Some instruments are beautiful when played alone – particularly those designed to take on a melody and accompanying chords. But others undoubtedly need musical support to help them shine. So how do you get this on-demand and without spending a fortune?
Performing solo with instruments along to a backing track will open the door to gigging at a wide variety of events and in multiple settings. Musicians can deliver whole shows at short notice without having to pay a band, back up singers or other soloists.
This is especially useful if you’re a multi-instrumentalist wanting to showcase your abilities. Read on for top performance tips when playing along to tracks.
Backing tracks for live performance
Have you ever had a call to a fantastic gig at short notice? Needing last-minute stand-ins when musicians are sick or held up somewhere else is common for those booking acts to perform at low to mid-range paid gigs. It’s a great opportunity to prove yourself, earn some cash and increase your profile. With just an hour or two to spare, you probably don’t have the time or funds to gather together a backing band. But armed with a saved playlist of backing tracks, all you need is your instrument, your amp, your phone and you’re ready to go.
What is backing track in music?
A backing track can be custom made or an ‘off the shelf’ piece of music to be sung or played along to. It takes the place of other live musicians.
Performing solo with backing tracks
Backing tracks are the perfect solution to creating your own backing singer or band – and considerably cheaper. You can also create your own track live on stage using a loop pedal. If you’re a multi-instrumentalist, this means you can really showcase your skills to an audience
Custom backing tracks – make your own backing track
Backing tracks are easy, you can just plug and play. Creating your own tracks live on stage using a loop pedal is also a popular option for instrumentalists. Or you can pre-record yourself playing the various parts of a song. Many musicians will pay someone else to create a custom track for them too. Perhaps ask some friends who play other instruments if you can help each other out with making these.
Gigging with backing tracks
There are a few things to consider ahead of time when using backing tracks for a gig.
- How will they be played? Don’t assume that you can turn up with your USB stick or iPhone and be fine. If you’re not bringing your own PA system, then ask the person who’s providing it what format they’d like your tracks in.
- Always ensure your tracks are downloaded instead of – or as well as – streamed if paying from a cloud account or internet-enabled device. What if the wifi is down, or there’s no signal? Be prepared for every eventuality.
- Check volume quality. If you don’t have a PA system, you may never have heard your track that loud. Make sure you’ve chosen a high-quality recording that’ll sound good when played on a professional sound system.
- Soundcheck. You can’t always tell from the stage, whether the balance between the recording and your instrument is right, so get someone else to stand at the back and advise you. If you’re planning to create live backing tracks by looping, check
Professional backing tracks for bands – do bands use backing tracks?
You bet they do. The convenience and quality of pre-recorded music have brought about an increase in the use of backing tracks – even for bands who can afford a full set of musicians.
Famous bands that use backing tracks
The list of bands who use tracks is pretty endless. Many of them, like Coldplay, prefer to do this than to bring in more musicians this is so that what you hear is the core group, just not live. Even rock legends like U2 use them from time to time, but it causes a lot of controversies, partly because of the argument that it takes work away from musicians.
Backing track player hardware & Backing track playback devices
So what devices can you use to play your own backing track? Many venues will provide PA (public address) equipment with mics and speakers, but you’ll still need to supply your tracks in some format. This could be on a phone, tablet or laptop, which is then attached to the PA system or sound desk via a lead, or via a plugin USB, or by sending the track across digitally. If you gig outdoors in settings that aren’t dedicated music venues, you’ll need your own amp. Many speakers have a Bluetooth setting, which allows you to stream or playback through it, without wires.
Backing track machine for guitar and multitrack backing tracks
If you want to edit tracks and add effects, you’ll need an extra piece of kit to control the output. Live sequencers will provide the same kinds of mixing and editing features as a laptop but without the risk of crashing and multitrack players allow you to play along to a range of tracks at once, to create separate layered sounds. This is ideal if you have recorded yourself playing several or all of the parts of a song (including singing) and you want to put them together live, without the stress of looping in front of an audience.
The golden rule of backing tracks is: always back up your backing tracks. Ideally, you should save your tracks in cloud storage or a playlist system like Spotify, Google Play Music or iTunes. That way you can access them anytime and from any device. You never know when you might need them – and fast.
Why do singers use backing tracks?
For the same reasons aa musicians – it saves money, is super convenient and you have every song you could possibly need with the touch of a few buttons. Tracks can also be transposed to suit your vocal range too.
What’s the best backing track app?
Check out this list of the best backing track apps currently available for iPhone and Android smartphone. Having your tracks on your phone is a great idea, as you’re always ready and prepared to perform – just make sure you’ve got your instrument too.
Do you perform with instruments to a backing track? Do you create your own tracks and loop, or use ready-made ones? Tell us how you do it in the comments below.