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Shadowfax419

PC software that plays songs but allows muting specific instruments

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Hello All,  newbie here. I was at a function where a guy was playing guitar along with music that accompanied him. He was able to play specific songs from his laptop while muting specific parts of said song. He then played the appropriate muted part and sang with the song. My wife seems to think, after hearing me play for years by myself, that this setup would be great for the occasional open mic and get togethers we go to. I've researched but haven't been able to find such a setup. Anyone have any ideas the best way to do this. I'm pretty accomplished, but no one seems interested in jamming or getting a group together, so I guess I'm stuck with me, myself and I. Thanks in advance, and I've learned tons about performing just perusing all of everyone's questions and comments.

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Welcome to the Solo and Duo forum! :wave:

What you witnessed is what we call 'playing to tracks', and yes, there is software out there, we even have a few folks around here who will create custom tracks for you. There are a number of our regulars [traffic is slow here, but eventually someone wanders in, answers a question, wanders out] who play to tracks, both here in the US, and abroad, so someone should be able to get you on the right path forward. This is not something I am involved in, so I will leave this to those more qualified....

 

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If the tracks are recorded separately on a DAW it's possible to mute one or more tracks. (that's a big if)

The open source Audacity can do that, again if the tracks are separate.

I have a friend who does that. He contracts musicians for his gigs, and mutes what he wants and plays what he doesn't have for the gig. He uses Audacity but I don't know where he gets his tracks.

Notes

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I've been doing this since the mid 90's. I use a Mac and started with Garage Band. When I needed to slow down and speed up tempos in a song, I got Logic 8. The box sat on the floor in my studio for about six months, daring me to use it. I finally got going and thanks to online videos, it's a major part of my solo act success. You can easily do the same thing on a PC. Power Tracks Pro from PG Music is a good inexpensive DAW, or digital audio workstation, that will allow you to use all midi tracks, real audio tracks like guitar, bass, harmonica, etc or a combination of both. Cubase and Pro Tools are both PC compatible and while you can use Audacity, I would suggest Presonus Studio One 4.  Lots of pro studios are abandoning Pro Tools in favor of it and it works great at a reasonable price. 20 years ago, midi files were readily had for free online and while they are still out there, you have to be a bit of a detective in order to get what you're looking for. I know Notes does a great job with his midi files for sale as do other companies. Another option is to get Band In A Box, also from pgmusic.com. I use it all the time for jazz tunes and other formats. You will need to learn about sequencing and once you begin solo shows, it's hard to go back. Use YouTube to learn more about the process, check out what Notes, David Payton and I all do. Ask questions and be prepared to spend LOTS of time on this! I also suggest watching established performers on Gigmasters/The Bash and Gig Salad to get an idea of what works for other solo performers. Good luck.

 

Riley Wilson

www.guitarmadesimpler.com

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Hi Shadowfax

Like Riley Wilson and Notes I've been playing to my tracks for a long time (the first song I recorded a track for was Pink Cadillac, in 1985, using a Mac Plus and a Midi recorder called MidiPaint) and it's a great way to play music. Of course I play with full bands too.

I'm primarily a guitarist and I play solo; in a duo with a keyboard player/vocalist: and lately (tonight, in fact) in a trio with another guitarist and a keyboard/harmonica player, using the same library of tracks which I affectionately refer to as "The Little Band". Most tracks are drums and bass and perhaps some keys and background vocals.

I now create the tracks in Digital Performer or Pro Tools, mix them down to mp3 and on stage they play back from an iPad running an awesome app called OnSong, which gives me lyrics and chords (I have a bad case of CRS) and plays the appropriate mp3 at the touch of a start button.

I'll attach an oversized bizcard that I put a stack of next to the tip hat when I play solo...

skmarshall.com

 

tablecard.jpg

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Hi, we are actually developing a device that handles playing multi track audio backing and MIDI files, designed for just this purpose. It's more simpler, more compact and tougher than a laptop:  http://idoru.live/

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On 11/10/2019 at 11:55 AM, admana said:

Hi, we are actually developing a device that handles playing multi track audio backing and MIDI files, designed for just this purpose. It's more simpler, more compact and tougher than a laptop:  http://idoru.live/

One thing I like about a laptop is the ability to choose what file comes next at a moments notice.

In my duo we have close to 600 tracks. I don't do set lists but instead look at the audience and try to pace them so they have the best possible time. I'm not clairvoyant enough to know what they are going to need two or three songs from now, so set lists are definitely out.

I have the song files all in alphabetical order in Windows File Explorer. I play them in Windows Media Player. Why the Microsoft software? They work, and since they are part of the OS, they load immediately and cause no conflicts. They haven't crashed since I went from floppy disk in a hardware sequencer to laptop on 2002. I don't do Mac because in the unlikely event my computer and the spare I carry both break on the same night I can scoot to a department store and get a Windows computer to finish the gig (everything is duplicated on a flash drive)

Here is my work flow:

  1. To play a song I type the first couple of letters on the always available keyboard and the file is highlighted.
  2. Hit Enter and it starts playing in Windows Media Player immediately
  3. Hit Alt+Tab and the focus goes back to Windows File Explorer
  4. Type the first couple of letters of the next song and it's ready to play immediately
  5. Hit Enter and it plays (repeat as needed)

Plus if I'm getting to the end of a fast song, I have a slower song cued up because I figure they should be getting tired, and I realize they could use another fast one, I can type a couple of letters on the always available keyboard, cue up another fast one, and when the one playing ends, hit enter and the next one starts immediately.

Immediately is important for the age group I play for. Give them 5 seconds between songs and they are heading back to their seats and nothing will call most of them back.

As I said I try to pace the audience. If it's a dance gig I go from song to song immediately, gradually increasing the energy until they get tired. Then I can take a moment before I do either a specialty dance (some like to Cha-Cha or whatever) or slow things down to start all over again. This is where I talk on the mic if need be.

I tried this on an iPad, but the disappearing keyboard took a couple of seconds away from the next song selection and that is too much time. I can take my hand and hit a couple of letters on the fixed keyboard in a second or two, and then get my hand back on the sax, flute, wind synth, or guitar without missing a note. A tablet takes too much time.

If you can do something like this without a computer, you have a customer here.

Insights and incites by Notes

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Notes,

I used to use exactly the same setup that you describe, (right down to the backup laptop for an emergency that never happened) until I tried OnSong.

Using OnSong on an iPad, let's say you just finished playing "Accentuate the Positive" and you think the crowd's ready for "She's Not There".

1.  At the upper left corner of the screen, tap the word "Songs" The left side of the screen becomes a column showing an alphabetical listing of your titles. The right edge of this column is a strip with all the letters of the alphabet.

2. Tap "S" in this strip, and the listing instantly scrolls down to the first song beginning with "S" Now the listing shows 14 songs at a time so (if you have my repertoire) you're seeing "Sailin' Shoes" to "September Song" so:

3. You have to flick your fingertip upward in the listing, which sets the list scrolling upwards with momentum. When the "Sh" listings appear a tap stops the scrolling, and a single tap on "She's Not There" opens the lyric/chord sheet.

4. At the lower right corner is the familiar "Play" icon, and one tap starts the track.

At the risk of sounding like a fanatic, I LOVE this app!   :-)

 

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hmmm...maybe I need to develop a 'scroll through' foot pedal, with a momentary switch...hold the pedal down, it scrolls, lift off and it stops....hmmmm...see you guys later....:wave:

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My inspiration for this came from Keyboard magazine years ago and a series of articles from the pros creating backing tracks for world tours with the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna. Although their setups were designed for full band sequencing events with click tracks and so forth it's still a workable solution for solo/duo acts albeit probably overkill under most circumstances.

Their setups were mostly based around MOTU hardware and software along with MBP computers. The Digital Performer program was used because of it's unique (at least at the time) ability to create and have all the sequences you need in a "chunks" list all contained within one file for easy accessibility. I put the same system together for myself and used it quite successfully in a couple different bands.

There's no buying tracks for this so it requires you to create your own and it also requires additional hardware and skills most solo/duo acts would just not want to mess with. I've got mine down to a manageable haul of just an interface and a MBP and since I have the knowledge, equipment and a successful history with it there's no reason to switch at this point.

The biggest problem for me is just getting motivated at this point, would like to create some tracks for the duo with my wife. As a keyboard player it's not hard for me to get the midi tracks laid down but always the biggest issue for me is adding drums. I recently upgraded to Superior Drummer 3 and I believe it will be very helpful if only I can compromise and settle for a more generic beat on a lot of these tunes.

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I use midi files converted to MP3's. Even if I find an internet file, I generally have to redo all the hi-hat, snare, kick velocities, correct all the insane non drummer fills, fix all the bass notes and remove all the ridiculous horn, strings and melody tracks. It's often easier to just build a track from the ground up. 

The original "pick your track" devices included the Roland MC500 and later Roland MC50. These  stand alone sequencers had small screens but really great quantizing and other features that are still hard to find. I stopped using mine (I had four) years ago and switched to laptops and then later to Android using Music Folder Player to play my midis. So far that program is the most robust I have found in an Android player - tons of features BUT no track mutes. It's not set up like that.

Setlist helper is also a pretty cool way to organize lyrics, and you can attach sound files to the song that will either play automatically when you select the lyrics, or that will load and wait for you to press go. Setlist helper doesn't have a Graphic EQ though IIRC, so the file needs to be perfectly processed or EQ'd at the mixer - the latter isn't a big deal.

Considering the fact that most drummers won't like playing to a track (or won't be able to without a click...) you could probably just have bass and drums with drums being Right and bass being left (midi will put the hi-hat on both the left and right if you use MIDI tracks). Then just mute the bass track if you've got a bass player jamming. If you play a chordal instrument you won't need more than bass and drums. If you've got a drummer, forget the tracks and just have fun. Use something like Anvil Studio (free) to clean up your tracks, and pan the bass and drums, and then convert to MP3 (I use an old version of iTunes.

My method is pretty old school but it works for my needs. I have well over 500 tracks and play well over 100 solo dates a year, in a very competitive market, so if it ain't broke....

 

Edited by Shaster

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On 11/12/2019 at 10:54 PM, skmarshall said:

Notes,

I used to use exactly the same setup that you describe, (right down to the backup laptop for an emergency that never happened) until I tried OnSong.

Using OnSong on an iPad, let's say you just finished playing "Accentuate the Positive" and you think the crowd's ready for "She's Not There".

1.  At the upper left corner of the screen, tap the word "Songs" The left side of the screen becomes a column showing an alphabetical listing of your titles. The right edge of this column is a strip with all the letters of the alphabet.

2. Tap "S" in this strip, and the listing instantly scrolls down to the first song beginning with "S" Now the listing shows 14 songs at a time so (if you have my repertoire) you're seeing "Sailin' Shoes" to "September Song" so:

3. You have to flick your fingertip upward in the listing, which sets the list scrolling upwards with momentum. When the "Sh" listings appear a tap stops the scrolling, and a single tap on "She's Not There" opens the lyric/chord sheet.

4. At the lower right corner is the familiar "Play" icon, and one tap starts the track.

At the risk of sounding like a fanatic, I LOVE this app!   :-)

 

That sounds great, but by the time you get to Step 3 (above) I'm already done.

I can take my right hand, type 1 to a few letters and I'm done until the end of the song when hit Enter. 2 seconds unless it's one of those songs that start with blue or love. Then it might take 3 to 4 seconds.

If I want "September Song" I type S E and my hand is back on the sax, wind synth, or guitar.

Plus some of my songs are not words and chords but music notation.

Different tools for different uses I suppose.

Notes

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On 10/24/2019 at 6:33 PM, Shadowfax419 said:

Hello All,  newbie here. I was at a function where a guy was playing guitar along with music that accompanied him. He was able to play specific songs from his laptop while muting specific parts of said song. He then played the appropriate muted part and sang with the song. My wife seems to think, after hearing me play for years by myself, that this setup would be great for the occasional open mic and get togethers we go to. I've researched but haven't been able to find such a setup. Anyone have any ideas the best way to do this. I'm pretty accomplished, but no one seems interested in jamming or getting a group together, so I guess I'm stuck with me, myself and I. Thanks in advance, and I've learned tons about performing just perusing all of everyone's questions and comments.

Band in a Box - tracks can be muted. Problem is songs won't sound like original recordings. I know a couple of guys that use BIAB live but they're just playing guitar along with old Jazz standards.

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Even writing you own styles has it's limitations. Sometimes you can nail a song with a BiaB style, other times you can't even get close.

If you have MIDI sequences, and they are saved as Type 1 MIDI files, you can mute a channel.

When I write backing tracks for my duo, if I want them to sound less generic, I either write from scratch or use Band-in-a-Box for only part of the song (usually comp parts that don't need to be exact). More details are here http://www.nortonmusic.com/backing_tracks.html

What I like about MIDI over audio is that they are thousands of times more flexible via editing. There is just so much you can do with MIDI that is impossible even with the latest audio tools like Melodyne.

Notes

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