How to use a backing track

You’ve got your backing track prepared and you’re ready to rock out on stage, but how?

Posted: 19 November 2019

A backing track is there to help you fill in the gaps of your live performance. It’s not always easy to have an army of backing singers on stage or have someone working a synth for all of your one shots and FX. It makes much more sense to just put all of those elements into a backing track so that you are always able to perform with your band at its core. But how do you set this up?

What you’ll need

For this, you’re going to need three things: something to play your backing track from, in ear monitors for your drummer and cables to connect everything up.

Something to play your backing track from

This is most likely going to be a laptop but it can be anything that has a headphone jack on it, such as an MP3 player or even your phone. The main thing to keep in mind is that, whatever you use, it’s got to be easy to press play. The laptop is often the best bet for this as you can just hit the spacebar. It’s important that the signal you send out to the engineer is balanced, so for this you’ll need to use a DI box.

In-ear monitors

You’ll need these for your drummer. Why? Because staying in time with the backing track is absolutely key. Playing the backing track from your laptop is the easy part but staying in time to it, as a band, can be a bit of a challenge. That’s why the backing track you have prepared will have its signal split. Instead of the backing track going down the left and right, it will only go down the left, to the PA system/ sound engineer. The right side will have a click track running through it that is perfectly in time with your backing track and this will be going to your drummer’s in-ear monitors. This allows them to keep in perfect time with the backing track, and prevent any mistimed mayhem.

Something extra to consider is that it might be worth using an in-ear monitoring system to send that click track to every member of the band. When your song has sections without drums, it will still be easy for the rest of the band to stay in time with the backing track.

Limitations

While this is the cheapest and easiest way to perform with your backing tracks, it does limit you in the fact that you lose your stereo sound due to the signal being split. One way around this if you have the extra gear available, is to use an audio interface which allows you to keep your backing track in stereo while still allowing you to have that extra channel for your click track and drummer.

Extras

If you don’t want to use a laptop or you want something with a bit more functionality, there are a couple more options available to you:

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