View Poll Results: Backing Tracks for live gigs

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  1. #201

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    I really don't think that arranging, even with a computer program, is less creative than performing, unless the arrangements are record copies. The hardest parts of making good backing tracks are avoiding the metronomic, canned feel, which can be ameliorated by actually playing the bass, rhythm guitar, and/or percussion as part of the track; and getting really high-quality samples (real recorded sounds, not synth simulations) for your orchestrations. The other upside of doing your own is that you can change them over time, bringing is modulations, lengthening or shortening them, creating medleys, and in doing so, keeping them somewhat fresh. I find that adding a player or two also goes a very long way towards making a good presentation, creating a bit of the interaction that good music needs. Having said that, I would never use my tracks on a "jazz" gig or a concert; they are for casuals, parties and functions. In the summertime here in the Northeast, the demand for "calypso" music with steel drums is huge, but the budgets are not in keeping with the scarcity of pan players, so I often sell a calypso/Island act as a duo with backing tracks just to be able to pay the pan player what the market demands, which is in the $400-500 range.

    Backing tracks are also useful for practicing, as Abersold proved decades ago, but I have never utilized commercial tracks for my gigs.

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  3. #202

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    For rehearsal purposes it is helpful to have backing tracks created in Sibelius for me to enjoy rehearsing. And I also enjoy the process of creating bass or piano or other instrumental tracks for its intrinsic musical value. It is perhaps like a painter enjoys blending colors in a landscape painting. Nothing replaces a live band or musicians, of course. And one can never get a totally spontaneous feel with software instruments. But that is not really the objective, though some high end composers do TV and movie themes with sophisticated software.

    And I can never find good musicians hanging around my house at four in the morning.

  4. #203

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    Quote Originally Posted by targuit View Post
    And I can never find good musicians hanging around my house at four in the morning.
    Free booze might help that situation. ;o)
    "Learn the repertoire. It’s all in the songs. If you learn 200 songs, you will have no problem improvising."
    Frank Vignola

  5. #204

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    I will always prefer a good musician play over backing tracks over a scars musician playing with a full band, but that's just me.

    Sandro

  6. #205

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    Well, I think it's time to utilize 2015 technology and rather than just use backing tracks, we can use tracks and stream our perfrmances right from our living room to a screen at the venue. That way we can totally avoid the bothersome chore of interacting with other people face to fface....kinda like internet forums...so safe and sterile. Virtual reality....

  7. #206
    destinytot Guest
    I'm all for Augmented Reality on live gigs.

  8. #207

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    I was reading a review of a Taylor Swift concert the other day (someone's got to do it), and it sounded as if she only had a live band on stage part of the time, some of the performance was with a backing track:

    "There were no musical revelations from the new material, no nuance or interpretation from the CD-like backing tracks and band. Swift seemed content to repeat the album's performances, metronomic and dutiful..."

    I find it incredible that people will now pay shed-loads of money to see someone without a real band on stage, and not feel short-changed. But I suppose it's now the norm for these sort of pop stars.

  9. #208

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    I was reading a review of a Taylor Swift concert the other day (someone's got to do it), and it sounded as if she only had a live band on stage part of the time, some of the performance was with a backing track:

    "There were no musical revelations from the new material, no nuance or interpretation from the CD-like backing tracks and band. Swift seemed content to repeat the album's performances, metronomic and dutiful..."

    I find it incredible that people will now pay shed-loads of money to see someone without a real band on stage, and not feel short-changed. But I suppose it's now the norm for these sort of pop stars.
    It is the norm for any money-making musical venture. Broadway shows now use smaller groups with backing tracks, U2 uses backing tracks, Englebert Humperdinck uses backing tracks. None of this is jazz, of course, but jazzers have gotten accustomed to being financially screwed.

    As far as interaction goes, a duo with some backing tracks (either prerecorded or looped in real time) experiences interaction, improvisation and creativity. And, as I have admitted before, I would rather be accompanied by my own backing tracks with good time and good changes than suffer the playing of an insensitive drummer or out-of-tune bassist. Of course, the backing tracks will never come close to a really good live band, especially in a "jazz" context, whatever that may be. From the standpoint of business and cultural reality, technology is here to stay.

  10. #209

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    I will always prefer a good musician play over backing tracks over a scars musician playing with a full band, but that's just me.

    Sandro
    I will prefer printed copy of masterpiece painting to mediocre original painting...

    but most I would prefer when they use possibilities of printing technolgy to create special and originbal piece of art....

  11. #210

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    And, as I have admitted before, I would rather be accompanied by my own backing tracks with good time and good changes than suffer the playing of an insensitive drummer or out-of-tune bassist
    what's good about playing with people - even lousy players - that with people you never know how it will turn... today he's insensitive drummer but probably after playing with you a couple of times he'll get the vibe... maybe not...
    I mean there's always chance for surprise in it ...

  12. #211

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    I just don't understand everybody is talking about the lack of interaction with other musicians when you use backing tracks, but a solo guitarist doesn't interact with anybody but is okay for him to play alone?? What about the player himself, isn't he an element of surprise? I constantly go around Boston and you can see drummers playing on buckets alone and people still appreciate and give them money wile other are singing over a backing track putting together a show and if you are good and people appreciate that's all it matter. The tricky part is to create an audience because when you have an audience you will have the interaction you need to be inspire and express yourself to a deeper level therefore have more fun.

    Sandro

  13. #212

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sandro View Post
    I just don't understand everybody is talking about the lack of interaction with other musicians when you use backing tracks, but a solo guitarist doesn't interact with anybody but is okay for him to play alone?? What about the player himself, isn't he an element of surprise? I constantly go around Boston and you can see drummers playing on buckets alone and people still appreciate and give them money wile other are singing over a backing track putting together a show and if you are good and people appreciate that's all it matter. The tricky part is to create an audience because when you have an audience you will have the interaction you need to be inspire and express yourself to a deeper level therefore have more fun.

    Sandro

    +1

  14. #213

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    solo playing does not presume interecation... because it's solo

    I do not like backing track when it is there to imitate live player...

    it is that simle, just that simple, and nothing else...

  15. #214

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    Playing with lousy players is a nightmare, period. Backing tracks created by the player do not imitate a live player, they ARE a live player, recorded. Same with real-time looping.

  16. #215

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    Playing with lousy players is a nightmare, period. Backing tracks created by the player do not imitate a live player, they ARE a live player, recorded. Same with real-time looping.
    So what. I still don't like 'em.

  17. #216

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    Playing with lousy players is a nightmare, period. Backing tracks created by the player do not imitate a live player, they ARE a live player, recorded. Same with real-time looping.
    I like to think of my solo guitar as recorded music, only live.

  18. #217

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    Just to be clear - solo players are interacting.

    With the audience, with the acoustic space, with the flow of the piece, and the moment.

    It's shocking how so many are willing to write-off the value of a human being creating music in the moment with listeners.

    I was lucky to come up at a time where the band was live and the jukebox was for breaks.
    Last edited by rictroll; 06-29-2015 at 11:56 PM.

  19. #218

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    Backing tracks created by the player do not imitate a live player, they ARE a live player
    No they aren't. If you play a particular accent or riff, a live rhythm section can respond to it and play something in return, creating a dialogue. A backing track will just chug away regardless with no response to the dynamics of what you are playing. That's boring.

    As for the lousy players, why do you hire them? Don't you know who the decent players are? I don't understand it.

    Maybe the scene is different here in Europe or something, but I have been going to jazz gigs in the UK for 30 years and I have never seen any musician using a backing track. The nearest I have seen is John Etheridge and Paul Malsom using a live looper on one tune only. And I have seen John Surman using some kind of synth loop, but he was constantly transforming it, recording himself then playing along to it, applying delays to it etc. Not like a static backing track.

  20. #219

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    I think I voted on something random - the question was a real hanging chad.

  21. #220

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    I'm thinking maybe jazz puppet show could take backing tracks to the next level....


  22. #221

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    I'm thinking maybe jazz puppet show could take backing tracks to the next level....

    How do you mean? They do great job on that song - maybe a bit schmaltzy but good schmaltzy.

  23. #222

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    I really don't think that arranging, even with a computer program, is less creative than performing, unless the arrangements are record copies. The hardest parts of making good backing tracks are avoiding the metronomic, canned feel, which can be ameliorated by actually playing the bass, rhythm guitar, and/or percussion as part of the track; and getting really high-quality samples (real recorded sounds, not synth simulations) for your orchestrations. The other upside of doing your own is that you can change them over time, bringing is modulations, lengthening or shortening them, creating medleys, and in doing so, keeping them somewhat fresh. I find that adding a player or two also goes a very long way towards making a good presentation, creating a bit of the interaction that good music needs. Having said that, I would never use my tracks on a "jazz" gig or a concert; they are for casuals, parties and functions. In the summertime here in the Northeast, the demand for "calypso" music with steel drums is huge, but the budgets are not in keeping with the scarcity of pan players, so I often sell a calypso/Island act as a duo with backing tracks just to be able to pay the pan player what the market demands, which is in the $400-500 range.

    Backing tracks are also useful for practicing, as Abersold proved decades ago, but I have never utilized commercial tracks for my gigs.
    Ron: Thank you, Your post is a pretty good description of some of the capabilities of the newer versions of Band-In-A- Box. The program is a great tool for studying and practicing.

    wiz
    Howie

  24. #223

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    Quote Originally Posted by grahambop View Post
    No they aren't. If you play a particular accent or riff, a live rhythm section can respond to it and play something in return, creating a dialogue. A backing track will just chug away regardless with no response to the dynamics of what you are playing. That's boring.

    As for the lousy players, why do you hire them? Don't you know who the decent players are? I don't understand it.

    Maybe the scene is different here in Europe or something, but I have been going to jazz gigs in the UK for 30 years and I have never seen any musician using a backing track. The nearest I have seen is John Etheridge and Paul Malsom using a live looper on one tune only. And I have seen John Surman using some kind of synth loop, but he was constantly transforming it, recording himself then playing along to it, applying delays to it etc. Not like a static backing track.

    So what? Frisell uses loopers all the time. And a static backing track is still far superior to a bad player, period. As for hiring only good players, budget and availability are a real factor. I know ALL the decent players, and they are in high demand, thus not always available. Last week, for instance, I lost the bassist AND drummer the day before the Friday night gig, and not a single accomplished player was available for a rather demanding gig. I didn't have tracks ready for this act, and the result was two players far below the level needed, and a below-par performance . And yes, the scene in Europe is quite different.

    By the way, backing tracks can be easily changed, adjusted or even accented with the right technology, but that isn't the point, at all. If one depends on playing for a living, as I do, one finds solutions to the problems of low budgets or lack of top-level players. As I've pointed out before, I don't use tracks for jazz concert gigs. I do use them to make a living on background, function or party gigs, and I enjoy hearing good time and changes. The looper allows lots of creativity, and I have seen several gifted performers utilizing that technology in a very cool, creative way.

    If you are a full-time player making a decent living without technology, good for you. If you are not dependent on performing to pay the bills, then you may never bother with it. But I have been a pro for 50 years, and I need to fund my lifestyle, thus I refuse to split $250 up among 3 to play a gig where the music is not the prime interest and where the function or buyer may actually be better served with just me and tracks. Boring? Not for me, or that audience. My tracks swing, have dynamics, modulations, and real intros and endings. I've played many hundreds of jazz trio and quartet gigs with the likes of George Coleman, Teddy Wilson, Alan Dawson, Gray Sargent, etc., and I do 80 concerts a year with a 6-piece African/fusion group which happens to include one of Yo Yo Ma's Silk Road members, who, by the way, uses a looper on his balafon. Not every gig needs to be the World Series, you know, and if I choose to play with loopers and tracks on 25% of my 200+ gigs a year, that's what I will do.

    By the way, the exact same discussion raged for years about amplification.

  25. #224

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronjazz View Post
    I don't use tracks for jazz concert gigs.
    Well I think we're in agreement on that point.

    I can see where you would use them on the other types of gigs.

  26. #225

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    The problem with this thread is that the OP did not actually ask a question, so the responses are coming in all across the board. At this point, I am not sure what was being asked either; a great example of how NOT to conduct a poll, I guess.

  27. #226
    destinytot Guest
    "$250 between three? Luxury!" Cue the Four Yorkshiremen

  28. #227

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    Ron - I saw Bill Frisell in a night spot in Manhattan back in the late Eighties playing solo with a looper and he was quite inventive. I realize that there are many situations where you can expand a solo gig's possibilities with use of a looper. Is there one that you think is more versatile than the others or favor?

    I intend to try and get down to see you finally this Friday in Providence. Hope the weather cooperates. What do you do in case of rain assuming you play outside?

  29. #228

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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeSF View Post
    The problem with this thread is that the OP did not actually ask a question, so the responses are coming in all across the board. At this point, I am not sure what was being asked either; a great example of how NOT to conduct a poll, I guess.
    Is the OP asking do we use tracks or is he asking is it OK in general to use them? It's not clear. I'm not into tracks but I could care less if other people use them.
    These days I think there's some interest in the creative process. For example- the way Ed Sheeran uses looping. Besides that I think the audience is only interested in the end result and they don't care how musicians get there.

  30. #229

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    Quote Originally Posted by Stevebol View Post
    ... I think the audience is only interested in the end result and they don't care how musicians get there.
    Hah, you're probably right about that. It's the musicians who work hard at sounding good, without tracks, who are most likely irritated by the ones that are "cheating".

  31. #230
    destinytot Guest
    In the right hands...

  32. #231

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    Alright,I'll confess. When I was making a living off of gigging in the 80's, life was good around Detroit. Lots of gigs. If you had a tuxedo, the money was great. You could drop in on a reading gig for 1 to 200$ a night almost any weekend.(thats about a million dollars in todays $)I played a single 3 to 4 nights during the week and 2 to 3 big money gigs on the weekends. Then the DJ thing happened and all of a sudden I was painting houses. I made and used backing tracks,played any kind of music that would pay until things smoothed out. I still use a drum machine at home but no more on a gig.

  33. #232

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    Quote Originally Posted by gitrman View Post
    A backing track is not live!
    It is if you made it as part of the creative process, or if you are using a looper. Downloaded tracks are not live, that is true.

  34. #233
    It's a reality nowdays that you are going to be asked if you'll do such a gig at some point. I 've never done it with backing tracks (no, i've done a couple of corporate gigs ), but i do it often with loopers, sometimes playing creatively (meaning "composing" parts with the looper), sometimes less so, using it only for one guitar part.

    I think i'd still enjoy the backing track thing if the player was nice, but it gets boring fast.. The loopers i don't mind, it limits the music in one way, broadens it in another.

    Also for me it has to do with the style of player you are. Personally i 'm not that good in the solo jazz guitar Joe Pass style to hold a varied audience interested over a whole gig. If however i do it with a looper, people seem to love it, as for one the looping thing is impressive, and i can play much more varied. So for my thing loopers do work!

    For example, one of my last solo gigs here (there's a violinist on some tunes too)..

    Vlatos Jazz June 2019 - YouTube

  35. #234

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    It's all about eliminating work for other musicians, disguised as work for you.

  36. #235

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    Quote Originally Posted by henryrobinett View Post
    It's at least half live.

    That means that it's also at least half dead.

  37. #236

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    at least half live == at most half dead
    ;-)
    Norman

  38. #237

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  39. #238

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    It's all about eliminating work for other musicians, disguised as work for you.
    I live in a rural area, for some reason either the musicians play church music contemporary style which is basically 1645 chord patterns (yawn) about 90+ percent of the time, or country music which is 3 chords so, and since people are more interested in watching The Boob Tube and playing computer games the musicianship around my area is severely lacking.

    So for my own purposes and not for performance I like a backing track if I can find one. I do have some old abersald CDs that I can plop on the player but for the most part there are no bands or get together kind of functions around my location.

    Even the drum circles are at a very basic beginning level and it seems just about everyone at the local drum circles are rhythmically challenged (to put it nicely).

    So I'm not taking any work away from anybody however, there are a couple restaurants around here that on rare occasions feature guitarists and unfortunately they too are using backing tracks for the couple of reasons that I mentioned above and the setup area in most of these restaurants is usually an extremely small footprint.

  40. #239

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    It's all about eliminating work for other musicians, disguised as work for you.
    That is true.

  41. #240
    But many times it is also work for one musician where it would be work for none... Most of the horn players that i know who often do solo sax+tracks gigs are more than happy to suggest playing as a duet for much less money per musician, but it is an offer very seldom taken..

  42. #241

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    So why hire a guitar when you can get sax?


  43. #242

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    I don't make a living at playing music, so this comes from the perspective of an audience member. I have noticed that street musicians are using backing tracks more and more. Eventually it just seems "normal" that people are in the Metro noodling like I did in high school and expecting people to drop them money. Until you hear someone play without a backing track. Then I'm compelled to stop and listen. I would rather hear someone play a sparse solo arrangement that jam to a track. One violin, one guitar, I even heard a girl singing opera a cappella. Mesmerizing.

    I assume some of the musicians playing with backing tracks were quite good in their own right. It just didn't make any impact on me. Its like listening to background recorded music. The addition of one live performer didn't really change my perception of it being background music. I know I would feel the same way if they were playing at a bar or wedding. In fact, if the band at my wedding had showed up with an iPad and just jammed along to BIAB I would have been furious.

    So righteous or cheating, good economics or a sell out, all I know is that as an audience member I tune out musicians playing with a backing track.

  44. #243

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo View Post
    So why hire a guitar when you can get sax?

    No better than a DJ and just as annoying.