Bands using "Backing Tracks"

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by agplate, Aug 9, 2009.

  1. agplate


    Jan 12, 2005
    I'm working part time with a band that is using backing tracks for a 'dance set'. I haven't worked like this before, and it all seems funny to me. It seems as though it's mostly vocals as I'm listening to the tracks, and maybe I'm old school, but it seems that a 6 piece band with keys shouldn't really need this.

    The group assures me it's the way of the world and most dance, corporate, general business bands do indeed use tracks for much of the music they play on stage. I realize that some large acts use some tracks for major concerts and Poor Britney has to lip sync so she can dance, but what of all this?

    Do you have experience/thoughts on this? What say you?
  2. appler

    appler Guest

    It's sad but it happens. If you all can sing well enough, then you don't need to use backing tracks but for reasons that I don't quite understand it's common practice to play to tracks for "big" shows. My only consolation is it makes my job easier!
  3. bgressman82


    Mar 5, 2009
    the only band i've ever witnessed use backing tracks has been a 2 piece father/son act here locally. they're friends of mine, i played with them briefly, but when things came up and i couldn't do it anymore, they opted to use pre recorded basslines instead of finding someone else. after a while, they started to add more pre recorded instruments, so they could be freed up to jump between guitar, drums, and keys, while having every part of the song be played for their shows. they do classic soft rock covers, and their show is pretty good, i must say.
  4. Quite honestly...You probably -wont- find a major label artist or band that isnt using them. In most label deals they have a -live performance creative control clause-. That insures you sound the same live as you do on cd. It is the way of the world my friend.
  5. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    I worked with some GB bands that did it for a while. I did not like
    playing bass over a bass line. Sure was redudndant. It seemed to
    have died out but your right, a 6 pc band should not need to do this at all.
    Playing live should be about playing live but this business is rarely about
    what you want to do. Lately a lot of small acts use loopers and vocal harmony
    pedals but at least the input is really them.
    Good luck and as we old timers say " a gig is a gig".
  6. Mr. Ray

    Mr. Ray

    Feb 20, 2009
    Where do you draw the line between concert production and karaoke? I see alot of single act guitar players using backing bass/drum tracks...I call that it a live show or play along with the record? Unfortunetly it puts some musicians out of work.
  7. txbasschik


    Nov 11, 2005
    Leander, Texas
    Well, that sux!!! Who wants to hear a live show that sounds just like the cd? I can stay home and listen to the cd, in that case. I pay money to hear a *live* show...passion, sweat, warts, and beauty...*all* of it.

    That tears it. "Big" shows are no longer worth the exhorbitant sums they command. If its not live...if the artists are playing and singing along with a pre-recorded track...then it is worth nothing to me, and I won't pay for it. Nor will I give my kids money so they can go, either.

    Major labels suck. They are ruining music. "Make it sound the same"...BLAH!!! BORING!!! PLASTIC!!!

    I'll never go to a show that isn't in a bar again. Not one I have to pay for. Its not live, so I ain't payin'.

  8. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I think backing tracks, harmonizers and other such tricks are blurring what is live music and what is essentially a karaoke act. I have no respect for bands that use either. You're either creating the music and harmonies entirely yourself, or you're not.

    Unfortunately, you're seeing the future -- and essentially the death of live music as we know it now. It will get to the point where any group of hacks with fancy tools will be able to sound like pros.

    *shakes head*
  9. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I see a difference between BIG TIME bands that would have a near-impossible time recreating their hit songs in big stadiums vs. a cover band who are using backing tracks to cover instruments they don't have or harmony abilities they lack.

    One is sort of understandable -- the fans expect it. The other is just cheating.
  10. Depends what kinda deal it is really, an awesome electric group thats based near me use backing tracks (albeit ones with a few triggers for them to go onto other sections of the songs when they wanna jam sometimes) but they're for drums/percussion and basslines and the odd couple of sound effects, all the other keys, guitar, samples vocals and other synthy stuff is played live. Considering they're a 2 piece playing dance music it seems fair enough that they don't have a drummer or bassist or anyone else seeming though they're doing so much in the first place live and all their percussion and bass is written by them.

    As for your situation it's completely nonsensical for me, surely alot of gig goers even people into very accessible mainstream music must get put off by how obviously not live the act is. Stuff like Britney and stuff is fair enough, aside from not doing vocal live obviously, but actual band music is not on. I remember seeing the Dub Pistols doing this very thing at a local festival, vocals aside however, but they were getting payed a whole hell of alot of money to play to a backing track and this was a very grassroots kinda festival, I'm pretty astounded that more people weren't a bit miffed about it, the sod even borrowed my bassamp cos the backline had fallen through...
  11. KPJ


    Oct 2, 2001
    Methuen, MA USA
    wow, Jason, that's odd! I would agree with you that a six-piece should be able to pull that off without backing tracks. Especially with a keys player. I'm filling in for a r&b classic rock band and the keyboard player is covering all the parts the guitars can't in real time. I did a a gig with an original band that had a sequenced synthesizer for a few of their songs, but it was a bass/drum/guitar trio and the sequenced tracks were a big part of the originals.
  12. I think a 6 piece band having to use backing tracks is kinda lame. I can sorta accept the reality of a solo or duo using 'em, but if you've got 6 people and can't get decent backing happening there's something fundamentally wrong.
  13. Clark Dark

    Clark Dark

    Mar 3, 2005
    allow me to present to you......Wally Badarou
    'nuff said
  14. semajniwdoog


    May 3, 2009
    I've done some playing with backing keyboard tracks. The thing that made it redeeming was that the guitar player actually played and recorded all the tracks himself and put them into a sequencer. Sometimes its necessary depending on the song. Rush does it all the time - it's there own music that they've written and recorded so I haven't lost any respect for them.
    But, there's six of you? . .
  15. ric stave

    ric stave

    May 6, 2006
    Buffalo, NY
    Sometimes it's hard to draw the line - I agree, a 6 pc band with keys and hopefully a bunch of the members who can sing should not need to use tracks, but it depends on the song.

    I play in a 4 pc disco/dance band and we use backing tracks to cover the parts we can't possibly play - strings, keyboards, brass section, misc. percussion (the band is gtr/bass/drums/singer) - I transcribed, sequenced (on my synths) and recorded all the tracks myself. There are no bass parts (except synth bass when required), no guitar parts (unless the song has 2-4 gtrs, and then just the minimal 'other' part is on the track), absolutely no lead vocals, and only backing vocals when a song has more parts than we can cover (all 4 of us sing) For example, "Let's Groove" by EW&F sometimes has about 7-8 vocal parts at the same time. For a band to play these songs live and cover all the parts, you'd need about a 10 pc band (add 2 synth players, percussionist and 3-4 pc brass section)

    I'll admit, most people wouldn't even 'get' the difference of my doing all that work myself and the next band who got the midi tracks and plays with it (without taking out any of the duplicate parts even!) - and I've seen other local bands play with tacks they got that has all the vocals on them - pretty wierd to see a group of 4-5 guys do "Dancing Queen" and hear the ABBA chicks singing.....

    Certain types of music lend itself more to tracks than others - dance music is prob the only music I would bother with. Funny thing is, back in the day, most of the touring disco acts either had taped backing, or a full orchestra - so I don't really feel bad about using the tracks the way we do.

    I was approached by a person who saw our show and found out I did all the tracks in my 'studio' (Roland VS-880... LOL!) - they asked if they could hire me to do tracks for their band. When I found out they were a classic blues group, I had to say 'no'. I couldn't sit through watching that, and I couldn't imagine WHAT they wanted on the tracks (they were a 5 pc band...) - I could see having a horn section added, but the logistics of trying to play to a track and have to follow a click for that type of music just seemed more trouble than it was worth. The dance music works great because of the steady beat and all the 'extra' percussion in most of the songs - we don't HAVE a click track, it's not needed with all the percussion to follow, we just have the same track that's played in the mains in our monitors to listen to.

    I would rather play this music the way we do than have NO tracks, and add a key player to cover 1 or 2 parts, but then have to leave out 5-6 others. But I can't say I'd ever feel right about doing the same thing with a band that plays, say, Rush and Kansas and Genesis. To me, that would cross 'the line'.....
  16. ric stave

    ric stave

    May 6, 2006
    Buffalo, NY
    What I mean by Rush and Kansas And Genesis is, doing a band where all the synths are tracked, not just the parts that would be sequenced by the original band - and I guess Rush is a lousy example, since they have dsometimes gotten to the point where Geddy put a lot of the stuff he used to play live onto their tracks.....
  17. Unless you've never been to a larger concert, you've witnessed it almost every time you go. It's easier to point out the bands that don't use backing tracks then the sheer multitude of ones that do.

    Well, if it's any consolation, the major labels are dying. For now... My prediction is that there's going to be some major changes in the way the Internet is run, and swapping music and other intellectual property (software, files, etc) is going to get much, much tougher in the next 5-10 years. The Obama administration is already working on some bills to totally reconstruct the Internet so that file swapping doesn't go down as easily..

    Anyway, back to the original topic: A "live" band's music is only 1/2 the performance. The other half is the stage show. If the band is serious about getting a good stage show going, then backing tracks really ease up the music side so that the show can be that much better. Remember, they're playing for the masses, not a small handful of hyper critical musicians that have the ear for music.

    I remember a concert that I went to about 5-6 years ago. I saw Ozomatli (a killer latin/funk/rap band if you've never heard of 'em). A great local band opened for them. I went with a friend who didn't really know the band, but was a die hard music fan with a really good taste in music. When I mentioned to him that the opening band used sequenced tracks, he replied with "so what, they sound awesome!" He then proceeded to join the throngs of happy dancing people in the crowd. The headliner, Ozomatli, was known for their live show and their musicianship. They used sequenced tracks to. That was the day that I was sold on sequenced tracks.

    They're not for us musicians, 'cause we'll spot 'em a mile away. They're for the masses. Sure, it's nicer to have a truely live performance, but the bands that use backing tracks generally "get it" that the music is only half of the performance.
  18. Huh? :confused:

    I'm not sure what your point is, but both Rush and Genesis use backing tracks during shows. They're good at hiding them, but they're there. (I have no idea about Kansas, though.) Here's an example of Rush with sequenced tracks: - at 2:45 is probably the most obvious - it's subtle, but there's a keyboard playing the track in the background.
  19. MikeBass

    MikeBass Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2003
    Royal, Oak, MI.
    +1 Level 42 got a big boost from him!

    If a 6 piece band only has one, maybe two players who can sing, then what's the problem with tracks?

    If a keyboard player is tasked with covering second guitar lines, horn lines and maybe strings, then SOMETHING isn't going to sound good- he still has to play keys sometimes.
    Throw one or two of those things on a track and let him play keys.

    I don't have any issues with them at all. As long as they ADD to what you're playing and not subtract actual players.

    we use loops, samples and tracks all the time.

    And yes, almost EVERY major label touring band uses tracks.
  20. Richland123


    Apr 17, 2009
    I play in a 3 piece band (guitar, bass, and drums) and we all sing lead and harmony vocals as well. Last night, we did a big outdoor festival and opened for an 8 piece national recording and television act that has 5 singers (4 of whom do not play). They are a top notch band. Neither band used any tracks at all and never do.

    The two sound guys, who are both musicians, and members of the national act commented how we have a big, full sound with just three guys and they were impressed with our variety of material that we pull off 3 piece.

    We have worked with this group three times now and they always comment about it and like when we share a bill with them.

    Two years ago, we opened for a very well known national act that had almost 30 hit records. They had vocal parts, horn parts, string parts, and even most of the bass parts tracked. The lead singer is also the bass player and barely touched the strings or moved his hands while performing.

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