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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!


  1. I have been sequencing my music for the last 20 years simply because i got tired of drunk and stoned attitudinal players.So far it's worked great and i don't suffer guilt,since i sequence everything myself

  2. I'm a trumpet player and when I am not performing with a band I use Accompaniment tracks and they work out very well for me!

  3. i perform original music solo with backing tracks that i produce/record in my home studio. works fine. sure, i'd rather be live, but i don't get much pay for doing original music and it's hard to find musicians who will dedicate themselves to an original project that doesn't pay much. with the backing tracks, i get a lot of freedom and flexibility; not having to lug around my keys or guitar, i can focus on my vocals.

  4. i use backing tracks, but they usually only contain drum programs and/or synth pads i do everything else live

  5. I'd be willing to bet Mozart would use them too!

  6. I still think it's cheesy and a form of cheating, I even think too much looping is a kind of cheating. It's tough to play solo, it's tough to hold a steady rhythm, it's tough to get along with other humans, it's tough to get paid for playing.

  7. I'm a singer, not a musician! LOL! Until I find a band that wants me, I have no choice but to use "karaoke" tracks {growl!} or try to learn guitar in the next month!

  8. I am a classically trained guitarist who just got sick of a rhythm section that couldn't read, understand how to count or be bothered learning songs before rehersal. I am also intolerant of singers who can't remeber when to sing the chorus and how to remeber when your solo is finished.

    I found using GuitarPro to write percussion, bass and keys (and orchestral instruments) provides an excellent "real band" base track. You then export the wave into audacity and record your own rhythm guitar where necessary.

    6 months of singing lessons and I didn't need a fat head singer any more either.

    You can also get excellent backing tracks from (free) and (extremely cheap) that allow you to include or eliminate whatever tracks you desire and change key easily as well.

    The other advantage of backing tracks is you don't need a sound engioneer to run a desk either. Makes for better $'s for gigs and allows you to get paid OK to do house parties where drums just aren't possible.