a single USB-A port next to a lightning port. Connect your iPad’s charger to the lightning port, which will provide power directly to your iPad. Then you’ll need to acquire a separate, powered USB hub and plug that into the USB-A port on the Camera Connector Kit. You’ll connect your MIDI and audio hardware to this powered USB hub.
Hardware options for this setup:
Use stock iPad charger into connector kit.
Connect powered USB-A hub into Connector Kit
Here’s a example setup of Sunday Keys with the iPad connected via an Apple Camera Connector Kit to both the USB Hub and power with an external MIDI keyboard, an auxiliary MIDI controller, and an audio interface:
Most modern keyboards can connect via USB, and are plug and play. We recommend that you use what you already own, chances are it will work using either USB or a MIDI connection.
Here's our recommendations if you are looking to purchase a class-compliant midi keyboard:
This is our favorite Midi Controller. It's affordable, has a FATAR hammer action weighted keybed, and is super lightweight. It has a magnetic rail, so if you are using an iPad with built in magnets (for case accessories), you don't even need a stand, it sticks magnetically to the top of the keyboard on either side. It does have joysticks instead of a traditional mod wheel and pitch bend.
The Hammer 88 is another affordable hammer action keyboard. Heavier in than the SL88 Studio (though the keybed itself doesn't feel as weighted as the SL88's). It does feature an awesome mod wheel and lots of space on top, though it has a slight curve so you can't place a device securely on top without using some tape or velcro.
This is the keyboard used for most of the video. It has a very clean look, super lightweight, with lots of knobs, faders, and drum pads. It has a synth-action, so the keys do have a plastic-y feel.
This is a great keyboard if you are just starting out. Very affordable, small and lightweight. It has a semi-weighted keybed.
Using a Keyboard without a USB port or one that requires a Driver
If your keyboard doesn't have a usb port, or requires a driver to use, you will need to use a midi connection.
You can use a simple Midi Interface like this, with midi jacks on one side and usb type A on the other. This would plug into your keyboards midi ports, and then into your usb hub connected to the iPad.
If you are using an audio interface that also has midi ports, you don't need a midi to usb interface, just use a midi cable to connect your keyboard to the audio interface connected to the usb hub.
Using an Audio Interface:
Your audio interface must be class-compliant, meaning it does not require any special drivers or software to operate. Most interfaces from popular brands like Focusrite, iConnectivity, Behringer, M-Audio, Radial, etc are class-compliant and can be used.
While we would expect any class-compliant audio interface to be compatible with an iPad, some manufacturer’s may have more specific steps or information on how to ensure their devices operate as intended when used with an iPad. Check the manufacturer’s website for information specific to any audio interface before making a purchase to ensure it will perform well for your use case.
Some recommendations include:
PreSonus Audiobox (has MIDI I/O) | $100. This is our go-to recommendation, it has stereo audio outputs, and midi I/O.
Focusrite 4i4 (4 outputs, has MIDI I/O) | $250. Similar to the Audiobox, but with more I/O.
Radial USB PRO DI | $260. This is a great option if you don't need midi I/O, it has XLR outputs which eliminate the need for a direct box between your interface and the sound board.
Using the Built-in Headphone Jack:
If your device has a built-in headphone jack, you can use this port to send audio to your PA using a 3.5mm to 1/4" breakout cable.
We have found that a USB to headphone adaptor does work, but results and audio signal vary based on device. We don't recommend this as a long term solution.
Here are some of our recommendations:
Low Profile, Tablet Stand Holder - You can get creative and tape this to your keyboard. The is the lowest profile, stealth looking stand.
Tablet Stand Foldable & Adjustable - Great option if you have a tabletop keyboard.
Generic, Tablet Holder for Microphone Stand - A budget friendly option that connects to a mic stand. Does have some wobble, especially if used for a 12.9" iPad Pro.
On-Stage TCM1500 Tablet/Smart Phone Holder - Our favorite option that attaches to a mic stand. Very sturdy.
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