The pros and cons of using backing tracks for gigs.

nifnof70

Strat-O-Master
Feb 8, 2017
869
Harpers Ferry WV
My Father and I play small venues, wineries etc. and use backing tracks to cover drums, bass, piano.

We do this more out of necessity because he plays older standards/jazz, while I'm more into the classic rock and blues. We do what we can to liven it up as to not be Karaoke adding bongos, cajon, and claves. Additionally, I'm not a jazz guitarist by any stretch so having the rhythm/chord backing has helped me pick up a few licks/chords that I would not normally play due to my comfort zone.

The positives are travelling and gigging with a small footprint and not having drama/arguments with the rhythm section:)

The downside is missing the open jam with those missing pieces. We do frequent open mic nights in the area so at least get to have some of that.

I'm curious how many on ST also use backing tracks for gigs and whether or not it is working for you?
 

PhilippineStrat

Strat-O-Master
Jan 18, 2022
892
Philippines
My Father and I play small venues, wineries etc. and use backing tracks to cover drums, bass, piano.

We do this more out of necessity because he plays older standards/jazz, while I'm more into the classic rock and blues. We do what we can to liven it up as to not be Karaoke adding bongos, cajon, and claves. Additionally, I'm not a jazz guitarist by any stretch so having the rhythm/chord backing has helped me pick up a few licks/chords that I would not normally play due to my comfort zone.

The positives are travelling and gigging with a small footprint and not having drama/arguments with the rhythm section:)

The downside is missing the open jam with those missing pieces. We do frequent open mic nights in the area so at least get to have some of that.

I'm curious how many on ST also use backing tracks for gigs and whether or not it is working for you?
Never used a premade backing track for a show but i have used a looper to make a backing track on the spot
 

Andmyaxe

Strat-Talker
May 12, 2021
277
USA
Haven’t used backing tracks recently but did so on occasion in the past and would do so again if the gig called for it. While I prefer live musicians that’s not always feasible. Perhaps the venue simply can’t accommodate more than a duo or doesn’t pay enough. This is especially true of coffee shop and winery gigs like you described.

I know some musicians are strongly opposed to using backing tracks and that’s cool, but I don’t believe in letting perfect be the enemy of a good gig.
 

PhilippineStrat

Strat-O-Master
Jan 18, 2022
892
Philippines
I'd like to get to that point of looping for some songs. I have a BOSS VE-8 but haven't attempted to figure that part of it out yet.
it helps to have a pedal that gives you big pitch shifts down so you can lay base tracks.

I use a multi effects so I can lay down some very ambient things before adding the more clear guitar stuff. then i can sing and play lines over the finished loop.

although the end result is the same, the difference is the audience sees the creation of the backing track and thats a show in its own right
 

nifnof70

Strat-O-Master
Feb 8, 2017
869
Harpers Ferry WV
Did it for a few years. Pros - consistent backing and volume control. Cons - You lose your place and it's a train wreck. Also looks cheezy to some people who demand / expect/ prefer live players.

Whatever brings in the cash, I'm not working for exposure.
Copy on both accounts--Especially the train wreck!
 

Guy Incognito

Senior Stratmaster
May 14, 2019
4,011
Here and now
My Father and I play small venues, wineries etc. and use backing tracks to cover drums, bass, piano.

We do this more out of necessity because he plays older standards/jazz, while I'm more into the classic rock and blues. We do what we can to liven it up as to not be Karaoke adding bongos, cajon, and claves. Additionally, I'm not a jazz guitarist by any stretch so having the rhythm/chord backing has helped me pick up a few licks/chords that I would not normally play due to my comfort zone.

The positives are travelling and gigging with a small footprint and not having drama/arguments with the rhythm section:)

The downside is missing the open jam with those missing pieces. We do frequent open mic nights in the area so at least get to have some of that.

I'm curious how many on ST also use backing tracks for gigs and whether or not it is working for you?
The first time I ever saw this was on a ferry to Newfoundland 20-ish years ago. Just a dude with an acoustic, a mic and premade backing tracks. For the occasion I thought it was perfect.

The guy was very entertaining and didn't take up a lot of the dining area.
 

nickmsmith

Dr. Stratster
Jul 28, 2011
14,196
USA
I have in the past, with great results.

I don’t usually, but if you are just doing dinner/background music, it’s a great way to get a full sound and still operate solo.
I know a saxophonist who does quite well doing this.

If you are competent lead player, it’s a legitimate option for relaxed atmosphere music.
 

nullaccount

Senior Stratmaster
Jan 12, 2022
1,362
Florida
My Father and I play small venues, wineries etc. and use backing tracks to cover drums, bass, piano.

We do this more out of necessity because he plays older standards/jazz, while I'm more into the classic rock and blues. We do what we can to liven it up as to not be Karaoke adding bongos, cajon, and claves. Additionally, I'm not a jazz guitarist by any stretch so having the rhythm/chord backing has helped me pick up a few licks/chords that I would not normally play due to my comfort zone.

The positives are travelling and gigging with a small footprint and not having drama/arguments with the rhythm section:)

The downside is missing the open jam with those missing pieces. We do frequent open mic nights in the area so at least get to have some of that.

I'm curious how many on ST also use backing tracks for gigs and whether or not it is working for you?
I have a three-piece jazz Trio. I play piano. I practice with drum and bass backing tracks. Sometimes the bass player and I will play with a drum backing track. It saps much of the oomph out of it compared to when the real drummer is there for sure.
 

PhilippineStrat

Strat-O-Master
Jan 18, 2022
892
Philippines
I always prefer a band but have done many big events with recorded bass and drums, and I play guitar and sing live. There is way less hassle, but on a big stage, it can be lonely. :). Gotta invite the crowd up. 2 examples below...

View attachment 541693 View attachment 541694
well well we got quite a rockstar over here!

makes me wanna pull up the photos from my twenties ;)

What country is this in?
 

stos2

New Member!
Feb 3, 2022
6
Michigan
I have been using tracks for my duo (and solo for years before that) successfully. I only add drums and bass, and an occasional keys/steel drum/etc if the song calls for it. It takes practice to stay on track but there are ways to limit those types of mistakes (train wrecks). I keep the tracks with scrolling lyrics on an iPad with time stamp markers in the lyrics. That way if I lose my spot in a song, I can quickly look down and see where I am, and it works seamlessly for the most part. I’ve caught myself looking around at things going on in the audience and then forgetting if I already played that verse or not. I have never yet messed up a song bad enough for anyone (except my wife) to notice, but without the time stamp on the lyrics, it could have been bad.

Regarding the karaoke issue, I understand why some are opposed, but I have always had success with it. To me (and the audiences I’ve played for) I’m still a musician playing guitar and singing and entertaining with communication with the audience, and I’ve always have had a positive response from the audience. I play the same guitar parts I would play with a full band, like solos, etc. I’ve seen many many acts using tracks and the talented ones are great to watch still. I’ve had other musicians come up and give compliments indicating they were thinking about doing the same. Some venues in my area actually WANT solos/duos with tracks.

I have seen a few really tacky acts too though. I saw one act where all the guy was doing was strumming an acoustic, which you could barely hear. He had so many instruments in the tracks, keys, whole horn sections, etc. It was a terrible act. But I bet it would have been terrible if he would have been part of a whole band too. It just all sounded wrong.

I think if you are entertaining, professional and can play and sing well, it works out great. I still like playing in my 5-piece blues band as well. It’s just that often times the venue/occasion just doesn’t call for or want a full band. I’m not trying to be a rock star or act like one, I just want to play music and entertain people the best I can. It’s a blast.
 

Tremendo

Strat-Talk Member
Jan 19, 2022
36
Kingwood (Houston) TX
well well we got quite a rockstar over here!…….
What country is this in?
Well well, just posting my examples of backing tracks with an empty stage and with a full stage. That’s what the post was about.

These were different events, one in Bangkok and the other Pattaya Thailand. Fly out with my guitar and 2 effects and play through a local amp.

Backing tracks have their place, although not preferred in my case.
 

AngeloEvs

Strat-Talker
Jan 5, 2020
314
Norfolk, UK
We used to be a six piece with 2nd Guitarist and a keyboard player, for various reasons we ended up with just four and good keyboard players are like hens teeth.

Our Drummer had used backing tracks for live gigs before joining us and suggested we tried them. We were not happy with the idea but decided to try using tracks and it worked a treat for us - about 40% of our set now features them. As sad as it may sound, audiences do not care and that is who we perform to - not other musicians. We sometimes use MIDI files as they allow us to edit the tracks we need and change the arrangement or instrument, etc. Using the downloaded MP3 tracks can limit the bands ability to change arrangements but some aspects can be changed using editing software.

Click track for the drummer with the orchestration and harmony guitar parts through a second PA. We are a covers band and only use tracks where necessary such as Final Countdown, Dying in Your Arms Tonight, Human, etc, which we would not do justice to with just one guitar, bass, drums and a vocalist out front.
 
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