Using backing tracks, sequenced sounds etc.

Discussion in 'Band Management [BG]' started by lostcontrol_, Nov 14, 2013.

  1. Hi everyone,

    Before you post:
    I decided to start this thread because while there are some good posts regarding the subject in BM, they nearly always get lost in threads due to posts regarding personal preference etc. I respect that everyone has their preference, but it's safe to say we've all heard our share of the "karaoke" / "real musicians" / "I like purple and so should you, otherwise you're WRONG" -comments, so let's try to keep an open mind and stick to what's actually informative here. If the Live Sound -subforum can do it, so can we :) The point is not to "convert the unbelievers", but to explore the subject as a way to augment the music and performances. For the record, I'm talking from an originals point of view.

    Now that we got that out of the way... Here's what I'm trying to find out:

    • What have your experiences been when incorporating backing tracks or samples to your music?
    • How have you done it?
    • What's your angle / why are you using them?
    • What have been the pros and the cons?
    • Possible financial/resource/etc. aspects

    It would be great if you'd include the size of your band and the type of music you're playing, just to get an idea of your scenario.

    Thanks :)
  2. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    I like to use Pink Floyd's sound effects, and some of the linking sounds from Classic Rock LP's; all programmed into my keyboard. It adds an extra element to the stage show for the audience, and anybody who says it takes away from the musicianship obviously hasn't had to time out their parts to the backing tracks.

    It's just another tool. I prefer to use it, where appropriate.
  3. Mennolineum


    Nov 12, 2013
    I have been using backing tracks, like drum beats or a synthy keyboard progression wich i made myself mostly.. but never really in band setup.. i use it to practise arpeggios, soloing, w/e or even to Just have fun making music when im by myself.. I think it would be hard to use backing tracks in a band situation plus I will miss the life in music since you gotta keep up with the track.. would be intresting if you dont have the need to adjust your music on the go, to the way you feel
  4. I was in a prog hard rock band that used an Apple G4 loaded with Logic Pro 7. We had two singers, two guitars, bass, and drums on stage. What you heard, was all those guys playing, plus keys, complex string arrangements, sound samples, even some dj scratching/mixing sounds. We also had a metronome set to all our songs using Logic, and we ran an output into a set of headphones our drummer wore. That way we were always in sync with the song, and even on songs where we didn't use any extra sounds from Logic, we still had the metronome programmed. It makes a HUGE difference in how good your band sounds, especially if the arrangements are complex.
  5. Here are my two cents:

    Background: 4-piece, Electro/industrial rock, all originals.

    We play with backing tracks, which contain additional orchestrations, sound effects etc., synth drums/drum machine samples and so on. These are essentially stripped down versions of the album stuff, which are less rock and more electronic music. For the live performances, we add "oomph" and "the big sound" of a live drumset, bass, guitars, live synths etc. for a more "rock" experience. As for the audience, they either don't notice or mind, as we get compliments for the way we sound from both the audience and the staff.

    After the initial personal weirdness, it has worked out just fine. While the backing track limits improvisation to some extent, it gives us more texture to the live sound without having to get more people to the live group (= good thing for finance, timetables & setup etc.).

    This is how we do it:
    1. Band leader composes the song and creates the synth/sample-based backing track and a draft of the song
    2. Song (multitracked) goes into a Zoom R16, which is operated by the drummer both live and in rehearsals - the Zoom also provides a click track for the drummer. Grouped instruments can be muted from the song.
    3. Drummer has IEM's connected to the Zoom via a headphone amplifer
    4. Zoom is connected to the main board for output.

    So, all in all, pros and cons in my experience:
    + Gains in finance, timetables, setup etc
    + The track nicely augments the music we play
    + A nice and bar-friendly way to perform our electronic based music
    - Creating, modifying and mastering the tracks for live use can take a lot of time. F. ex. one song might easily have 30-50 tracks in the DAW, do the math...
    - More effort/consideration needed with monitoring

    ... And I still get to use the contents of my effects arsenal (drive, fuzz, 2*delay, ebow) just the way I want to :)
  6. SunnBass

    SunnBass All these blankets saved my life.

    Aug 31, 2010
    Columbia, Mo
    We (coward) run audio tracks under our whole set. We are an instrumental band with two drummers, keys, and bass. I like to use staged recordings of literature: Solaris, Rats in the Walls, The Dunwich Horror. But our favorite is a dispatch recording of this woman named Robin who steals a LA Sheriff SUV and is on the radio screaming hysterically back and forth with dispatch. It's only loud enough to be heard between songs and during quiet parts.
  7. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    We are classic rock style originals and covers and we use backing tracks for approx. 50% of our originals. Our setup is all racked in a small box rack with our IEM's.

    We use a Macbook Pro with Protools. Out of the laptop with Firewire to a Presonus Firebox which splits the tracks to 1/4 jack. We have 4 separate tracks - keys, guitar and vox plus a click. Click is fed only to the IEM transmitters. The other three go through DI boxes also in the rack. XLR out to the house. You can run a mixed a single track but in our experience sound engineers love to have control of the tracks to balance them for the room, etc. The box is setup with clearly marked outputs for the 3 tracks and inputs for the IEM's. This is important to make it easy for the sound engineer. The box sits beside me on stage left and I trigger the tracks.

    We started to use them when we lost our rhythm guitarist. Since then we have added some intro tracks.

    Personally I don't mind playing to a track but you need to spend the time rehearsing with it and making sure you are 100% comfortable with the changes and space between songs. You get used to the click after a while but it is still limiting to a certain extent. I have to say I prefer playing the songs where we don't use tracks, it always seems more "fun" for some reason.

    Depending on the competence of the sound man, it can take longer to set up/sound check. Good engineers are right on it but if you don't have one you can be in trouble in a hurry. Clubs have never been a problem. It seems like fests are the worst. Some of them can't even handle IEM's let alone tracks.

    If you get off the track somehow train wreck can ensue. This has only happened twice in a year or so and we adjusted and got back on it in one case and I cut the track off in the other case.

    If you cannot use IEM's you need to run the click into your one ear and leave the other ear open for wedges. I've listed this a con but it actually works pretty well.

    For our setup at least, I need to remember to turn the track off on the laptop. If I don't the next track will start after a pause. I would like a better interface, like an app on my Iphone that could connect via bluetooth to the Mac and phone would be attached to my mic stand.

    Fuller sound for a 3 piece plus we are able to incorporate the overlay tracks that are on our album like keys.

    Can use intro tracks.

    Setup was not that expensive.
  8. Less than an hour into the discussion and we already have some good use cases, nice :)

    That was one of the things I ran into when getting accustomed to the tracks. A huge personal revelation (in my case) was that the backing tracks were just that, backing tracks with additional orchestrations. When I realized that I still needed to click with the drummer as usual and focus on what's being played live, it was more or less business as usual, playing my parts as they're meant to be. Sure, with our current solution we don't get to suddenly add a part or two of unexpected soloing/jamming etc., but I don't mind at all since the songs and their structures are sound. Mellowinman's approach (keyboard triggers) is good for adjusting the music as you go, if I understood you correctly.
  9. nojj

    nojj Guest

    May 20, 2013
    In a performance sitch, never.

    I've used backing trax/karaoke tracks as a practice aid for myself on gtr or vox.

    In the initial song-writing process,
    I'll assemble drum tracks from loops and what-not, string 'em together w/ a software program,
    then dump it down into my recording console.
    After adding bass/rhythm/lead/vox, it's roughed & distributed to the guys.
    Petty much a fleshed-out idea at that point, and the fellas take it home, listen, and we run with it from there
  10. KeddyLee


    Nov 12, 2013
    Rush Tribute band

    We use a sampler for song intros, some wave effects, maybe some loops like Spirit of Radio and Vital Signs where the drummer gets a click track. Works well

    I use the Digitech JMSL2. Holds a ton of memory with great quality.

    I also use a set of PK-5 pedals which will trigger samples in the future but right now is just used to play keys with my feet.
  11. One thing to address, is that it takes a lot of time and effort to create and tailor the backings tracks to be at a point where they are fit for live use. If only one person is doing that, that person should get extra money. At least for the first few gigs to pay off all that effort, time, and software, hardware investment. Once it's paid off, and the new workload lessens, then go back to even splits. Or everyone pitches in equally to make the backing track system work.
  12. FWIW: Back in the old days before computer or (all in one) keyboard workstations existed, we used midi with a separate sequencer, drum machine, and keyboards - so I’ve been there, done that, and got the poster. In a nutshell - Pros = its better than nothing (no backups). Cons = most people much rather see/watch real musicians performing. Conclusion = if you have a full member band and also use some backing tracks, most people won’t know/notice - and now "IF" I ever needed/wanted backing tracks I’d use my KORG TR6 keyboard workstation.
  13. Jebberz

    Jebberz Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2012
    Quebec city
    In my cover band (a trio), we use it on certain songs when there is some keyboards or brass in the original song and we feel that those parts are missing when we play it just with guitar bass and drum. The drummers loads the tracks in his SPDS and run a click track througe his in-ear. We just follow him and it goes well.
  14. mellowinman

    mellowinman Free Man

    Oct 19, 2011
    Generally, I build the song as a track. I don't play to a click. "Money," for example. The track has the opening sound effects, and the closing sound effects, with a bunch of dead space in between. The opening sound effects set the tempo. If I play to that tempo, and we play the song correctly, then the closing sound effects land where they are supposed to.

    If we speed up, they will come in late; if we slow down, they will come in early.

    I've done this with two different drummers, and they have always come in right about where they are supposed to. After the end of those sound effects, "Is there Anybody Out There?" fades in, and serves as our queue up to "Comfortably Numb." This whole thing is ridiculously simple, and yet audience members consistently tell me of their amazement at it. I tell them it's all very complex, and difficult to coordinate, of course. That's what they want to hear.

    The track has about ten minutes of silence at the end of it, in case I am lax in remembering to hit the "stop" button. At some point, if I don't hit it, a disembodied voice is going to say, I AM IRON MAN," for another project I am working on. (you probably guessed what it is)

    I have the "stomp stomp clap" for Queen's "We Will Rock You," and it is the exact same length as the actual track. The drummer plays Kick Kick Snare to it, so if we are ever in a situation where there is doubt about him being able to clearly hear it in his monitor, we skip the backing track, and have him do it alone.

    I don't really trigger much "on the fly," because I don't like to think too much. I like to be able to give myself over to the performance, as much as possible.

    I mostly do intros, but I am always looking at expanding the use of sounds. I think it adds another dimension, and seperates us from the pack of Classic Rock cover bands.
  15. MonkeyBass


    Mar 22, 2009
    Denver, CO
    I use a Boss RC-30 to trigger some Moog-ish bass pads. And I'll use it for the occasional sound effect. Works well.
  16. Similarities to Runnerman here:
    My brother used Trax software with an Atari 1040St (yes, Atari) back in the day. In stereo, click track was on one side of headphones, music on the other side. We used a Roland Soundbrush as our sequencer live. We didn't realize we could send a signal to a keyboard to change the settings on the midi keyboard, so I would do it manually live(! 7 channels sometimes needed changing). We then switched the sequencing to cd and in the last ten years to an MP3 player.
    We actually named the band after our 'keyboard' player and now just use the name as a name. More recently, added Two Tickets to Paradise with percussion to our set list.
    The band is a four-piece - 2 gtrs, bass & drums. We've fallen off the click track and trainwrecked, and other times just stopped the mp3 player.
    Nice to use in big orchestration songs - Comfortably Numb, Silent Lucidity.
  17. The last band I was in used backing tracks. The band played a lot of 80's music and the tracks where just used to compliment or fil out the sound ie. horn shots etc. The drummer played to a click that of course was tied into the tracks themselves and we used IEM. Being able to play in time with the tracks is yet another skill needed to make a good band.
    it was a 3 piece band bass, drums and guitar

    I used to be anti backing tracks but if used properly they can add some depth to the band's sound

    my two cents
  18. I use a JML2 JamMan looper to trigger sound effects during our set. We don't use backing tracks because I don't want to have to deal with trying to stay on time to them. I have sounds that are in our recorded songs. Car horns, an extra harmony vocal, David Lee Roth screams from the Van Halen naked vocal tracks. Things like that. The looper works great for this. It's easy to keep a library of the sounds on my PC and load them to the looper. I mount it and a DI on my pedal board.
  19. DagoMaino


    Feb 1, 2013
    Used 'em in an originals band... mostly intro/outro stuff and string/synth pads (we had a keyboard player buy she had other parts to play). Also used for a titch of back up vocals for choir style back ups and also used for sample sounds in songs... ie, wind, heartbeats, one song had a good amount of percussion sounds that were sampled lighters, cans, drills...

    We used a SPDS pad for our drummer to trigger in time with his click. Getting the mixes right is pretty demanding so that you can hit the board with the most consistent and sonically, well-placed samples. Timing requires everyone to be aware and keep it tight, but mostly I would recommend the drummer invest in some good in-ear monitors.

    I also use samples for a crazy -one-man- electro-band. Those are mapped on my computer. live parts are played over top... everything (guitar, keys, bass, theremin, omnichord) goes through an interface so that it comes through as one very controllable mix... Dance clubs typically don't good live sound guys so you have to be sure that the mix you send is 100% there including the mastering chain.
  20. MatticusMania

    MatticusMania LANA! HE REMEMBERS ME!

    Sep 10, 2008
    Pomona, SoCal
    1) My old band used a few samples in our live show. We were a 2 piece, bass/synth/vocals & drums/percussion.

    2) Our drummer used a Roland SPD-S. It was a drum sampler that had 9 touchsensitive triggers.

    3) We used it to incorporate a few additional melodies, sometimes a small guitar part, sometimes a drum loop, other times some spoken word stuff.

    4) Pros - it allowed us to bring additional elements to the music that we couldnt do while we were playing other parts.
    Cons - maybe there was an ill-timed trigger here or there.

    5) Ive got nothing for ya here. Im not sure how much our drummer spent on his equipment.