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?
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.
I have been using backing tracks, purchased or made by me, for over ten years. Everyone here has a valid point and here are some of my observations:
1. Having the "freedom" to change your arrangements on the fly, do an extra repeat, etc can, for many of us, be a non-issue. It depends on your worship style. If your worship service is more of a pentecostal variety, this might be the case and you will need to be able to shift gears at will. But, for most of us, we do the song the same way every time and that's just fine. It sounds to me like you have that kind of worship service. That's what we do and we have no shortage of the Holy Spirit in our worship. But, we do set arrangements.
2. You can use a backing track (let's just call it a click from here on out) and easily extend the worship after it ends with a solo guitar or piano that continues on into prayer. Works well. But what about songs like Here I Am To Worship, prayerful songs like that? Well, I switch to a keyboard that has a split bass guitar on the left/ piano on the right. For songs like that, just having a simple bass part and someone playing a shaker or tambourine will be enough to go with the guitar and voices. An arranger keyboard could also be used in that situation very effectively.
3. We play stereo wav files (Cd quality 16-bit, 44.1) with the click on the left and the intruments on the right. You can use mp3's but I think the wav files sound better when you're running it through a PA. If you use an mp3, use a 320 kbps resolution if you can, it just sounds more clear. I do the mixdown in Reason (we use Praisecharts) and you get the hang of what works and doesn't work with your PA. Bringing the laptop to the church on Saturday and mixing THROUGH the PA is a good learning experience. It isn't what you would want a record to sound like, but it's what you need for your situation.
4. Starting and stopping can be tricky unless you use a DJ style player or a media player like the Gemini DRP-1. There are more expensive options by Denon and others that will do Single-Play. That's the key. Windows Media player and most other software players are designed to play songs one after the other, but I think you can go into the Advanced features and get single play mode, not sure. TIP: always have a longer tail on your tracks than you would normally have. Your finished track should extend another 5-8 seconds after the music has completely stopped so your soundman has a safety margin. Otherwise, your software could start the next click too early.
5. I use a Rolls DB24 ($50 USD) to get the stereo signal out of my laptop and into the board. It's transformer isolated, accepts 3.5mm, RCA and 1/4" inputs and outputs XLR. It's passive, no power supply needed, has gain pots for both channels and built like a tank (you could stand on it). I love it
6. I use the Reason files from Praisecharts, but alot of people are going multitrack. I like multitracks, but they cost more. I have everything I need in Reason and can always record a live bass part if I need to. Actually, the latest bass sample Praisecharts is using sounds really good! I've been a Reason user since 1.1. If you or someone in your group is a Reason user, you might try joining Praisecharts (free) and spend a few coins to try out the tracks they have (less than $25-50 for sure). You need to get your feet wet BEFORE you ever go in front of your congregation. Do rehearsals and runthroughs several times so you can get the hang of it.
7. Since you only need drums and bass, you COULD try making your own tracks. There is a learning curve, but the more you do it, the easier and better you get at it. I'm saying this because it sounds like you have a small group and it might sound a bit artificial if you all of a sudden have a complete band and orchestra coming out of the speakers. USing the built-in metronome on a simple DAW, record a guide track with guitar, then a tambourine track and then the bass. Take out the guitar and you have a simple track.
8. You said your PASTOR wants you to put modern dance beats to the music to bring in young people? Proceed with caution. I don't want to be a pastor basher here, but I have had some unpleasant experiences when pastors want me to go in a radical new direction that is possibly not in line with the majority of the congregation. They didn't like it, complained heavily and I got thrown to the wolves. Of course, I've come up through the "Guitars in the Service?" wars, the "Devil Drums in MY Service" wars, etc. Just proceed with caution. Just a spirited percussion part and bass part may be enough to start with!
9. Other options could be to use a drum machine with someone starting and stopping it, or you could with a footpedal; use a simple looper pedal and chop out some quick beats ala Ed Sheeran for those uptempo tunes. Even without a bass, that would definitely liven up your service and younger people are loving people who loop.
Oops, maybe I droned on and missed your original point? Sorry. A USB pad controller like the Korg Nanopad or the Akai MPD18 would work with a laptop DAW. Or a USB midi controller with transport controls. Anything but a mouse onstage! It would be an even better idea to recruit someone to sit off to the side and do it for you. Make your setup simple, train the person and let them do it. Anyone but you, the worship leader. I think it looks incredibly bad to see the worship leader break the spirit to peer into a laptop and hit a button. A looper loaded with your tracks would be good, too. Make them one-shot loops, start it and it stops itself. The RC-30, like Ed Sheeran uses would be perfect for that.
Mark, that's awesome! I also have a GR-55 and really love the way I can setup alternate tunings with a press of a button.
How are you using your tracks, I mean, are you running the music on the right side and the click and voice cues on the left? Or do you just start it and go like the old accompaniment tracks?
I have a few guitar model user presets and for worship I usually just select a steel string acoustic model. Then I switch the audio player on and step through the backing tracks I've loaded on a memory stick for the worship set. Very simple play/sing along with the backing tracks. I joke with our pastor: It's like worship karaoke.
Multi-tracking and the GR-55 certainly opens up a whole new world of musical possibilities:
That sounds great, I'll have to try it. I'm always a little nervous when combining functions into one unit, but your report is encouraging.
Yeah, you know, calling it karaoke is, to me, a kind of disparaging term for what we're doing these days with clicks and tracks. Sort of an apologetic. I've been using tracks for the past 45 years. Honestly, those wonderful Christmas and Easter musicals and cantatas of the 80's, 90's and into the zeros wouldn't have been the same with just piano and organ! Funny, people don't go home and sit in their Early American straight back chairs and eat by candlelight, so why do they think that worship music should be off-limits to tech?
Just found some great videos on YT with Matt Gilder, the keyboardist and Musical Director for Chris Tomlin. There's an excellent 13 minute one featuring I Will Follow where he explains exactly what's going on live when he's using click, playing live and inserting synth lines, pads, etc via Ableton. Check it out!
I love your tracks. If you want to share them with other churches, message me. I'm looking for churches who want to share track libraries. The Worshipsong Band app is a great way to do so.