1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Anyone Have Experience With MIDI Bands??

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by jgbass, Apr 19, 2005.

  1. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I was talking with a singer recently who claims he has much experience and wants to get back into playing out again. He originally was looking for a full band but is now convinced that he cannot find a drummer or a keyboard player. His idea now is to have a core of guitar, bass, and singer, and have the rest be MIDI tracks.

    I just don't see many MIDI bands around, but I may be looking in the wrong places. One MIDI band I heard didn't have a real bass player and the sound was very poor.

    Someone has volunteered to set up all these tracks, but it sounds like weeks of work and I think he is getting in over his head on this project. Besides the potential of making more money, what is the advantage here? Seems like robot playing to me. This is supposed to end up as a class variety corporate wedding band thing, but I don't see how this can get off the ground with a fake drummer and keyboard player.

    Anyone have any experience or ideas on this? The singer wants to get together after someone else lays down the MIDI tracks and we get the set lists together on playing and harmonies. Something not quite right here.
  2. 20db pad

    20db pad

    Feb 11, 2003
    I been everywhere, man...
    None. At all.
    This has been a fairly common thing in my experience. It's a combination of economics, the available technology, and sometimes the flakiness and lack of professionalism of area musicians that makes it happen. More often than not, you see a lot of solo acoustic/singer entertainers doing this, either as a happy hour thing, or at the various tropical resorts.

    Of course, I prefer a real live band with real live players, but it's not all that bad for me, personally. The big requirement is that the living, breathing players have really good, strong time and know the arrangements dead cold, or everything will fall apart. Excellent monitor systems are also a must. This challenge is enjoyable for me, but may not be the case for everybody.

    Artistically speaking, the whole thing is a track show, more or less. It's a reality that exists and won't change soon due to the economic realities of live music as a commodity. In the battle between art and commerce, commerce wins here. A lot of musicians regard all this as total BS, but I've always been happy to play, even if it isn't a totally ideal situation. I'd rather gig than sit home angry at a state of affairs I can't change.

    FWIW, there are a number of companies out there who make up MIDI tracks and arrangements that work on a variety of platforms, so you don't have to sit there and program hours worth of material. I have no links, but they do exist.
  3. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Thanks, 20db. Appreciate your perspective. I'd rather be playing out than not too. Just kind of seems like a thing that will continue to exist due to economics. Just think everyone would rather hear (and see) a live band.
  4. johnvice


    Sep 7, 2004
    A friend of mine plays in a MIDI duo highdivingact.com. It's a guitrist and a singer/keybordist playing to abcking MIDI tracks.

    To me it sounds to much liek elevator music...it's live but it';s not.

    That said, teh duo are both full time pro musicians. This is simply the economics of ths biz.

    My band RocK-Tonic.com intersperses MIDI events throughout our show. Each event is a short duration so we don't have to worry about synching with them.

    I am prepraring to do our first full song synch and have a headphone ampifer so we can all hear the MIDI track to sych with.
  5. Folmeister

    Folmeister Knowledge is Good - Emile Faber Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    Tomball, Texas
    I was in a band where the band-leader was convinced that he could rig a midi system that would essentially take the place of a keys player. The midi files sounded terrible, more akin to the classic Casio sound, were never in the original keys, and we NEVER could get in sync with them because he could never figure out how to get a click-track to everyone in the band (plus the drummer's timing drifted). For the One-man-band thing, it works well. For mixed live groups, it takes too much energy and technology.
  6. ahem...

  7. There's a band around here that does it, and does it well. They send a click to the drummer only, and the rest of the band follow him. I was actually rehearsing with them for a couple of weeks as a guitarist, but then another opportunity came up for me, I talked it over with them, and gracefully bowed out. But I digress :D

    The key in this instance, was to have a good headphone amp and set of cans for the drummer, and more importantly... a good drummer who can maintain solid tempo. Their previous (and recently returned) guitarist did all the sequences himself too, which really helped them to blend with the band, and sound different to the pre-rolled ones you can buy.

    It can be done... I still never quite got over the "karaoke" stigma attached to it. I'm a bit of a purist in that regard. I like to have all the sounds on stage actually being produced in real time.
  8. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    Why not skip MIDI altogether? It'd be easier to just borrow some really good band's drummer and keyboardist for a weekend and have them record some tracks in someone's basement studio that you could take out and play along to. I've seen at least a couple bands do this, including one I was in at the time. While not ideal visually, it sounds fine when done properly.
  9. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    A friend of mine plays bass in a disco tribute band--platform shoes, bad 'fros, gold chains, the works. They sequence the bass, drums, and all the horn parts. Click goes to the drummer, and the guitar/bass/singer follows. Yes, that means the bass and drums were doubled. They recorded the instruments and synced to midi when possible, and when horn parts or cheesy synth-toms etc. came up, the took care in arranging and manipulating the sounds available. You know what? Between the dancing, jive talking between songs, and the dynamic stage presence, I didn't realize that the tracks sounded a little cheeseball until I was at their studio listening to them without the band. I guess it's all in the presentation.
  10. andruca


    Mar 31, 2004
    Madrid (Spain)
    For some reason I never get on well with keyboard players. So some years ago I thought enough was enough and started sequencing things at home. Usually I make a stereo audio track with just the keyboards/scratches/other noises/anything on the right channel and the same plus an added click track on the left channel. I convert these audio tracks to variable bitrate MP3 (for best possible quality -although it doesn't make such a difference live-) and use them live in my Creative MUVO player via a special cable, with right channel for PA and left channel to headphone amp for the drummer (who commands the action thru the MP3 player). Works absolutely nice for the typical power-trio + backing sounds lineup. In fact I heard some bands do even record the backing vocals and add the live voices just too add colour (just a little too much for me!).

  11. A lot of bands do MIDI files around here, and its usually the drummer and bassist that are scrapped. The keys guy usually triggers.

    Its about finances, I guess, but what it loses for me is the ability for the band to go out! . These bands cannot steer away from the arrangement and just jam or improvise, and in my humble opinion, this seriously effects their ability to connect with the emotion of the audience.

    I've seen one of the more popular of these MIDI-ed bands about three times (not by choice) and they play the same set, with the same arrangements and the same robot feel every time.
  12. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Interesting comments, guys, about MIDI. This is a new area for me and I am just going to roll with it. But I seriously think a band would suffer it it didn't have a live bass player. Don't think anything could replace that, but just IMHO.

    Yes, this is an economic move and we would have the option of bringing in the drums, keys, horns, whatever, as the situation needs it. Like the idea of recording some drum and keyboard tracks live too. Yes, no flexibility in arrangements, and that's too bad.