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'Live' bands with backing tracks

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Buzzgroove, Jul 24, 2007.

  1. Buzzgroove


    Apr 11, 2007
    My wife and I went to a wedding recently, quite a big do in a very nice hotel and when we went through to the reception I noticed they had hired a five piece band consisting of a guitarist/singer, a female singer, drums, bass and keys.

    I thought it was going to be a chance to hear a live band and was looking forward to hearing how they sounded. Just after the first song started it became apparent that all was not natural when the bass player stopped playing to fiddle about with some amp settings and the playing continued! (I thought he had managed to dial in a great tone up to that point)!

    This became more obvious as the night went on - bass sound would radically change tone and volume between songs (when you could hear his own tone it was flabby and quiet) as would the drums which went from a really tight disco sound to stadium rock, without the need for mics! What the guitarist was playing live I have no idea.

    The main purpose of the girl who was singing seemed to be to change discs between songs, her voice was ok but didn't add that much to the sound. Now I've seen a lot of people do this and I really don't mind if it's a couple of guys who can play well using backing (still better with a band) but this was a five piece who really should have been able to cut it live without that crap, the five piece I was in for a while did the wedding/club scene as well and we managed to sound good live.
    This bunch were being paid around a grand (and possibly more) for what they did, it seemed like money for old rope and hacked me off no end.
    Any of you had experience of this and what do you feel about it?

    This isn't intended as a knock to people in a two piece or those using orchestral or keys backing in some tracks.
  2. That sounds pretty weird. It makes sense to use a backing track to provide instrumentation that you don't have onstage, like strings or additional backup voices. I remember that old arena rockers like Queen and The Who would use backing tracks onstage to help reproduce the complicated sections of "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Baba O'Reilly", "Won't Get Fooled Again", etc.

    But I've never heard of using a backing track for instruments that you actually have onstage. If the bass & drums are pre-recorded, why did those guys even bother playing live? Were they just doubling the same parts as on the tape? Because I would think it would make things sound WORSE to have 2 identical bass & drum parts in the mix. Very odd.
    MonetBass likes this.
  3. If I had to get some sounds live, that weren't guitar, bass, drums or vocals, I'd probably just use synth or samples.
    Leiria likes this.
  4. Saetia


    Mar 27, 2003
    After working at a club for 3 years I've seen many "big" acts use backing tracks or clip tracks and just synch on their instuments. It's was a great disapointment for me, I would say that 50% of the larger national and international acts didn't even play. (I know this because I had to help hook all their gear up and provide a place for the laptop to be hidden).

    I won't mention any names, but just think big radio metal bands.


    Highroler79, MattZilla and Grumry like this.
  5. AdlerAugen


    Aug 9, 2006
    Playing with a backtrack in a live situation is always the most unprofessional thing you could do. All live, or not at all. I just am one of those people that believes in performance, not pre-recorded 'performance.' Stuff like that bugs me, especially in other settings, like at church most of our special music things during the program are people singing to karaoke backings...not dissing them as singers, but seriously, instead of having a CD put through the church PA a live piano alone would sound better than those strings, horns, and drums, which are possibly just VST samples anyway.
    Jhengsman likes this.
  6. Buzzgroove


    Apr 11, 2007
    Yeah, it really didn't make sense to have the guys there playing under the pre recorded stuff, I have a feeling they wanted people to think they were totally live and just a great band, maybe to command more money - who knows.
    I agree about the piano and vocal thing, if you can't do it big live then cut back to basics, always better to keep the live feel.
  7. QORC


    Aug 22, 2003
    Elberon, New Jersey
    I played with a band that used a midi sequencer on a lot of tunes to make up for the lack of keyboards or horns. I found it embarassing.
  8. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    We have one here that we compete against. Same thing. Keyboardist turns around, fiddling around with stuff and the keys/bassline keeps going (no bassist in the band). Guitarist's hand slides don't match the sound. Drummer playing as soft as possible so he doesn't conflict with the track. And of course, the laptop sitting on the floor beside the keyboardist with a mic case propped up against it so that the audience can't see it's there.

    They're considered one of the top acts in the area. They're a three piece and of course with all the recordings they sound like arena rock. All I can say, is that eventually, hard drives crash. And anyone who brings them up around me gets the "yeah, but they don't even really play; it's all pre-recorded" info-session. They may or may not believe me when I tell them, but I bet they'll watch a little closer next time they see them.

    Lazy sellouts. Success is easy. Success with integrity isn't. I don't set up all that stuff and carry equipment so that I can dance around with an instrument I'm not even going to use. What's the point?

    Where's the good old days of Milli Vanilli, when if you got caught doing this crap your career was instantly over and one of the band members killed himself out of shame?

    I'm not sure if I'm angrier at the bands that do this chicanery, or the audience who doesn't care if they do or not.
    Tony B. Filthy likes this.
  9. the who used to have a tape with the synth at the beginning of wont get fooled again but they never had a WHOLE song on tape, it was just the synth that they couldnt bring on stage.
  10. I've seen simlar stuff around here. There is a prominent wedding/event band in the Atlanta area that most of their stuff is backing tracks when playing clubs. The last time I saw them, the only "live" part of the act was the lead vocalists and some of the guitar or sax leads. They're making good money, but to me it's an embarrassing disgrace (they should change their name to that).
  11. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    Don't get me wrong, I think there's a line.

    We used to use a string/synthesizer patch for about the first 15 seconds of Drift Away, played through the GNX pedal. But with no keyboards on stage, it's obvious that it's a patch and we don't hide it. We don't set up an unplugged keyboard and pretend to play it. A vibraslap effect finds itself into a few songs too, and I haven't been able to find mine for years.

    If we had a keyboard, then the patch wouldn't be used. Using it as an occasional effect is OK, IMO... basing your show on it is not.
  12. need4mospd


    Dec 22, 2005
    Agreed with most everyone here. These people aren't real musicians. Our drummer will use samples to start songs if it's something we can't duplicate, then it cuts off and we play like normal. But with three keyboards in the band now, it's getting more and more unnecessary.
  13. Diggler


    Mar 3, 2005
    Western PA
    There needs to be a Milli Vanilli Wall Of Shame for bands that are caught doing this.
  14. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Absolutely. I can talk about it because the arrival of sequencers getting near the mid-nineties was a total catastrophe for live bands in my town. Unfortunately, the only thing that most people here look for when organizing a party is something LOUD and CHEAP, and that was taken to the extreme. I agree with the use of a keyboard for reinforcing a band, but not for being the whole band, as it turned to be the case. And the worst part is that many guys who work that way don't know anything about playing an instrument. They just buy a fancy keyboard/sequencer, buy the sequences from other guys that already work on that, press the "play" button and get gigs posing as keyboard players. Sadly, there are no regulations against that practice here.
  15. Could there be any repercussions with the recording police in instances like that?

    A guitar player friend of mine almost spewed his beer at a club after witnessing this. People were dancing & the crowd was loving it.

    STUPID PEOPLE. baa-baa.
  16. jpchisari


    Jul 23, 2010
    I live in the Chicago area where using backing tracks has become the standard for cover bands. Not only for weddings, but also for clubs.
    There are quite a few of these cover bands that demand high dollars for weddings and corporate events. I've heard from some former members of one band in particular that gets between 4k and 6k for 3 pc band with 2 vocalists. They generally pack clubs and outdoor festivals with audiences that number in the 2-5K range at the latter. These bands use the defense that they are yhe iones actually playing on the tracks and they are not using them off of original performers tracks.
    The sad thing is possibly 95% of their listening audience has no idea they are doing this, and when I point it out to anyone, they don't seem to care.
    Now I have had the opportunity to hear a number of musicians from quite a few of these band in an actual live situation, and they are all great players.
    Sadly, this has become the norm, what audiences are learning to expect. Not a band performing a song well with the instrumentation they have, but sounding exactly like an original recording, even if a 3 pc band comes off as sounding as big as Tower of Power!!
    Personally, I don't think this will change, as more and more younger musicians are using this format to compete with the big money makers out there. This is the future, Karoake with stage performers!
    Jimmy4string and Jhengsman like this.
  17. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    In my RUSH cover band, there is only one song where we use a complete midi track for synths...Tom Sawyer. That's mainly because I would destroy the song if I tried with everything involved. It's tough on the drummer because he has to stay with the tempo. Everything else I have to play live on keys and pedals and bass.
    byoung93888 likes this.
  18. alembicguy

    alembicguy I operate the worlds largest heavey equipment Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2007
    Motley Crüe live does it. Seen them several times and all backing vocals are tracked as with some instruments.
  19. Around here, all of the top A-room bands use tracks - and most of them use tracks on every song.

    One of them justified it to me this way - "We need the track to run the lights, so we play to the track to stay in sync with the lights."
  20. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Yes and they even talked about it in articles I read. U2 is known for allot of it as are many national bands.

    We have a local nu-wave group that does it and packs the house when they play. Dancing ladies could care less about it or they are clueless.The band was even called out on it on CL but it has not effected their shows.

    I knew a band who's keyboard player had all the keys programed and would put on a great show playing dead keys with backing tracks. Nobody ever knew but him and the band. It happens and yes its wrong but only musicians who care.. do.

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