Backing tracks...

Vandalay

Member
Just wondering if there are those that are in bands that use backing tracks...There seems to be a lot of bands using them..the audience doesnt seem to care, but being old skool, something about them just rubbs me the wrong way..
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
No, but I remember being asked what we were using for our backing tracks when people didn't believe that al six of us were actually singing. lol
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
I started using backing tracks back in 1999/2000 for Rob Zombie-wanna-be industrial sounds and keyboards and then used backing tracks in 2 other bands after that.

Pretty common these days.
 

KamaK

Platinum Member
Just wondering if there are those that are in bands that use backing tracks...There seems to be a lot of bands using them..the audience doesnt seem to care, but being old skool, something about them just rubbs me the wrong way..
Backing tracks are for bands that write songs for more instruments than they can reliably/economically support onstage. I have no issue with 4-piece bands that have invested time writing/arranging strings and auxiliary using those tracks in a stage show. For me, it's the equivalent of having a sampler on stage.


Understand that paying gigs are less about expository virtuosity, and more about making the audience enjoy themselves so they dance and buy more alcohol/merch. Try not to succumb to the irrational notion that you're perpetually attempting to win 1st prize at the talent show (metaphorically).
 

KEEF

Senior Member
I don't use backing tracks - but I do use samples, and they do set us apart from other bands covering the same songs.
Occasionally a muso in the crowd might ask where the 'keyboard ' parts are coming from but mostly audiences don't even notice.
For me the key is not to over use them. If they become the 'main part' of any song then you might as well just put the jukebox on imo.
I will add that I play and record most of my samples- they're not just grabbed off the intertweb, so I don't feel I'm cheating the audience by using them.
 
I played in a top 40 pop band a few years ago where the bass player was also the keyboard player. He would play keyboard on some songs and other songs his keyboard doohickey would play backing tracks. I didn't mind, I liked using IEM's and playing to a click track.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
A band that can deliver their sounds from analog instruments in a live performance is, IMO, top dog. Example: Rush. Yes, it’s old-school but it shows legitimate talent.

When The Who performed Baba O’Riley to a backing track (the Arp) I was put off. Same with Van Halen and the synth in Jump. These were top-shelf bands playing along to an important musical track and it smacked of karaoke.

And now electronic music (EDM) is mostly (completely?) pre-recorded tracks and samples output through a PA system. The performance in this genre is in the manipulation of the arrangement and their sounds, the backing tracks. And people really dig it. I really enjoy some EDM artists.

A great band that plays to backing tracks and manipulates them on the fly is Twenty-One Pilots. First time I saw these guys (a duo), and how they performed, I had no clue how they did it (played along so seamlessly to the backing tracks). Then it dawned on me that this was new-school and showed legitimate talent. Example:

 

eclipseownzu

Gold Member
My girlfriend listens to modern pop and country and goes to a fair amount of shows to see those types of bands. When I take her to see a band I like, usually hard rock bands, where its actually just the guys on stage playing their instruments she always complains that the sound is bad. She would rather have somebody up there lip-syncing to the album than actual musicians making music. Non-musicians really couldn't care less about backing tracks and who is playing what.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
At church we use backing tracks that also have auditory cues (e.g. the track will actually do a short countdown before choruses, verses, bridges, etc.). I love having them at church because we are running three services every Sunday morning, and we go through the entire set before first service. By the time I'm going through this music the 4th time through on the same day, my mind tends to wander around, so it helps keep me focused.

When I play out live with the bands I'm in, we don't use backing tracks at all. While I'm not against it, I'd just prefer not to because backing tracks can very easily make music feel sterile. I really feel that sometimes they can steal the "soul" out of the music and what's happening.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
When The Who performed Baba O’Riley to a backing track (the Arp) I was put off. Same with Van Halen and the synth in Jump. These were top-shelf bands playing along to an important musical track and it smacked of karaoke.
So when Van Halen was touring the 1984 album, did they use backing tracks, or did they just have someone backstage playing the keys?
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
We don't use tracks per se, but we have flown-in vocals, percussion, and orchestration employing various technologies of the day. As Kamak said "...for bands that write songs for more instruments than they can reliably/economically support onstage" and I would add "logistically" to that assessment. Some venues just can't support more people on stage in terms of space, and monitoring capabilities. Should the band's music be discounted in the name of authenticity? Some will say yes, but those who want to work will say no: perform the songs as they were intended.

On our current tour, we have deliberately introduced a live orchestra and backup singers in an effort to perform as much of the music 'live', and the logistics (and budget!) were adjusted accordingly. We do still have an occasional percussion part of SFX coming from a server, but it's an absolute minimum compared to previous tours.

Bermuda
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
While I'm not against it, I'd just prefer not to because backing tracks can very easily make music feel sterile. I really feel that sometimes they can steal the "soul" out of the music and what's happening.
That depends largely on how well the band - the drummer in particular - plays with the track. 😯 For a band that plays well together and can keep time, the music will sound perfectly natural.

Bermuda
 
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trickg

Silver Member
The wedding band I play with always has used backing tracks. Like Pork Pie Guy said, there are verbal cues for the drummer so it helps keep things in check during the song. The back tracks were all put together by the bandleader, who is a recording engineer, (among other things) so the cues are all real cues recorded by him, sometimes as detailed as to quickly describe upcoming hits, when to switch to and from hats to ride, full snare to cross-stick, the kind of beat to play, when to go to a 4-beat snare pattern, (rather than just the backbeats) etc. There's always a count-in for all of that too.

As for the backing tracks themselves, sometimes it will be a keyboard part, backup vocals, reinforced keyboard horns, and that kind of thing.

Keep in mind, if there is an instrumet or voice on stage, it's also coming through the PA - it's not a lip sync. What this does for us is it allows us to have 1000+ tunes at our fingertips for whatever odd-ball requests might pop up, and it allows a bridal party to completely custom tailor the music for their event - chances are, if it's a good dance floor tune, either fast or slow, it's in our book. Everyone in the band reads music, so everything is charted for everyone (the bandleader is also an arranger) so even if it's a tune we haven't played in years (and this does happen) we can get through it well enough that the people in the crowd don't know that we're basically cold-reading the chart.

I'd rather it all just be well executed live parts, but for what we do and how we do it, backing tracks are a necessary evil.
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
Truth be told, I’ve been writing complete tune parts (intro, verse, chorus, etc.) and copying them to my SPD-SX to play along to. Now I don’t need anyone except a singer.

Small stage? Problem solved!
Chronically late guitarist? Problem solved!
😎
 

cbphoto

Gold Member
So when Van Halen was touring the 1984 album, did they use backing tracks, or did they just have someone backstage playing the keys?
Not sure. At the two venues I saw them (San Diego sports arena & Cal Jam) the only hint was Alex with headphones.
 

SirSwingsAlot

Well-known member
My current project called KOTZECK is just me and a key board player and we program our whole tune into my iPad and I can control the sections. So essentially I am just playing drums and he is just soloing/playing melodies. People do t appreciate enough how hard it is to make a track and play to it as well
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
My audience has some interest in my music "career" so I tell announce that "this is one way that I practice". Then I play and sing along with a backing track.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
So when Van Halen was touring the 1984 album, did they use backing tracks, or did they just have someone backstage playing the keys?
I recall Alex saying in an interview a long time ago that yes, he was playing to a pre-recorded keyboard tracks.
 
There's the famous Van Halen disaster in Greensboro back in 2007, where the backing track to "Jump" seem to have been played slightly fast or slow, with the result that not only are they not in the right key, but they're not quite in any key, leading to microtonal dissonance. It's my favorite VH performance ever.

Adam Neely recently did a whole video on this issue and has observed that people seem to consider it cheating less these days than they did just a few years ago.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I don't have a problem with playing to tracks. I no longer have a problem seeing bands that are using tracks as well. If it's part of the show and it's really seamless and the performers don't appear to be playing to tracks, then I think that's ok. I've been on both sides of trying to put a band together that can play everything, and then only having access to a few players and augmenting with tracks and I can work either way. In the big scheme of things, I'd rather be the guy working than not working because I had some problem with dealing with tracks. I'm in three different projects and one is totally live, sometimes flying by the seat of your pants because you know, humans. And one totally depends on tracks where I'm wearing IEM's and concentrating really hard to stay locked-in with the track, and both are pretty satisfying from a performance standpoint. I think it just makes me more marketable when people are shopping for a drummer who can lock to a track, but can also play without a track.
 
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