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Monday, November 30, 2009

Backing Tracks

To use or not to use, that is the question with backing tracks. This is one topic that really gets musicians going.

The 'nay-sayers' on backing tracks typically opine that backing tracks detract from the 'live' performance. Likening backing tracks to 'karaoke' seems a bit harsh, but I've heard it said many times.

On the other side of the 'tracks' are those that hail backing tracks for their ability to create a full-band sound without having to enlist all of the usual suspects, thus delivering 'more bang for the buck.'

Here's how I see it...

If you're playing a solo-gig and you know that people are going to require 'dance music,' backing tracks are a good way to go. I think that for 'dance songs' it is very important that bass/drums be present. It doesn't mean that you can't pull it off without tracks, it's just better if you use them.

I would suggest staying away from backing tracks on ballads and non-dance tunes in most situations.

The most important thing is to 'read the room.' Figure what kind of crowds like/dislike the use of backing tracks.

I favor using 'authentic' bass/drum tracks, rather than midi-generated. It just sounds better.

Get a few tracks together and make sure that you're comfortable with them at home. Try it out at your next gig and see what works for you.

If you're using backing tracks, feel free to ignore the one musician-moron that gives you grief. He doesn't matter!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Share Your Stuff

I watched a PBS special last night. George Carlin was posthumously being given the Mark Twain award for comedy achievement.

George used to do a funny bit on 'stuff,' and it made me think of musicians and their 'stuff.'

I know a number of musicians that own multiple instruments. Some of them are eager to have others play their instruments, but others refuse to let anyone touch their prized possessions.

May I suggest that you freely let others use your gear? It's just 'stuff.' You can't take it with you. In a few hundred years it will probably be dust, just like you.

I'd rather have a few 'dings' on my instruments and share the joy of playing them, than to have a collection of 'pristine' instruments that only I played.

Give it try. The next time somebody asks to borrow a guitar or sit-in on the drums, be the first one to offer yours up. It's a 'freeing' experience.

And, BTW, George Carlin was a genius.