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The issue of backing tracks

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

  1. Tom Gallo

    Tom Gallo Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2015
    Outside Boston
    Why do you care what other musicians think? It's your gig and presumably you're making music you want to make. It doesn't matter one bit
    what other musicians think about. Please yourself.
  2. DanGroove


    Apr 27, 2017
    Taking tracking to the extreme, does anyone remember the Flaming Lips car stereo project?
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
    vvvmmm likes this.
  3. Snobbery aside, audiences are unlikely to be very concerned. They're used to DJs who don't even flip CDs, let alone vinyl. Actual musicians on stage? Wild, man.

    There are a few technical matters - and techniques - to sort out. An extra skill set which doesn't apply in ordinary small band formats. Some of these are familiar if you have played in big bands or orchestras. Others might be familiar if you've worked in theatre or done film scores.

    There are quite a few good posts on those things in here.

    If you want to do it, go for it. You'll learn a whole bunch of useful new skills.
  4. Hambone70

    Hambone70 Supporting Member

    Jan 31, 2018
    Tucson, AZ

    Be true to yourself. I wouldn’t give a flying flick what other ‘musicians’ think!
    JRA likes this.
  5. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Jule-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    The majority of the biggest, most commercially successful bands in every genre use some element of playback in their shows these days.

    Unless you’re doing something silly like using drum playback instead of having a drummer onstage, or having the computer play a lead guitar melody in lieu of the guitar player, it’ll be fine.
    Last edited: May 17, 2019
    Seanto and scuzzy like this.
  6. One of my bands is an original heavy metal act which has been using tracks to play my keyboard parts (as we do not have a live keyboard player) as of the past couple years.

    I wouldn’t say we “heavily layer” the tracks at all, rather the keys just provide some flavour and atmosphere. The guitar, bass, and vocals still lead our music.

    But I don’t think it matters if there’s layers. I’ve seen plenty of bands use layered tracks, in fact some of the most popular bands playing similar music to us (even legendary bands) layer quite heavily and it works fine.

    If you’re worried about other musicians cutting you down for using them, don’t. Some people won’t dig it, but that’s their problem. It’s your art.

    And for the record, other musicians on the same shows as us generally come up after our set and say things like “I like the synth sounds, how do you guys do that?”, and then upon explaining that it’s tracks, the response is often “it adds a cool layer to your sound!”.

    That’s just my experience, but it’s always a positive one. I say go for it!
    MDBass and Mr_Moo like this.
  7. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    1) Welcome to TalkBass!!!!

    2) Good music is good music.

    "All this machinery making modern music can still be open hearted. Not so coldly charted. It's really just a question of your honesty. Yeah, your honesty."
    Rush - "The Spirit of Radio"

    3) Don't make music for musicians. Make music to bring joy to normal people. ;)
    scuzzy and Mr_Moo like this.
  8. bigswifty1


    Dec 8, 2011
    I have seen some really excellent musicians playing to backing tracks. I have plenty of respect for the discipline it can take to play really well with a backing track. However, no matter how good they are, they never hold my interest for very long.
  9. twinjet

    twinjet Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2008
    I don't like 'em, so I don't use 'em. Nothing further.
  10. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    True, but the remaining 10% of us can put up a sufficiently robust defence without breaking a sweat...
    electracoyote likes this.
  11. I think it’s fine if it’s keyboard parts or drums and stuff on the backing track. I’ve actually seen more and more bands perform that way the last couple years. Especially pop bands and industrial metal bands that use electronic drum sounds. As for keys in my area in the original music scene bands rarely have keyboard players onstage but many have keyboard parts on their albums and some will having the keyboard parts on backing tracks.

    Bands that use backing tracks around here for keyboard parts will have their drummer play them using an iPod or iPad and a little mixer and have a stereo split with different content panned left and right so for example one mono signal goes to front of house with the backing tracks and the other goes to the drummers earbuds/headphones with whatever mono mix they want so they can be on time with the backing tracks. But the drummers headphones are coming out of the mixer so they can hear the mono track through both ears. I don’t recommend having a laptop onstage. I’ve seem them crash and then the band had to stop and wait until the computer booted back up.

    Where it gets a bit cheesy to me is when it’s used for instruments that are on the stage and vocals. For example I’ve even seen bands have their main vocal on the backing track and the lead singer basically just acted like a hype man would at a rap show the entire time. There were some people that liked it that probably didn’t know any better or didn’t care. But it was obvious to the musicians in the room and tocme that was worse than karaoke

    One area it might be different than you’re thinking is pay. For example we’ve Played gigs with duos like you’re suggesting. I wouldn’t think of playing shows with 4-5 member bands thinking you’re going to make twice as much money individually as a duo. The bigger bands (member wise) don’t like splitting the money evenly between bands when one is a duo and the rest have twice as many members. I have performed as a duo though and it is possible to make good money that way in some situations. Especially for cover gigs where there are no other bands.
    Last edited: May 18, 2019
    Mr_Moo and SteveCS like this.
  12. Without having read all four pages of responses, I'm going to bet my thoughts are not the same as 80% of the other posters, but my feeling is: So what? I've seen plenty of well known bands playing with some pre-recorded elements to their show. From The Police in the 80s to U2 about five years ago. I've also seen plenty of solo artists playing in bars, doing guitar and vocal over a recorded drum, bass and keys track.

    Personally I don't care if you're using a backing track, on two conditions:
    1. You programmed/recorded it yourself, to supplement your sound, and therefore it's part of your sound, and
    2. It's not done with any intent to deceive, i.e. you're not pretending to play something live that's actually pre-recorded.
    Silthis89, MDBass, scuzzy and 2 others like this.
  13. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Agree on both counts. And they are non-negotiable.
  14. :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::)
  15. :smug::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:
    ihaveaquestion likes this.
  16. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i wouldn't worry about the opinions of "other musicians" --- if your playdown is 'musical' then you're good to go! those "other musicians" who would be so critical = cats who couldn't carry it off in the first place. the skills necessary to use tracks, with both taste and 'authority', are above the pay grade of most so-called "musicians." i wouldn't be concerned about the opinion of a few wannabes if there is some art/fun/$$$ in the execution of your show(s).

    you're going for an overall 'sound'...the sound which you and yours create. cool beans! some bands go for the overall sound of 4-5 pieces. some acts go for the sound of 4-5 pieces+orchestra, 3 pieces+spaceship, duo+the state of texas, yada yada...

    IME: using tracks/EFX is a legitimate skill set and those who can pull it off well = $$$. just like if you can play your instrument well = $$$. in this technological age it's just another way to thrill the folks who have entertainment dollars in their pockets. not even a thing. good luck with your project! :thumbsup:

    disclosure: i mostly play jazz where this skill set is not utilized. but i have lots of experience (past life) with the concept, its application, and some of the technologies used to accomplish a successful utilization.
    SteveCS and Hambone70 like this.
  17. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg , Conquest Sound
    I have never and will never use backing tracks. To me, it's cheating the audience. If they want to hear recorded music, they can stay home. My philosophy is that if you can't do it live, don't do it at all.
    One_Dude likes this.
  18. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    I had a “midi duo” for 20 years.
    Acoustic guitar, synth, 6 string bass.
    Started with a simple drum machine and evolved into software with more tracks.
    It was a working unit that became less musically rewarding. We went back to acoustic guitar and bass in the last few years. The duo is still carrying on successfully without me.
    My current musical endeavors involve 100% live playing (sometimes with 60 other musicians). The audience loves it, and my musical spirit thrives.
    One_Dude likes this.
  19. TreySonagras


    Aug 11, 2013
    What about using synth strings instead of a dozen violinists? Is that cheating the audience?
    MDBass, scuzzy and Mr_Moo like this.
  20. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    I doubt that. In a concert situation, the relative delays between audio propagation and video reinforcement can’t be synched for the entire audience. When those are out of sync in your spot, it LOOKS like someone isn’t playing, even when they ate.
    Nevada Pete and Nephilymbass like this.

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