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The issue of backing tracks

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by Viper617, May 17, 2019.

  1. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Several pro bands use backing tracks, as for me, I don't mind having them. Is all about putting a good show for the audience, if tracks can help then why not.

    We use them all the time and what I have learned is:

    - Everybody should learn their parts in and out.

    - IEM is a must.

    - Make sure the drummer can play to a click.
    johnnyplaysbass, JRA, Mr_Moo and 5 others like this.
  2. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Somebody in my neck of the woods has an ad on Craigslist for a guitar player. The singer and the guitar player will play to backing tracks. I don't get it, but to each his own. Talk about sucking the life and spontaneity out of music. :rollno:
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  3. primusfan1989


    Jan 17, 2005
    new jersey
    Personally I don't enjoy those kinds of bands/productions. Id always rather see another key player to cover the extra parts than backing tracks
    Mr_Moo and Helix like this.
  4. Tnavis


    Feb 25, 2003
    Minneapolis, MN
    My current project uses a variety of different backing tracks/samples. Our guitar player queues a few samples (some atmospheric sounds, some samples taken from a commercial) from his pedal board, and our drummer has a sample pad that he uses to both play some electronic drum sounds live, and play a keyboard track live while he's drumming over it. He's also our keyboard player, and so it doesn't make a ton of sense for us to have a dedicated keys player for two songs in a thirty minute set.

    In my previous band I used a Loopstation to trigger our "intro" and "outro" music, as well as the bizarre but totally workable method of adding an organ part to one of our songs (i had one chord per sample bay, and just triggered them live in time with the music). ONce again, it was one song, no need for a separate player on stage.

    There's a lot of players doing VERY cool solo work with a looped tracks, which is no different than running backing tracks. Personally, i'd say give it a shot, try and run it live with the samples you need and perform what you can in real time. Don't worry what anyone else thinks.

    I will add one caveat; last week we had sound issues with everything sent DI (starting with the samples, and then including my bass rig) at a show, and that completely changed the performance for us. It's no different than a guitar amp cutting out, honestly. You just have to think of the samples as another member of the band.
    JRA, Mr_Moo, twocargar and 2 others like this.
  5. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    May 10, 2006
    The backing tracks will tie you into a fix-format performance. The song will always be the same and if you don't play in the right spots the right way, there will be train wrecks. I had a jazz gig for 3 years where the guitarist insisted on backing tracks. No spontaneity. I felt like a wind up bass machine. Got pretty boring. Weirdest part were the occasional mistakes in his backing tracks. He wouldn't change so I made him change the bass player.
    Mr_Moo and murphy like this.
  6. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    Huh. Maybe you'd prefer the "power trio" version? :D

  7. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    One of my bands uses tracks for 50% of the set. I never used to like the idea until the checks started rolling in. It’s easier than hiring keys/ synth for those songs. I worried about musician friends seeing it and making fun of me, but there’s little chance of them being at the weddings, corporate events, and casinos we play.
    mpm32, Nevada Pete, Mr_Moo and 4 others like this.
  8. ihaveaquestion


    Jan 9, 2018
    There are many electronic musicians who play instruments alongside backing tracks live. Here's an example:

    Or you could not need backing tracks, if you use synth and loop pedals, for example:

    Mr_Moo likes this.
  9. dwade


    Feb 15, 2013
    Cincinnati, OH
    You're not catering to other musicians. The idea is to entertain as many people as you possibly can.

    There are several bands in my area that use backing tracks. One of them might be the area's biggest draw & they are certainly the biggest earning band around. The audience doesn't care. They're having too much fun to care. Some of the musicians in town tend to poke fun but they'd love to fill the rooms & demand the pay that this particular band does.

    The use of backing tracks is not for everyone. It's another layer of discipline you, as player, will need to adhere to. You'll need to be 100% on time, all the time. I've never played in a band that used tracks throughout a complete a song, though I have used a sampling pad to trigger sound effects.

    I personally believe in allowing folks to do whatever they're comfortable doing & I'll do the same.
    Good luck!!
    mpm32 and Mr_Moo like this.
  10. arbiterusa


    Sep 24, 2015
    San Diego, CA
    Who cares what other musicians think? What does your AUDIENCE think? That's all that matters.

    (PROTIP: if your audience is nothing but other musicians, scrap the project and do something else)
    dwade and twocargar like this.
  11. slamsinger


    Feb 8, 2009
    Coventry RI
    In my personal
    Experience with this debate is this...
    I’ve used and been in bands that used backing tracks mind you we were a full band drummer Sax guitar bass and we used tracks on every song we played to horns - shakers - keys - second guitar and the only people that had an issue with it were other musicians
    NOBODY that was there to dance cared at all they actually LOVED it because the songs sounded as close to what they were used to hearing and they danced their butts off from song one till song 40
    We as a band always played our parts CORRECTLY but it was like having the extra 3-4 people in the band that we didn’t have to pay and it made us a better sounding band and that’s what it’s all about imo
    mpm32, Nevada Pete, dwade and 4 others like this.
  12. I saw Queen in 1980. Everyone was in top form.

    During "Bohemian Rhapsody", the stage went dark and a projection of their video was shown for the operatic section... played from a TRACK!!!
    OH!!! THE HORROR!!!!
    As soon as that section was over, they return to the stage and the crowd went wild!!!

    The point of this comment is, if you are trying to hide your musical shortcomings with a track, many people will notice, most won't care. If the track is something you could not possibly play live but integral to the song, many people will notice, most will care an appreciate it.
    NIN has done it since the beginning. It fits their musical ethos.
    Earth, Wind and Fire with pre-recorded horns, then you'll have a riot.

    Rush with pre-recorded bass parts? Perhaps it has even happened already, but no one talks about it...

    Nevada Pete, Mr_Moo, bpmben and 2 others like this.
  13. Who cares what other musicians think?
    If it works live, as in it is providing entertainment that people like, and you like it... why not?

    I would do it. AND it sounds like you have fewer bandmates to create drama and share the fee with: win-win! ;)
    dwade and Mr_Moo like this.
  14. I have seen this on many cover and "theme" bands: 80s tributes, 90s tributes, even 50s tributes without a sax player, but a sax track and the lead vocal miming the sax... The audience ate it up and even applauded at the end of the "sax solo"... Again, it depends on what you are "selling"... Is it musicianship? A visual extravaganza? A dancing good time? A trip down memory lane? A trippy, psychedelic journey to the unknown??? (Is using a Mellotron, playing a track??)

    Of course, YMMV..

    Mr_Moo likes this.
  15. rodak


    Jun 14, 2005
    I recall back in the 1970s seeing a guy (I think his name was Bill Guess) who backed himself as an entire band. He had the stage set up with guitars, a Marshall stack, a B3/Leslie (and probably some other keyboards), a drumset, and possibly a bass rig (don't recall). He also had a 4-track reel-to-reel deck set up in plain view. He would play one part of each song live, while the other tracks, recorded by him, would play from the reel deck. He was really good, quite impressive. I think he also made it clear to the audience what was going on.

    A few years later, I saw him playing a guitar with a Minimoog keyboard fastened to it. He'd play hammer-on guitar chords with his left hand while playing synth leads on the keyboard. It looked something like this: ~WindWorks Design (which was apparently designed by the same guy)
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
    Mr_Moo and twocargar like this.
  16. Dkerwood


    Aug 5, 2005
    See, this is where I'm living right now. I'm getting ready to move and thus start a new band. I thought about just doing it as a three piece, but tracks would really help to fill out the sound (and, frankly, the advantages to using a click track and Ableton Live to automate lighting are too great to ignore, so we'd probably be playing to a pre-recorded "track" anyway, even if that track is just MIDI cues and transition audio cues to IEM).

    If money was no object, it would be great to hire a second guitarist, a keys player, and a few backup vocalists, but taking 6-8 people on the road costs a lot of money. A gig that would put $3-400 in my pocket now turns into $100-200, especially if you have to add a second vehicle for gigs farther away.

    Now that said, I've seen plenty of nightmare scenarios. Shared the bill with a band whose track didn't get unmuted in the mains but was on in their IEM. So they're dancing around while the drummer is randomly tapping cymbals - it's a keyboard intro to the first song (lead singer is a keyboard player, but she pre-records so she's free to roam around as the lead singer). They don't have any idea that anything is wrong until the track stops abruptly and they have no choice but to restart.

    I watched a hard rock band whose entire show was played with a single thirty minute track. That was a tough one to sit through, particularly since every song started with a guitar line played on the track while the other guys stood around in the dark waiting for the song to get going. Found out later they had lost their guitar player and were still breaking in their new one... decided to use the new guy as a rhythm guitarist for the tour.

    And then of course there was the young local band that was charting low on the Billboard hard rock charts. They ran everything direct - no live amps on stage. They also had tracks for backing vocals, anything synth-y, second guitar, and even some crowd response sound, which was particularly cringe-worthy.

    If I go the track route, you can bet that I will not just be using the tracks from a recorded EP and muting the guitar, bass, and drums. I'll be starting over from scratch - a live show is such a different dynamic than a much more intimate recording.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  17. Bodeanly

    Bodeanly Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2015
    We had a nightmare scenario on my third gig with them. The battery in the drummer's IEM's went out, so his click and cues were gone (he's in charge of the tracks). We recovered, but had to ditch the medley we were in the middle of doing. The drummer has since hardwired his IEM's, which makes more sense anyway. If anyone else in the band has this problem, we can just pull them out of our ears and keep playing.

    I'm not even sure how tracks work. I just play like I've always played and let someone else deal with them.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  18. TB probably isn't the best place to ask such a question. There's a semi-large portion of folks on here who scream "Blasphemy!" at the mere mention of using effects pedal, so good luck talking about samples and backing tracks. That crowd will probably all converge to this thread when they see the title, too. :laugh:

    Don't worry about what other musicians (especially rock musicians) might say about it. If it's done well and your band is offering a good performance, the audience will be entertained and should respond accordingly.
    Seanto, Mr_Moo, Hahaha and 1 other person like this.
  19. jgroh


    Sep 14, 2007
    This. In my last band we used backing tracks for a handful of songs for the synth parts that HAD to be there. We didnt want to add another person so we added tracks. I was skeptical at first but, it added SO much to our sound without having another ego, schedule, and money split to deal with. In my current band there are a few songs I wanted to do it with but our drummer, even though he is good, can have trouble remembering cues and parts. It would be a nightmare trainwreck if he didnt know and play the parts exactly the same every time...which Im almost positive he wouldnt be able to do. As far as the OP...do not worry about "other musicians". We had plenty of other musicians at our gigs and they only cared if the overall sound was good. If youre lip syncing to a pre-recorded track, then you might get blowback, otherwise I wouldnt care.
    Mr_Moo likes this.
  20. flam


    Sep 20, 2010
    Tempe, Arizona
    My view is that you do what you have to in order to present your music appropriately. Whether it's hiring a symphony or buying a robot, you should use everything available to your advantage.
    Mr_Moo, Hahaha and pedroims like this.

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