What Are Backing Tracks And Why Do They Matter?

Would you describe yourself as an active concertgoer? If you find yourself seeing lots of live music, you might have seen that many bands are sounding incredibly close to their produced tape-recorded product. The vocals sound huge, clean, and skillfully carried out in perfect pitch. Even the support vocal consistencies are on point.

You might think to yourself, “Hmmm … that’s interesting. I hear a keyboard part. I do not see a keyboardist. Is that a violin I hear? Where is that electronic drum loop originating from? The drummer appears to have a normal drum kit.” It strikes you perhaps there is more going on behind the curtain.

That hypothetical anecdote might come off as old-fashioned if you are a contemporary artist with any technical savvy. To you, it may be obvious and par for the course that bands nowadays play to Professional Backing Tracks.

It’s important to describe precisely what backing tracks mean since there are lots of, many shades and degrees to which a band can include automation and support tracks.

Tracked Band, Tracked Vocals

This is when there is no live performance of any musical instruments or vocals at all. The artist( s) are mock carrying out to a pre-recorded track, also referred to as lip-synching. This was popularized in the 1960’s on television programs like American Bandstand and is utilized more so in the Pop world where there are intricate dance regimens, that make live singing tough. This method is frequently used on television, and live telecasts specifically because it reduces potential live sound production issues, which can happen due to many variables.

Live Band, Tracked Vocals or Tracked Band, Live Vocals

This is where things start to get more complex. Given that, either the band or vocalist is on track and the other is live, the drummer has to have actually a signal fed into their earphone mix with a click (pace) track and other pertinent live or pre-recorded audio tracks. Another signal is then sent to the Front of House Sound Engineer containing the pre-recorded tracks. This can be achieved with something as easy as an iPod or more complicated setups utilizing a computer system running a program like Pro Tools, Mainstage, or Ableton Endure a mixer as well as possibly an in-ear tracking system. These programs can likewise sync up with midi programming that can control amp/effect switching, light shows, and other components in real time. I would be lying if I stated I knew all the technical ins and outs of running tracks live. These are very standard broad strokes, and I don’t wish to speak beyond my understanding.

Usually, it’s a television efficiency when the band is on track and the vocals are live; Once again, this is to avoid technical issues. Conversely, when there is a rigorous dance routine, a live telecast, the vocalist is ill or just not a strong entertainer, the band will play live and the vocals are on track.

It is likewise very common in Hip Hop that a singer will rap to a track normally provided by a DJ or perhaps someone just running a laptop computer or iPod. I am not a big fan of this approach as it’s tantamount to a propped up Karaoke program, and does not pack the punch of a live band. Although, I do comprehend that hiring bands are expensive, and frugal touring is essential to survival. Big name acts like Jay-Z and Kanye West routinely make use of live bands to efficiently elevate their live programs to the arena status they have actually accomplished.

Live Band and Vocals with Additional Backing Tracks

This is the most typical formula for a lot of modern-day visiting live bands in all genres from Rock to Pop to Country to Metal. It is so typical now, that it mainly goes unnoticed and is thought about part of live performance. The thinking is pragmatic because most bands include programmed keyboard parts or electronic drum loops into their albums, and can not afford to bring a live keyboardist or sampler. This is understandable, however it is a slippery slope as any instrumentalist can be changed by a track if requirement. Progressive crucial band, Animals as Leaders, have no bass player in the band, but run bass tracks live. Technical Deathcore band, Born of Osiris, lost 1 of 2 guitarists a couple years earlier, however still use secondary guitar tracks live to keep the sound submitted. This is in no chance suggested to call out or chastise these bands. I am just using examples of how this innovation is expanding the choices.

In addition to keyboards and orchestral instrumentation that are unwise to tour with, the main use of backing tracks is to either beef up live vocals or to add singing harmonies in circumstance where the band either lacks sufficient or any backing vocalists at all.

For instance, Swedish Melodic Death Metal band, In Flames, has no members that sing live backing vocals and they have heavy synth and electronic elements on their recorded product, however no live keyboardist. They was among the very first bands I have actually ever seen that used support tracks live.

 January 5th, 2017  
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