I have been doing sound at Fortune Sound Club since day one and had the honor of setting up and mixing a lot of great artist, with over 300 shows under my belt and counting…I came into the Live Sound realm from a musicians and studio back ground for all intense purposes “green” and have done a lot of research about the task at hand and have learnt a lot on the job. One thing I have come to realize is that most artist at a certain level almost always come with “Backing Tracks” . Back in the day this was considered cheating but for cost efficiency in touring and with the advances and affordability of technology this has become standard practice.
Backing tracks come in all types of scenarios, from being as simple as pushing play on an Ipod or as complicated as running multi outputs from a hard disc recorder utilizing a snake (see image 1.) of up to 16 outputs sent through the stage box(see image 2.) to the FOH(front of house) or mix position where the sound technician (me) mix’s the a blend of pre-recorded studio out takes in with the band performing live.
The results are a huge sound that seems to be magically created by the musicians on stage. Common backing tracks contain backing vocals, sound effects, horns sections, ambient pad textures, percussion and even doubled musical parts also performed live by the musicians on stage. Most backing tracks also contain a track that is not heard by the audience but only by the drummer through IEM (Inner Ear Monitors) that contain a click track so the drummer may follow the rhythm and tempo of the pre-recorded backing tracks, the rest of the band follows the drummer. So most of the responsibility of the “magical” performance lies in the drummers keen sense of rhythm.
Next time at a show see if you can notice this and ask yourself “is it live or is it memorex”