Using Backing Tracks In Your Live Band

Using backing tracks in your live band will give you the ability to play a more diverse range of music than otherwise possible.

This 15 year old laptop runs our keyboard sequencer.
This 15 year old laptop runs our keyboard sequencer.

   I’ve played in a lot of different types of live bands over the years. I’ve played solo with just my guitar, as a duo, as a trio all the way up to playing in a full on 40 piece Big Band. As you know, it’s great to have more musician’s to create more of a musical soundscape but it also comes with a lot more logistical problems.

   Right now I’m playing in a 4-piece band that has bass, drums, guitar and keyboards. We are able to cover a lot of music with this lineup. We also do a lot of songs that would take many times more musicians to pull off live by using a computer sequencer to play the extra parts on a synthesizer module. This gives us the ability to cover tunes that there would be no way to do live with just a 4-piece band. It solves a lot of the problems associated with using a lot of musicians in the band.

   We are able to play songs by Nine Inch Nails, Santana, Sting and many other artists that use large groups of musicians or layers of synthesizers to create their music. It really helps us to flesh out our live sound by using these sequenced backing tracks. Having this tool at our disposal has helped to set us apart from the local bands that don’t use a sequencer live.     

   There are the naysayers that believe that using backing tracks is cheating. I’m here to tell you that nothing could be farther from the truth. As a band we have to play much more accurately when we’re using the sequencer to enhance our live sound. We are held to a more rigid song structure but there is still plenty of room left for creativity when we play live. It takes a lot of skill as a musician to play your parts along with a backing track. By playing with an unchanging backing track you risk losing the song altogether. But it’s a risk we’re willing to take because the payoff in sound is so great.

   I think that anytime you can create more music using modern technology to do so, it’s a good thing. So don’t be afraid to get out there and experiment with some pre-recorded or computer sequenced backing tracks. It could take your band to the next level and get you some of those higher profile gigs that we’re all looking for!

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Author: Live Musician Central

My name is Matt Rushton. I have been playing in bands for 27 years. I've been playing professionally for 21 years. I have opened for Sheryl Crow, Barenaked Ladies, Joan Jett, Little River Band, and Quiet Riot.

2 thoughts on “Using Backing Tracks In Your Live Band”

  1. Great points. I am going to start doing this now as well. My question is where do I get the files from? I have the equip and software but need to know where to get the backing tracks from. Thanks

  2. I have been doing it for years with a four-piece band, and it rocks with some of the songs especially. We try to play live over them with most of the parts. A good place to start is You can buy them and customize them. Taking any instrument down, up or off, depending of what players you have. You could make it just drums and bass, or whatever. I used to use midi’s for the backtracks but went on to MP3’s that I mix specific to who is in the band.

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