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bayoubill

Creating Backing Tracks

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If you've never created your own backing tracks to practice with or use to get your chops together I want to help convince you to do so.

An easy thing to do is try to recreate a phrase from a song you want to learn. You don't have to make a musically verbatim  track for this. 

Listen to the drums bass keys etc and make up your own version of it.  Creating a drum key or bass part is very beneficial to learning  music.

Start off with easy songs. In the long run you will compose much better music and recordings of your own!

Keep a library of tracks for future reference to draw on change  or add on to.  Develop them into a composition

If you use a soft synth to make the parts you can easily transpose them to other keys and tempos etc.    Test Track.mp3

Try it! You won't be disappointed. If you are just do as I do and blame Bapu!

Edited by bayoubill
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I posted a MP3 download to show a very basic example of what I was talking about. I played the soft synths on my controller with my fingers to get what I wanted.

A   ii V I in C

First the drums then bass. Drums are AD2 Jazz Sticks I think and Bass is Dimension Pro Upright

now I can rise tempo or change keys as I see fit. I can do a guitar track to hear what I played etc

I do this with whatever musical concept I'm working on. Sometimes an entire song will come out of it

HAVE FUN!

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I would never use a backing track (nor any of this band in a box junk) to record a song I intended to put on an album. I consider that kind of thing good for practicing and will sometimes use someone else's backing track to record a practice session and put it on my YT channel or something, but that's about it. If I wanted to record a cover for album purposes though, I would certainly give it a new arrangement, so a backing track would be out of the question. It also seems pointless to me to record a cover tune if you aren't going to make a new arrangement for it. I've read that some people try to record just like the original to get the recording /  mixing elements down, but I personally don't see much point in it.

I remember going to church when I was younger and seeing these people get up and sing songs to "tracks." Always drove me nuts. Like the only thing that mattered was their singing.

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I'm too old and senile to do any more albums. 

I did all that long long ago.

Now I Am just playing for fun and pretending the be Guillermo Sanchez 

P.S. not that Guillermo Sanchez .   bayouguillermo Sanchez

Edited by bayoubill

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Will Hackett,

A song can be a cover of an original tune but have a completely different arrangement.   You can pick any era of recorded music and find many covers of the same song.  The cover doesn't even need to be in the same genre as the original.  As an example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGmQXuySF28 is The song "A Taste Of Honey" as an instrumental by Herb Albert and The Tijuana Brass and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkQ1eOcl5ug the same song as sung by The Beatles.   Eric Clapton made two versions of "Layla". 

Unfortunately, not everyone is a musician,  singer or have a desire to be an entertainer.  But some non musicians do have musical ideas running through their head.  Musical tools like DAWs, sequencers, soft synths, midi and audio loops and Band-in-a-Box gives everyone the opportunity to make, not just music, but good or excellent music.

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31 minutes ago, fogle622 said:

A song can be a cover of an original tune but have a completely different arrangement.

Isn't that pretty much what I said?

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bayou bill, great topic.

I was just making a backing track last night. Doesn't sound bad at all in my opinion. I might use it in public.

Backing tracks have come a long way. Well done, you can't tell the difference. The biggest benefit to me is the ability to build a whole bad at your fingertips.

I have just started doing it, but I have used backing tracks that were professionally recorded already. No bass player? No problem. Just unmute the bass on your tracks.

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Thanks Tim! I love actually playing all the music on the tracks. Backing tracks recorded by others always made me have to conform to what they played. Doing everything has helped me really learn and appreciate the music more. 

Here's an A minor vamp I recorded to work on chord inversions. I can do them on each instrument. I love AD2 and lounge lizard.

On putting together original songs it helps me to know how the song goes. So I work it up in my head before I record anything. Made for better arrangements too. 

A minor Vamp.mp3

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Coming alone nicely! All it needs now is you to play along with it.

It's not the same as playing with yourself. Did I say that?

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What I like is it doesn't take long. If I'm transcribing something I want to learn I can record my own tracks to practice with without using the original recording. By comparing the two I can tell if it's wrong or right. If so I can then practice whatever I want. Tempos, keys, different instruments etc.

I've been doing this on Pat Metheny phrases lately. I'll pick out a segment that sounds interesting. Make a backing track with just the parts I want,  getting as close as I can,  then start really learning from it. 

Cakewalk is wonderfully useful in so many ways!

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If I've decided to give myself some studio time and my inspiration is totally dried up, I'll resort to recording a cover. There's definitely a satisfaction in getting a song finished, and a cover is an easy way to do this.

It gives me a chance to keep my DAW skills current,  experiment with any new plugins I'm not yet familiar with, and improve on my mixing skills.

More recently I've been messing around with various pre-amps so I'm familiar with their differences.

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Zactly msmcleod! Biggest reason I only do phrases is I'm afraid I won't have time to finish. It also inspires me to keep familiar and  improving on my mixing skills. 

Most of these backing tracks I've mad sound really good 

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10 hours ago, msmcleod said:

If I've decided to give myself some studio time and my inspiration is totally dried up, I'll resort to recording a cover. There's definitely a satisfaction in getting a song finished, and a cover is an easy way to do this.

It gives me a chance to keep my DAW skills current,  experiment with any new plugins I'm not yet familiar with, and improve on my mixing skills.

More recently I've been messing around with various pre-amps so I'm familiar with their differences.

I do something similar if I'm hitting a creative dry spell: I take scores from composers I like and admire (John Williams, in particular), and create mock-ups in my DAW. Helps on a whole bunch of levels -- you get see from the inside what expert composers do in terms of orchestration and arrangement; you get to practice creating various articulations with the libraries you have; and you learn how to balance an orchestral mix to achieve a realistic sound between all the instruments. At least, that is the theory. I haven't exactly managed all those things yet :), but I find creating mock-ups really helps. I believe it has made a difference in my own recordings. 

Edited by Amicus717
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I make my own backing tracks for my duo saving the most fun parts to be played live over the tracks.

Downsizing to a duo was a compromise, but a way to keep making a living doing music and nothing but music in the days after people stopped paying bands enough money to live on.

I make most of them 100% MIDI because (a) I don't have a pristine recording environment and (b) too much audio sounds like karaoke to me. I don't know if the audience cares about karaoke tracks, but I have enough self-pride to care.

I make the majority of them from scratch, playing the parts live with MIDI controllers, starting with the drums first, then the bass, and after that whatever the song needs.

I play drums, bass, sax, wind synth, guitar, flute, keyboard synth and vocals so it's something I can do.

Doing the entire backing track myself lets me know exactly what is going on in the song, the chords, the substitutions used, and everything I need to play a good improvised solo. Doing the backing tracks myself also allows me to change and/or extend the song I'm covering so I can have a space for a nice solo. I can put it in our best key, and change the tempo too without artifacts.

If there is an appropriate style I'll use Band-in-a-Box for the 'mule work' (comp parts that don't require song specific licks or rhythms). I have a page on how to: http://www.nortonmusic.com/backing_tracks.html

Another mule work time saver. I can enter the chords in BiaB, and if playing horn, string or other ensemble parts, I can record the high part and let BiaB write the lower harmony parts. BiaB has many different options and follows the rules I learned in the Berklee correspondence course when I was young.

I'm a live performer, if I were to do an album I'd still record the parts the same way, drums first, bass next and so on. So would it be a backing track or not? (Who cares?)

I've done 'sax for hire' studio work often to a rhythm section already recorded and with a temp vocal track on it. When done the singer overdubs the final track. So is that a backing track to the vocalist? (Another rhetorical question.)

I also write aftermarket styles for Band-in-a-Box so I know what the app can do and cannot do, it's strong points to use and it's weaknesses to avoid.

At the start of this post, I said the duo was a compromise, and it is...

All the background parts are 'me'. -- there is nobody to surprise me with a part I didn't think of already -- there is  interaction on stage only between my partner and myself, but not with the 'band' .. we can react to it, but it doesn't react back to us -- the arrangements are set in stone and although I can make different arrangements of the same song for different situations, once I start it's what it is -- it's a lot more 'not playing music work' on stage -- when those rare but inevitable mistakes are made, the rest of the 'band' won't help you cover them up.

But here is what drove me to duo-land: I was in a 5 piece band with the woman who is now my wife (we first met while in different bands and joined first a jazz trio and then this pop band together). We were working steadily and the bass player had to quit. Two months out of work auditioning and braking in a replacement. As a musician I know to keep two months living money in the bank for these circumstances but I don't like having to replenish it.

A few months later we lost the drummer. Auditioned a few and hired one who had a small kit, kept a solid beat, played tastefully, and could sing background vocals. She caught on quickly and we got back to work in about a month.

First gig, a wedding at a local country club. The crowd was huge so the opened the accordion pleat wall between the lounge and the dining room and set us in the lounge. The drummer said, "God won't forgive me if I play in a bar." I said, "God will have to forgive me for homicide tonight if you don't play in the bar." She then figured if we didn't drink for this one time it would be OK.

The next week I bought a keyboard with an on-board sequencer and never looked back. And the bonus was that we were taking home more money. The duo made only about $100 less per night than the 5 piece was making. And we split it with two people who were living together at the time (and eventually married).

After the keyboard came an Atari Computer, a Mac, and now I make the tracks on a Windows PC. The technology has grown nicely since I started doing the duo thing in 1985, and we've been working steady every since. In fact, we have to turn down work to take a yearly vacation.

The duo works for us, and making my own backing tracks works for us too.

Insights and incites by Notes

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"Doing the entire backing track myself lets me know exactly what is going on in the song, the chords, the substitutions used, and everything I need to play a good improvised solo."

 

 

One key thing I've learned about performance over all the decades is Don't play it till you get it right Play it till you can't get it wrong. 

Doing all the parts yourself gives an insight into the music that can't be achieved any other way. 

My Crew.JPG

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20 hours ago, bayoubill said:

<...snip>>>One key thing I've learned about performance over all the decades is Don't play it till you get it right Play it till you can't get it wrong. <...>

There is a lot of wisdom in that quote BayouBill.

When you can do it so well that you don't have to think about it anymore, you can turn the so-called left brain off and your subconscious will allow your emotions to be expressed through the music.

In a simpler way, an old teacher of mine used to say, "Practice it until you can play it without thinking. The best music comes out when you don't have to think about it."

I have friends who tell me to buy karaoke tracks or commercial MIDI sequences for my tracks. They tell me I'm working too hard.  Working too hard? Since when is music working? We PLAY music. Sure, practice can take time, and it's often repetitious, but it's still play.

Doing my own backing tracks to the best of my ability takes time. It depends on the song. Sometimes part of a day, other times days with edit after edit once I hear them on stage. But when they are done they are absolutely as good as I can make them, and I'm proud of my accomplishment. If I'm lucky, I'll get to sing and/or play sax, wind synth, or guitar over that track thousands of times on stage with a full dance floor or a concert crowd enjoying the music I'm making.

On stage playing music with an appreciative audience feeding the energy back to me is the most fun I can have with my clothes on.

Insights and incites by Notes

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10 minutes ago, Notes_Norton said:

...On stage playing music with an appreciative audience feeding the energy back to me is the most fun I can have with my clothes on....

This is exactly why I stopped doing gig's as a duo (and later as a solo).

I played bass & lead vocals with a guitarist in a duo, and as solo lead vocals &  guitar. I did all my own backing for bass/drums/keys. It would take on average between 4-8 hours per song to do a backing track, plus all the practice on top.

Unfortunately  I found audiences appreciated what I did no more than the guys who'd turn up with karaoke backing tracks and sang along.

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21 minutes ago, msmcleod said:

<...snip...>Unfortunately  I found audiences appreciated what I did no more than the guys who'd turn up with karaoke backing tracks and sang along.

For most in the audience, that's true.

But I know the difference when I'm playing and my tracks are more fun to play along with than a purchased karaoke track.

They are my arrangement, in our optimal key, I can extend the solo section or take multiple solos, and I have that self-pride thing (wrong or right, that's just me).

We have been working steadily since we formed the duo in the 1980s, I have to turn down gigs to take a yearly vacation, and we make more money per night than most  if not all of the other duos in the area.

Part of that is the backing tracks, part of that is the job we do on top of the tracks (my partner is a phenomenal singer, I'm only an adequate singer and guitarist but an excellent sax and wind synth player), and part is that we are professional and hard working. We read the crowd, call songs when we perceive the crowd needs them, and act appropriately for each gig.

We view this as competition with our musician friends. Our goal is to do it better than the rest in every way we can, and to the best of our abilities. If the tracks are a little better, the crowd pacing a little better, the vocals a little better, the arrangements a little better, the stage presence a little better, and the solos a little better, it all adds up to a lot. If any of these things are not a little better than the competition, at least we know we've done our very best.

Insights and incites by Notes

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Bob, did you make the backing tracks in CbB? I found some I didn't know were there, sort of file surfing the other night and ran across them. Or did I scan another folder that wasn't in CbB :bonk:

They are done well, however they aren't complete songs so it looks as if a person would need to work with them to make a song. It looked like a part of the Cakewalk folder system to me. Also can you advise on the mix down you use for the house system. Most house systems run in mono. The only reason I ask is some of my material sounded great in the studio but terrible in a live setting. I have been using produced tracks with a click and count in instructions in one channel with the house feed going to the FOH. All in mono. I don't send my click to the FOH. I keep a headphone amp up front and mix that myself.

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I don't know what CbB is so I don't know if it's my work.

I write aftermarket styles for Band-in-a-Box but they are intentionally generic so they can be used for more than one song. I had a customer of mine ask for a "Don't Be Cruel" style (Elvis P) so I made one. But with the song specific guitar figure, it is only good for one song. Try it in a different song and it shouts "Don't Be Cruel". And getting it to work with the limitations of BiaB was more work than writing the sequence out track by track in real time. BiaB does have it's quirks.

I've done contract work for some other software and hardware auto-accompaniment products but with a non-disclosure agreement. Nothing really recent but when I hear my work on things I'm not allowed to brag about, it still makes me smile.

For my own duo's tracks, I mix in stereo but pan both channels center so it comes out mono.

Here's the advantage as I see it. I put the bass and drums on one channel (L) and the comp parts on the other (R). That way I can kick up the bass and drums if need be or turn them down. We played for dinner and then dancing in a yacht club for about 10 years, and dinner sets had to be about 65dba max. I'd turn the L channel down a notch to make them even more background during the dinner set. After dinner we cranked it up to about 90db right in front of the stage and I'd return the L channel to it's home position.  I was slightly adjusting a mono mix that way.

But since I have some people sitting under the left speaker and others the right, the only way to get them to hear everything is to run everything panned center or mono. I remember sitting in an Italian restaurant in a strip center once, sitting under the ceiling speaker that played only one channel. The songs were familiar and parts panned on the other side of the store were not heard by me, just a little reverb of the instruments at times.

I have an old Samson MPL1204 mixer. Actually I have a half dozen because I use them in my stage rack as well. I'm a "the show must go on" kind of a guy so I have duplicates of everything important. Since the 1204 is discontinued, I bought more. I don't see any 12 channel mixers that fit in a road rack. The ones advertised have one or two stereo channels that they count as two. I don't mix that way so it's not 12 for me.

I'd jump on a newer model if I could find one with a manufacturer that isn't going out of business soon (I almost bought a Carvin mixer but they went belly-up).

I mix my MIDI instruments in the 1204, run the output and record them into a second computer to make a WAV file. Since I started doing this in 2002 and storage was 2G max for Windows, I make 192kbps mp3 files using an old CDex app. I read that newer CDex apps have had spyware introduced, so version 5 or earlier is recommended. I guess that's the price of open source software when the parent company loses interest. (Before 2002 I did live sequences pushing floppy disks into a hardware sequencer.)

I mix at home and I first listen on external computer speakers. I always listen in mono, everything panned center. Then I lug in a Carvin 2way with a 15" woofer. They are old PA speakers now doing double duty as stereo set speakers in the living room. I use EVs on stage now that sound better than the Carvins (and are much more expensive).

If I can hear everything on both the small computer speakers and the Carvin, I'll be able to hear everything on stage.

On stage I run two vocal mics, 4 synth modules, 2 guitars (via fx/amp-sim pedals), and my backing tracks all panned center. There are two spare channels. If I'm doing a party a cheap mic on a long cable goes in one if the host or anyone else wants to speak. We prefer that they don't use our singing mics because if they are catching a cold and don't know it yet, we could get it and a future gig would suffer. I also mix the speaking mic with no FX, and EQ it for speech.

Then what I think is a very important piece of gear. A BBE Sonic Maximizer.

I always shop at a mom and pop store if I can. Years ago, the owner loaned me this BBE. He said try it on the gig. No down payment, no credit card, just my word to either bring it back if I don't like it or some money if I did. We were a house band at the time, and when we cranked up the first set three separate customers wanted to know what we did because we sounded even better than usual.

In my basic understanding it works this way. Coils, like the ones in your speakers, don't like current to reverse directions, so there is some minuscule delay. The higher the frequency the more the delay. So for the typical loudspeaker the low notes reach your ears slightly before the high ones. The Sonic Maximizer delays the low notes to compensate so that the lows and the highs reach your ears in phase. If you use one, de-EQ your system first and then re-EQ with the BBE in. You'll find you need much less EQ.

The BBE goes between the mixer/preamp and the power amp, which in my case is in each speaker cabinet.

There are times when I get the mix wrong at home, so I'll make tweaks to the sequence and try again for the next gig. Usually the main tweak is simply volume sometimes a bit of mix. I might have ripped the mp3 a little too hot or low at home. Until the volume is up and it's on the gigging speakers, it's sometimes hard to tell. Most of the time I get it right the first time, sometimes it takes 2 or 3 and the most stubborn one to date took 5 tries.

If people offer to let me use the house system, I politely refuse. I tell them that I know my system, my music is equalized to compensate for the audio signature of my system, it took a while to learn how my system reacts, and if I used yours, I'd have to learn yours. Since we usually play small to medium size rooms, that has always worked.

Of course it means schlepping two 15" speaker cabs, one 12 space rack, one sax, two guitars, two synth controllers, tow wind synths, 3 computers, a bunch of stands and cables and a couple of mics. It takes about an hour to set  up, we leave an hour and a half (it's always the cable, and it knows when you are short of time), and another hour to tear down. But it's worth it to always sound our best.

Insights and incites by Notes

 

 

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