receive many comments regarding the backing tracks I use
during a performance. Many people ask where they can
acquire them, or where I purchase them. The answer is
I produce each and every backing track
I never use karaoke tracks or purchase
my tracks from an on-line distributor. The reason I
receive such positive comments about my backing tracks is
because of the way I produce them. This article will
explain how I do it and why they are superior to most
backing tracks you can purchase commercially.
I began computer audio computer
recording when it was just coming of its own. In the
mid to late 90's the technology was developing much more
rapidly that it had over the previous years and computers
were becoming faster and able to perform many more
calculations than ever before. So I got into it
relatively early. When I started recording my backing
tracks I could manage only about 6 to 8 audio tracks without
bogging down the system. Today, it is not unusual for
a good computer system to handle 20 or more audio tracks
with effects (reverb, delay, compression, etc.)
The problem I've always had with
karaoke tracks and most tracks purchase from an on-line
facility is they are basically "dead". By
that, I mean there is no "liveliness" in the
recording. It sound like a recording instead of sound
live. The secret to getting the tracks to sound as
"live as possible" is, well, a secret. But
there is a way to do it. Now I realize that some of
are saying, "It's still a recording". That
is correct. I think we all can accept that it is
recorded music and that mean it will never sound as
"live" as a live band will sound. But there
are many things that can be done in the mixing and mix-down
process to get the track to sound "as live as
possible". Herein lies the reason that I receive
the positive comments I do from vocalists and musicians who
hear the tracks.
Obviously, no matter how good the
track is, if you're putting it through a "Mickey
Mouse" PA system it's not going to give you good
results. I've actually seen some singers bring a boom
box and put a microphone in from of the speakers in order to
amplify the track! So, naturally I'm assuming you are
going to use a good, quality PA system.
All of my tracks are .wav files.
I don't mix down to mp3. MP3 files are compressed and
deadens the sound quality. Not only that but every
time you copy the file it reduces its fidelity even more.
WAV files used because it is an
uncompressed file and retains the integrity of the dynamic
range of the original mix-down. When performing, I run
many backing tracks through commercial DJ software via a
laptop computer. The headphone output of the computer
is run to the mixing board which is then output to a couple
of quality speaker drivers (I personally use JBL EON 15) as
well as a sub woofer if the venue calls for it. This
will support most average size venues.
I like to make each
track sound like the original recording. That is where
I start. Many whole philosophy about entertaining is
that people don't want to hear "MY" version of
their favorite song. They want to hear their favorite
song sound like they remember it. So my goal is to
sound like the original. I keep this same thing in
mind when performing. I am not an impersonator.
I know I don't sound like Neil Diamond or Frank Sinatra.
However, I get comments all of the time from people who tell
me "You sound just like Neil Diamond". I try
to use the same vocal nuances that the original artist uses
as well as many of the other unique attributes they may have
incorporated into the song in order to make the song sound
"like the original". And having a backing
track that is musically on a par with the original and
sounds "live" is a great advantage.
Therefore, the first
thing I start with is the original song as a guide
track. I typically do sections of the song at a
time. For instance, I will start with the intro.
I will record all of the various instruments involved in the
intro. I may or may not do the detail work until the
very end when the whole song has been completed (things such
as drum fills will happen last). I then move on
to the verse, chorus, bridge, lead instrument parts,
respectively (if I am playing the lead instrument part-which
I almost always do, then I leave that out of the track.
I begin with a basic
drum track. I start by programming (playing) the kick
and snare drums, then adding the high hat. As stated
earlier drum fills and cymbal crashes are not programmed
until the very end of the song.
I use a drum program
call "Easy Drummer®" by Toontrack. I use
the basic drum kit and it is more than sufficient for most
any song I have ever needed to program. I have other
drum software which I rarely use except on the occasion I
need something Easy Drummer does not contain. The
drums you hear on just about all drum software is
"sampled". This means that someone literally
played each drum. Each drum hit was recorded (or
digitally sampled) so that when you "trigger" it
(i.e. play it via a controller---I use a keyboard which is
midi-ed with the computer sofware) you hear the drummer
hitting the original snare or hi hat or kick drum, etc.
More to come.......