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What's with the backing tracks!!!


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I don't know if just a Louisiana thing or if this is happening everywhere, but the way backing tracks are being used down here is downright laughable.

 

I mean everyone knows the top bands in the area (who all brag about their amazing musicianship) have their drummers play to a click and then have a lot of their music canned (including things like backing vocal). Personally, I'm not a fan, but what I had the opportunity to witness last night was unreal.

 

5 piece band - lead singer, two "keyboardists" a guitarist and a drummer. Why keyboardists in quotes, you ask?? BECAUSE NEITHER OF THEM WAS EVEN PLUGGED IN!!! So you've got live drums, the guitarist occasionally played, but for the most part just kind of hung out in the back, live vocals and all the rest of the music was canned.

 

What's the freakin' point? It's basically a karaoke show. IDK I will say they did a good job pretending to play the keyboards. I just happened to be backstage talking to the owner of the club when I noticed neither keyboard was even on.

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Huh... maybe something unforseen had happened... did you talk to the owner about it, or try to dig deeper?


Otherwise I agree that it's strange. Put two go-go dancers up there FFS if you just want extra bodies on the stage...

 

 

I guess it's part of the "perception" thing we were all taking about on the other thread. Although I think that TWO non-keyboard players seems a bit much....

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I've been saying this for a while... and people state "the crowd doesn't notice". Trust me the crowd notices. I hear it all the time people coming to see us all the time; witnessing bands using backing tracks ("I notice X's band's drummer wearing headphones?" The band plays the same songs as you but half of it sounds like a recording") To the general public backing tracks might go unnoticed. But to people who seek out, spend the weekends watching, listening to, experiencing live music the backing track thing is not really gaining new fans. A few of the bands in my area that are using them are not really getting the results they hoped to.

 

 

One band is so blantent about the tracks they use/downloaded that they even have Lil Jon rapping in the background. I guess no problem except during this lengthy rap session the only thing crowd can do is watch is uncomfortably five white guys onstage doing noting except play along to the recorded rap. Crowd doesn't really seem to be into it. Should I be the one to tell them that. :D

 

It's to the point that I'm thinking of marketing the band with the tagline "no clicks, no tricks, just 100% pure NUTS". It probably won't mean much to anyone not "in the know"... but once they do figure it out then I'm sure it stick.

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I think it's like anything else----it's all about how and how well you use them.

 

I don't spend enough time watching other bands to know who is using them, in what situations, or to what results specifically. What I DO know is that there are a lot of bands at all performance levels who do use them and who don't use them. I'm not sure I see any direct correlation. Some of the very top corporate and club bands use them and I've never heard anyone complain. I also know my band, when going head to head with these bands, gets told repeatedly how good we are. But I've never heard anyone say anything about the fact that we don't use tracks and other bands do. I can only guess it's because they use them wisely and judiciously and have so much else going on that the rest isn't noticed.

 

I also know there are really crappy bands who use them and really crappy bands who don't. My guess is that if you're already a pretty crappy band, adding tracks isn't going to make you better---it's just going to make you a crappy band who uses tracks. I'm also going to guess that some of these very good track bands I spoke of earlier would get just as good a response if they didn't use tracks.

 

I think that for a really good band who uses them, it's only about making things easier for them and a bit more consistant. Not to really try and "fool" anyone or to be better than they really are.

 

You STILL gotta bring the show at the end of the day.

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Another way to put it:

 

Go up to some girl who is dancing and digging the {censored} out of some band using tracks and try to dissuade her that the band isn't as good as she thinks they are because they use tracks. See how far you get.

 

OTHO, if some girl comes up and tells you the band sucks and you reply "well, they play to tracks", she'll probably say "Oh...so THAT explains it...."

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Huh... maybe something unforseen had happened... did you talk to the owner about it, or try to dig deeper?


Otherwise I agree that it's strange. Put two go-go dancers up there FFS if you just want extra bodies on the stage...

 

 

Yes I spoke to the owner and yes this is their MO. The owner doesn't care because the crowd seems to like it.

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The best backing tracks band I saw? At the casino we play, it was a twofer- I had done a piano gig with "the Flamingos". Their entire show as on a Mac. The drummer and I played along to full orchestration, and if we got lost, we were told to fake it. We read charts. Then I went to the lounge where my band plays. Female vocal, sax, guitar, and bongo boy all jamming along to an ipod filled with keys, bass and drums.

 

I think I need to get into this game myself. My singer and I could make a killing doing happy hour gigs with a bunch of sequenced tracks and me playing along to one keyboard part and harmonizing with her.

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I didn't realize this was so common but I guess it makes sense.

I've seen people use drum machines and vocal harmonizers locally but I can't say I've ever seen local acts using backing tracks. Some of the national acts seem likely though.

 

But still, to have players and keyboards that aren't even plugged in?

And I'm sure those guys get paid, would it be a equal cut?

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Another way to put it:


Go up to some girl who is dancing and digging the {censored} out of some band using tracks and try to dissuade her that the band isn't as good as she thinks they are because they use tracks. See how far you get.


OTHO, if some girl comes up and tells you the band sucks and you reply "well, they play to tracks", she'll probably say "Oh...so THAT explains it...."

 

 

You're absolutely right... but most bands aren't able to sell it. Bands in my area have to rely on followings... these people come out every weekend to watch you perform and have a good time (the clubs aren't filled with people) so thy tend to notice the little things... like backing vocals when people aren't singing... large sequenced production when there is only three instruments on stage. I'm just saying that people aren't as clueless as we let ourselves believe. There is still a visual element to a band performing music. When a backing track is "in the background" there's no denying that it can be a helpful to production. But when that backing track is in the forefront... the presentation is being led by the track, then things seem less organic. People may dance in the moment... the question is will they follow after the show. In my experience these bands aren't turning people away, but they certainlying aren't gaining new followings. To me they are just getting by.

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You're absolutely right... but most bands aren't able to sell it. Bands in my area have to rely on followings... these people come out every weekend to watch you perform and have a good time (the clubs aren't filled with people) so thy tend to notice the little things... like backing vocals when people aren't singing... large sequenced production when there is only three instruments on stage. I'm just saying that people aren't as clueless as we let ourselves believe. There is still a visual element to a band performing music. When a backing track is "in the background" there's no denying that it can be a helpful to production. But when that backing track is in the forefront... the presentation is being led by the track, then things seem less organic. People may dance in the moment... the question is will they follow after the show. In my experience these bands aren't turning people away, but they certainlying aren't gaining new followings. To me they are just getting by.

 

 

Yep.

 

I'm certainly no big fan of using tracks. Although I must admit I DO think about it from time to time. My first choice would be to add a 2nd keyboard player/percussionist (and if she can sing and is hot, all the better ;-).....), but sans that....I'd consider adding some tracks for extra keys and percussion parts.

 

But as far as "most bands aren't able to sell it"? I believe that. But that's because I don't think "most" bands are able to sell ANYTHING. Not to be harsh, but the majority of full LIVE bands suck eggs. I wouldn't expect tracked bands to be any better. As a musician, is it dissapointing for me to see a band playing to tracks? Absolutely. But I really don't think the audience cares UNLESS the band sucks.

 

Which they most likely would anyway.

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I played in a band a few years ago that was somewhat considered hip-hop, and we had allot of music that was. Guitar drums bass keys and an mc. We would often get called to play these hip-hop shows where every other performer of the night was just a guy with a cd, sometimes a player.(before everyone had an iPod)

One time some "mC"s were talkin {censored} on stage during their performance because they saw our gear backlined taking up stage room. Then halfway through their first song their cd starts skipping and they start over. When they got to that same point it happened again.

 

Some guys were cool too and would have us back them on the fly.

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BECAUSE NEITHER OF THEM WAS EVEN PLUGGED IN!!!

 

 

And plenty of bands use dummy cabs for guitars & bass.

 

It's all a SHOW.

 

That bothers some people; clearly, it doesn't bother most/all.

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Yep.


I'm certainly no big fan of using tracks. Although I must admit I DO think about it from time to time. My first choice would be to add a 2nd keyboard player/percussionist (and if she can sing and is hot, all the better ;-).....), but sans that....I'd consider adding some tracks for extra keys and percussion parts.


But as far as "most bands aren't able to sell it"? I believe that. But that's because I don't think "most" bands are able to sell ANYTHING. Not to be harsh, but the majority of full LIVE bands suck eggs. I wouldn't expect tracked bands to be any better. As a musician, is it dissapointing for me to see a band playing to tracks? Absolutely. But I really don't think the audience cares UNLESS the band sucks.


Which they most likely would anyway.

 

 

In the cases I've witnessed it's not a case of bad musicians trying to make the show/production better... it's a good or decent band that is trying to get by doing something that they are not. Like a four or five piece guitar band retooling themselves as an electrified synth pop band using pre-recorded synth tracks and nary a keyboard on stage. In these cases bands are pretty much playing karaokee... because the little bit of guitar they are playing over the track isn't even necessary to deliver the song... everything of the pre-recorded track is. I've seen two local bands with respectable musicians, add in highly produced tracks with pretty tepid results. This isn't a case where they are playing an arena and people can't see the the iPod next to the guitar amp? These bands are also full of area veterans who are still trying to maintain a certain image associated with being a musician in a rock band. All I can say it must have been a hard pill to swallow to say I'll turn 'down' my amp and mimic playing to this Enrique Inglesies tune. ;) That must burn a hole straight down to their tribal tat! :D One guy with a pretty big 'chip' saw me in the crowd and looked away as if in 'shame'. LOL I love it. You know I will rub that in the next time I see him out and about. :D

 

You know we play with two keys players. That's pretty much by design now. We use backing tracks that we've created on 3-4 songs... but we don't try to hide it. None of us are on stage pretending to play. We take that opportunity to engage the audience. It's also a few Beastie Boys songs where playing live music would never be expected. But we could do the whole night with just one keyboard player (he already does it a few times a month solo) and the consensus from the band and people who watch the show that it 'sounds' empty with just one keyboard player. We could eliminate both keyboard players and save some real money and just use backing tracks to fill the space. But then we would be truly chained to that 'click', and once you reach that point you are no longer really in control of your performance. My guess is we wouldn't deliver the same show that people have come to expect and the following would drop off... and eventually so would the pay.

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In the cases I've witnessed it's not a case of bad musicians trying to make the show/production better... it's a good or decent band that is trying to get by doing something that they are not. Like a four or five piece guitar band retooling themselves as an electrified synth pop band using pre-recorded synth tracks and nary a keyboard on stage.
In these cases bands are pretty much playing karaokee... because the little bit of guitar they are playing over the track isn't even necessary to deliver the song... everything of the pre-recorded track is.
I've seen two local bands with respectable musicians, add in highly produced tracks with pretty tepid results. This isn't a case where they are playing an arena and people can't see the the iPod next to the guitar amp? These bands are also full of area veterans who are still trying to maintain a certain image associated with being a musician in a rock band. All I can say it must have been a hard pill to swallow to say I'll turn 'down' my amp and mimic playing to this Enrique Inglesies tune.
;)
That must burn a hole straight down to their tribal tat!
:D
One guy with a pretty big 'chip' saw me in the crowd and looked away as if in 'shame'. LOL I love it. You know I will rub that in the next time I see him out and about.
:D

You know we play with two keys players. That's pretty much by design now. We use backing tracks that we've created on 3-4 songs... it's something that compliments our performance. It's also a few Beastie Boys songs where playing live music would never be expected. But we could do the whole night with just one keyboard player (he already does it a few times a month solo) and the consensus from the band and people who watch the show that it 'sounds' empty with just one keyboard player. We could eliminate both keyboard players and save some real money and just use backing tracks to fill the space. But then we would be truly chained to that 'click', and once you reach that point you are no longer really in control of your performance. My guess is we wouldn't deliver the same show that people have come to expect and the following would drop off... and eventually so would the pay.

 

This to me is the crux of it. Its one thing if a band is using some tracks to "fill out" their sound. Its another thing if the backing tracks ARE their sound. In this case, it was all tracks.

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So you're saying the band at least has a drummer that is good enough to play to a click. That's a good start and certainly a skill.

 

Are they playing music by artists that also use tracks?

 

Are they visually compelling because their tracks free them up?

 

Do they play EVERY song that way or just the ones that are "produced"?

 

Is the booty shakin' party makin' demorgraphic they are playing for likely to abandon the premises in search of more serious jazz/blues that is more "honorable"?

 

Was it a gig that was contracted as a 5 piece?

 

Does it sound good?

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A friend's band plays to a click and bass on a backing track. The bass player dropped out recently, so the guitar player recorded the bass tracks. Everything else is live - drums/keys/guitars/vocals. The whole band uses IEM's so they hear the click, but the audience doesn't.

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We could eliminate both keyboard players and save some real money and just use backing tracks to fill the space. But then we would be truly chained to that 'click', and
once you reach that point you are no longer really in control of your performance
.

 

 

My current band uses backing tracks for about 90% of our songs; keys, hand percussion and pads to fill out, not to dominate our sound.

I have to tell you that the bolded part above is only as true as the performer lets it be. If the drummer can't play slightly up or back of the click, ior the band can't deliver the performance with energy, you'll sound like a band chained to one, but aside from needing to stick to the same arrangement, I really can't see how a CAPABLE band is any more or less in control of their performance by playing to a click or with tracks by definition.

 

Clicks and tracks are simply other tools available to a performer; it's all about how they get used that tells the tale.

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My current band uses backing tracks for about 90% of our songs; keys, hand percussion and pads to fill out, not to dominate our sound.

I have to tell you that the bolded part above is only as true as the performer lets it be. If the drummer can't play slightly up or back of the click, ior the band can't deliver the performance with energy, you'll sound like a band chained to one, but aside from needing to stick to the same arrangement, I really can't see how a CAPABLE band is any more or less in control of their performance by playing to a click or with tracks by definition.


Clicks and tracks are simply other tools available to a performer; it's all about how they get used that tells the tale.

 

 

Just curious, what happens if there's a stumble, or someone accidentally skips a measure or something?

Seems like that could be disaster.

Mistakes will happen, no matter how much practice, so how do you recover smoothly?

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I've seen Steppenwolf play to sequenced bass lines run through a mic'd up SVT rig, that was acceptable. I've seen bars go from full bands to a guitar player using a laptop with MIDI files and lyrics on the screen. THAT was less than engaging, the guy never took his eyes off the screen.

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