My name is Edwin (from The Netherlands) and I am new at this forum.
In our church we are thinking of starting to use backing tracks for some songs. Intention is to have drums and bass on the backing track, to make them fuller and more appealing for the "younsters.
I have made a backing track as MP3. Does anyone have experience or tips/tricks with an easy set-up to start/stop the backing tracks from stage?
The challenge of backing tracks is that you are then locked into the arrangement. You can't easily do things like add an extra repeat of the chorus or the more subtle things like laying back on the tempo or allowing more space between the instruments. By and large, I'd rather just use live drums and bass with some vocals than to stick an inflexible player like Mr MP3 into the mix. Of course, that's mainly from the perspective of being in the band - arguably, the congregation in a larger church are quite guided by the choices made at the front so they might not notice.
The one place I've found backing tracks worked well was a church I attended for a while which used fairly ambient backing tracks behind some of the songs (no additional instruments). It did require the person leading the singer to be good at starting at the right time for each section (he was) but the arrangments weren't particularly verse / chorus orientated and so songs could be kept going or faded out, as well as adjusting the volume. However, it certainly wasn't the standard "church with band" repertoire.
I've used whole pre-recorded songs to lead worship in church, and as Wolf says, with any kind of backing you get locked into THAT pattern of music with that many verses, that tempo etc.
If you must run it from the stage then use a laptop with a playlist so that you can see clearly where you are, and just work your way through, starting and stopping as needed. It would be worth having something at the start of the backing that counts everyone else in before it kicks off so they can get in time. Make sure you know what key each backing track has been recorded in so that there are no surprises (it even happens to professionals, including a few years back, Van Halen).
I remember that Van Halen video (the clash starts about 1 minute in when the live music begins)!
Mentioning a laptop reminds me that there are tools where you can bring in different blocks and mess with tempos on the fly... but also reminds me that such a thing takes a high level of skill to do fluently so it isn't just a case of installing some software and hitting play.
What is the context, Edwin - why do you want to use backing tracks (along with some live parts) in the first place?
Thank you all for your replies.
The background comes from our pastor, who has asked us (the worship team) to experiment with a dance-beat behind some songs (such as to appeal to the young ones in our church). We usually only have acoustic guitar + piano + singing. No bass and no drums. So that's how I thought of using a backing track.
I have already made the backing track. I have panned the click-track on the right channel of the stereo output and the normal signal on the left and right of the stereo. So if the sound guy sends the right signal to the stage monitors and the left signal to the front-of-house we can hear the click on stage and all start at the right time.
So yes, we will use the backing track in sync with live performance. I understand that this limits (takes away) any freedom in the performance, but that's something we are willing to accept (as it is just for one or two songs).
Question was regarding tools that are used to start/stop the backing track from the stage.
@Toni: Thank you for the reply. Using a laptop might indeed be the easiest, as the screen is big and has physical keys to hit start/stop. (I was thinking of using my iPhone / iPad but then the touch screen may not work properly or I miss the button)
You're welcome Edwin. I used windows media player for playback (so nothing fancy) in half the screen and Songpro projection software in the other half of the screen so I could control words at the same time.
Some playback software lets you use the spacebar to pause playback (VLC for example) and if you will be playing acoustic too it might be useful to have a big target to hit, rather than having to carefully find a small key or worse, use the trackpad.
Ah - I see I was a bit too hasty and misread the original post to imply that you had drums and bass and wanted to add other stuff as a backing track. What you are suggesting is a bit more feasible but I wonder if a slightly different approach would work.
You could set up various drum patterns using a program like Hydrogen (free and open source). You can set up a number of patterns and switching between them isn't too tricky. You can then add everything else via the other instruments, ideally with the bass part coming from the pianist (with a keyboard) or guitarist (with FX). If you just have the rhythms played electronically, that will give more drive to the songs but, because they are harmonically neutral, you've got more freedom to perform what you want over the top.
I'm a little unsure of whether a solid underlying beat is enough to win over the hearts and souls of the youth - if it is just grafted onto regular church, it won't be enough to entertain them and, if the Spirit isn't blowing through it, it won't be enough to bring them life. However, give it a go.
Edwin, do you have an arranger keyboard or just a piano? If you an arranger style keyboard you can do all your backing tracks either live or recorded and still do them the way you need to. It is just an additional way to go, it is what the keyboard was designed to do in the first place and the latest keyboards kill workstaions in that area. They also have samples sounds now that you can change and edit to suit depending on the k'board.
I decided to just use my laptop and run ProTools (in which I have created the backing track) with a line out split right (stage sound incl. click) and left (audience sound excl. click). It worked fine.
Our team does have a "full" band but also use tracks behind us for additional synths, drum effects, etc. It's worked really well and feel it fills out the sound nicely. Sounds like you have it figured out; I do the same thing using Garage Band.
There are apps designed to support this as well. Most exist to sell you tracks. The one I have been working on for a couple years (called WorshipSong Band) is a freeware app designed to support using backing tracks or multitracks in a number of ways. There is somewhat of a learning curve to do all you want with it, but its capabilities might prove interesting for you. It supports things like looping sections, jumping around the song, even things like chord and lyric display.
Please know that I am not trying to sell you anything. My app is freeware and it is a ministry of mine. You can find it on IOS App Store, Google Play, or for free download on our site for Windows and Mac.