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Transitioning to playing live with pre-recorded tracks

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Razman, Mar 18, 2013.

  1. Razman


    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    Wasn't sure if this should be in the Recordings area or not, but since we will be performing live I posted it here. Searches haven't produced any threads specific to this so if you know of one please direct me to it.

    As the title indicates, we're replacing our departed rhythm guitarist with pre-recorded tracks that contain his parts and a metronome for our drummer to synchronize with. Has anyone else made this transition or currently play in this fashion and can offer any tips, advice, or just share your experiences?

    Overall I think we're moving in the right direction and feel that we have the equipment we need to make this happen. Our drummer is trying to adjust to this new paradigm (as musicians we're already used to playing with an external time-keeper - except him) and we're adjusting to the learning curve required by said equipment.

    Despite these challenges we're all excited about the new options this opens up for us, such as pre-recording some effects we currently play live (keys, HandSonic sound fx, etc), the potential for more types of effects, and the ability to record our entire band and produce our own CD's. This will be especially helpful if we travel and can't take every piece of gear with us.

    Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Make sure your drummer practices regularly with a click track
  3. NickFromNY

    NickFromNY Supporting Member

    Nov 2, 2010
    Long Island, NY
    Have played to a click track for years. Things will go wrong from time to time, its inevitable. Takes away elements of spontineity from the music. Becomes scripted and predicable, imho. The $25 extra you make stops being worth it. Find the right guitarist and have fun
  4. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    May 10, 2006
    Playing against a loop precludes stretching out if you want to jam over a section of the song. Pretty much a musical karaoke-type experience. You are always bound by the structure of the loop. Using a pedal to turn the loop on and off mid-song is possible but getting the timing down is tricky (the person pressing the foot pedal is usually more in synch than everyone else). On the other hand, using a loop allows you to downsize required members of the band, which enables simpler, less complicated gigging. It can be especially nice if you're playing in smaller venues that are constrained by space to accommodate the extra players. It's also useful if you can't find decent players to include with the band.

    I play jazz at local wineries with a guitarist. He records the rhythm track onto a loop and we play against that, occasionally including drums/percussion with the loop. Here's a recording of a song from our gig on Friday. He and I are playing live against his recorded rhythm loop, which is playing softly in the background over a small PA. It's working for us.

  5. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    The backing track is a tool to be used as needed. We do tracks on about 50% of our songs. Playing with a click is a non-issue in my opinion. After you get used to it, you don't even know it's there. I don't think the music becomes scripted, predictable, etc, you can still make the music breathe by moving in front or behind the beat especially if you have a competent drummer you are locked in with. The other 50% of the songs are the jammers where we will air it out and have fun. Tracks should enhance the show, not just be there to fill in another instrument that is missing. If you can do without, you should try to do so.

    A couple of other thoughts....

    Don't over do the track so it is painfully obvious to the audience. We've all seen this and it sucks. Use it subtley and carefully and the majority of the folks watching (read non-musicians) will sense the positives in your production effort and may not even notice it.

    Do it right. Just handing the soundman an Ipod with some tracks on it, is a recipe for disaster. I control our tracks. We have 4 separate premixed tracks running from ProTools into a Presonus firebox and out through DI boxes into our (IEM) monitor board and then to the house. The click is one of these tracks which obviously the house does not use. The other 3, the house soundman is free to tweak if he/she needs to. And this gives us the flexibility to individually balance our monitors to our liking. The guitar player doesn't like click so he pretty much takes it out whereas I usually keep it in. There are other ways to do it but this works for us.

    Practice with the tracks until you are comfortable with them before gigging or you will be asking for a train wreck. If you practice enough you will have time to develop a strategy that everyone automatically goes to when and if things go wrong.

    Good luck.


    Feb 9, 2013
    San Diego, CA
  7. Razman


    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    Thanks to all who have responded so far. This is turning into a good learning experience for everyone in the band and IMO is the challenge we needed to get to that next level as a group.

    We're using a Mac laptop with Reason 6 and a M-Audio ProjectMix i/o board. We've recorded the parts we needed for two songs so far and it is working out for us. Drummer is learning to play with a click track; it's forcing all of us to re-learn the feel of each song as the computer doesn't lie.

    Initially I was afraid that the organic feel of the band would be affected but now I don't think this will be an issue. It's helping us play tighter and more consistently as a group, which is a plus - since we don't have any songs we ad-lib or change on the fly I don't foresee any problems there. We can already tell that our sound is better; in a year we should be well-versed in all of this and be full steam ahead.

    It's nice now to have the ability to add not just a second guitar to the mix but a third to accent some parts of some songs. Definitely not going to over-do it, especially during this initial phase. We are going to add more effects that we currently use to free up our singers when needed - like if we go someplace else and can't take all the gear with us. So far the results are very promising.

    This will also move us towards IEM's as our drummer is going to be set up with his own small mixer for the click track and monitor sends from the main board (guitars, singers, etc.) We're already running wireless units for bass/guitar so just waiting for $$ to go all the way.

    I'm still saddened about the loss of our rhythm guitarist but it's working out for the better. Finding the right replacement would take time that we really don't have; where we're headed to I don't think we'll need to replace him.

    Much appreciative for your thoughts, if anyone else would care to share please do so.


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