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Backing Tracks


Buzzy
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Just wanted to get some opinions on using backing tracks.

The keyboard player has left my band and we are due to start gigging again in June. We've placed plenty of ads for keys players and thought we had it sorted but the potential keys player has dropped out before the first rehearsal.

Our singer does solo gigs using backing tracks and has suggested we use prerecorded keyboard parts if we can't  find a new band member.

I have mixed feeling about doing this, the quality of the tracks is superb, they are true to the proper recorded versions (we only play covers) and were played by real musicians on real instruments but it feels like a bit of a cheat to use backing tracks.

Anyone had experience of using backing to cover a specific instrument ?

Am I being too precious about feeling its a bit of a cheat?  One of the guys in the band said that we shouldn't worry about using backings as every band uses sample, auto tune etc.

 

 

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I play in a punk and new wave covers band and would refuse any suggestion to use backing tracks..... just goes against the grain for me. Just a personal view.

As a punter I’d avoid any band using backing tapes, especially covers bands of material that was originally played live.

However I recognise there some genres of music where recorded backing is part of the genre e.g. rap.

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Yup, my band uses backing tracks for synths/pads etc. Our drummer triggers them from a Roland spd sx and plays to a click, then we follow him. 

It allows us to be incredibly tight as a band and gives us a fuller live sound than most the bands we play with. 

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We now have a keys player, but, whatever the line-up, we adapt and re-arrange anything we want to play to suit the line-up. For 'Beds Are Burning', for instance, it's the singer that 'mouths' the trombone line in the middle..! (We once had a brass section from another band do the honours; it was great..!). There are many arrangements and orchestrations that, as a 'classic' two guitars, bass and drums, we could not do as the original. No-one minds; our audiences are there to hear us, not a CD of the songs we're playing. As long as the arrangement suits your line-up, I'd say that that's enough. There are complications in using backing tracks that we wouldn't want to get involved in, s'not worth it.
Just my tuppence-worth; hope this helps. B|

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7 hours ago, Count Bassy said:

I would not want to see (or be in) a band that used backing tracks. But than I prefer bands that have a bit of spontaneity, which(I imagine) a backing track would kill.

 

We've had this discussion in my band, already a 5 piece, do we add a keys player or use samples? What I enjoy about this band is the spontaneity (thank you spell check, autocorrect thingy) and the danger that if we are not on our game it can all fall apart. I don't know how we would react to a punter doing something funny or the drummer falling off his stool, etc if we are playing along to something. 

I've got an 80s band starting up, first go with a proper singer next week. Me and the guitarist are regularly in touch talking about how we cover certain arrangements where keys are very present. This has been a good challenge, but it's time consuming! 

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if you want to use them, use them. The punters wont care.

However, if a muso comes up to you and expresses concern about the backing tracks, just ask them why they aren't out working!

Usually shuts them up.

As I've said before, your job is to entertain the punters, so do what you have to

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7 hours ago, Count Bassy said:

I would not want to see (or be in) a band that used backing tracks. But than I prefer bands that have a bit of spontaneity, which(I imagine) a backing track would kill.

 

Most large touring acts play to some sort of backing track. 

Done right you can still be as spontaneous as you want, you can loop bars if you want to extend a solo etc. The only thing that would be really tricky would be unplanned key changes, yet if you had someone with ableton live this could also be achieved. 

Its all about how you approach them and what you use them for. Time and a place for everything. 

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1 hour ago, police squad said:

However, if a muso comes up to you and expresses concern about the backing tracks, just ask them why they aren't out working!

I've been replaced by a backing track?

😉

Edited by Nail Soup
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The first thing you need to check is that your drummer can play accurately to a click. If they can't then the whole thing is pointless. The other thing is that it sets the structure of the song in stone and can make changing the set order less than simple. If those points are deal breakers then you need to keep looking for a suitable keyboard player or re-arrange the songs so that you don't need one. 

In over 40 years, I've only played in three bands that didn't use some form of automated backing, from just a simple drum machine to complex arrangements with synths, additional guitars, percussion, and backing vocals. On of the bands that I currently play with uses a lot of additional backing, but we would drop it in an instant if we could find a suitable synth player who could double on guitar as required, and who also had great backing vocals.

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I don't see a problem. It's almost becoming a standard for the higher level corporate/function bands as well as theatre tours. Even big name touring acts have been using tracks for years.

Personally, I like playing with tracks and a click. It generally makes the band sound better and tighter.

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14 hours ago, Buzzy said:

...Am I being too precious about feeling its a bit of a cheat?  ...

If this is your only concern, forget it, I'd say. When the 'Precision' electric bass was introduced, many acoustic double-bass players of the world refused the concept, on the grounds that it was 'cheating' to have 'precision' frets, and that 'real' musicians had no need of such artifices. The World has moved on; 'clicks', backing tracks, samples and more have all been embraced by the music scene and the public in general. There will always be dinosaurs, but the real issue will be 'Are you (as a band...) capable of playing to a track..?'. If 'yes', get on with it with no qualms or reticence; if 'no', find a keys player or re-arrange/drop songs that don't work with your line-up. :friends:

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I do an 80s duo (amazing fun). We have live guitar and the keys player does as much as he possibly can.

It goes down an absolute storm and no one has ever questioned the use of the backing tracks, so I wouldn't worry too much about it.

We buy ready made tracks which you change levels of various parts or drop them out all together.

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It’s not really a cheat, plenty bands and artists do it. Especially ones from an electronic / DJ / pop background. 

I played drums for one tour with a band in the late 90s, they had a DAT machine onstage with them that played the samples, breaks, some of the synth bass and keys, plus sound FX etc, that were on their records. 

On the one hand, it allowed a 7-piece bunch of chancers to be able to pull off the sound of their records on stage. On the other hand, it quickly became very boring, for me at least. Every night, the gig followed the same pattern as the night before, the breaks were in exactly the same places, the solos were the same, everything ran completely on time because of the sheer amount of prerecorded stuff blasting from the DAT machine. There was zero opportunity for improvisation or spontaneity. The tunes were completely locked to what was on tape.

I’m used to playing to a click so timing wasn’t an issue for me, although the loudness of the DAT in my monitors got tiring pretty quickly. In-ears weren’t really used as much back then. The main problem was the other musicians not being in time with the DAT machine. The guitarist was spot on. The bassist was not so tight, the keyboard player so-so, and the percussionist largely ineffective as percussion I’d played on the records was on the DAT anyway.

I remember at the first soundcheck thinking that if all the band just stopped playing, then the DAT would probably keep the audience happy, there was so much of the original records on there. Bit of an extreme example, but a lot of bands back then had a similar approach. I wouldn’t fancy doing it again now though. 

But having prerecorded keyboard parts is fine, as long as you can all lock in with them. You’ll find out in rehearsal whether it’s going to work or not.

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14 hours ago, Doddy said:

Personally, I like playing with tracks and a click. It generally makes the band sound better and tighter.

For Click tracks I can see what you are saying. For backing tracks it's not the band that are tighter, it's the backing track. Why not go the whole hog and just put a CD on?

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10 hours ago, Count Bassy said:

For Click tracks I can see what you are saying. For backing tracks it's not the band that are tighter, it's the backing track. Why not go the whole hog and just put a CD on?

It's not like you're putting a song on and playing along. You're basically just playing to a click, while the parts that are on the track just come in and out at the right places. You can end up playing to just a click for whole sections of songs before anything happens on the track.

 

 

Edited by Doddy
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Did it for years in the 80s and 90s. Various situations and either used for replacing Keys or keys and drums. I know what you mean about the cheating feeling but in my defence, I had played/ programmed all the tracks myself. 

There were/ are considerations to be made as to how you will connect with the track and whether or not you want the audience to be aware of any click tracks but they're all surmountable. 

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We did 3 online benefit gigs last year using programmed drums and a sequencer as our drummer was shielding (and subsequently left).

We sounded a helluva lot funkier, heavier and most importantly were right on time. Which was nice, and a bit of a change!

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We had our first rehearsal since August and first one since the keys player quit the band. Not as rusty as I thought we would be but still some work to do. After quite a heated discussion about using backings the majority decision was not to use them and keep searching for a keys person or maybe add another guitarist to fill out the sound. Thanks for the input everyone.  

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