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jared_p_scott 7th November 2019 12:20 AM

Mixing Backing Tracks
 
Wondering if anyone has any experience mixing live backing tracks and feels like sharing their wisdom?

My assumption is that different considerations are needed for a playback mix to translate (not to mention blend with live musicians) effectively.

Best case scenario I’m looking for real world, tried and tested direction on things like EQ and compression severity, sub bass and using HPF/ LPF, bounce levels and the use of finalizing plugs (Slate FGX etc) and mono vs stereo.
Not to mention anything else that’s vitally important I’m missing.

Any positive info would be helpful and I appreciate the time should anyone decide to chime in.

Cheers lads!

Jared

ericreid 7th November 2019 12:46 AM

Ive mixed plenty of backing tracks for touring bands. Genre plays a role in this as well as what elements you have in your tracks. In rock or smilier genres, most of the time the drummer will need a metronome to follow along the backing tracks so everyone stays on time with the tracks. I do this by sending everything the drummer wants to hear (click, rhythm guitars, ect) to the left channel. that is recorded and then split to mono. This insures no bleed on the right channel with the click. I then pan everything I want on my backing tracks to the right channel. Mix appropriately. Use your ears to balance everything like you want them to be heard. If theres backing vocals or harmonies guitars make sure they aren't crazy loud. then i split that into mono and sum the two mono tracks to a stereo file. This is played through a iPod or laptop or whatever into a mixer sitting by the drummer. the drummer uses headphones to monitor the Left side and the Right side is sent to FOH from his mixer. This obviously makes the backing tracks mono but thats how there gonna played through the mains anyway.

Just master them anywhere between the standard -14 and -10 LUFS (I use a -1dB Ceiling) and make sure they are the same amongst themselves. There is no need to be loud. They've got the tools to make it loud. Best of luck :)

hughshouse 7th November 2019 01:10 PM

I use carefully recorded backup tracks in my one man guitar/vocal show. The protocol I developed is designed to enhance, not subordinate, the the primary audience focus for my live performance. This is IMO the single most important priority for BU tracks deployed in any genre: it's the fine line that separates a live performance from a karaoke show. To this end for a 12 selection set 6 will be supported with BU tracks and the balance will be just me. I have a lot of fun explaining to my audience that my band is no longer interested in listening to my stories that I have been spinning for more than 40 years and furthermore collectively scheduling these top session pros has become virtually impossible.

In my situation I work direct from the song page of my DAW (Studio One 4.5) because this affords the ability to tailor the tracks to accommodate specific venue acoustical and/or installed FOH anomalies. Any sound check that does not pay significant attention to carefully calibrating BU tracks is doomed from the get go. (Live mics first, then blend in the BU tracks to taste)
I never assume a perfect sonic fit for my studio mixes with the various venue systems we work with so my primary goal is to deliver balanced mono tracks that can be panned to taste pursuant to venue capability.
Hugh

robmoles 8th November 2019 12:51 PM

I’ve found it works best if you can do stems rather than just a stereo bounce. It makes it much easier for the sound engineer to make it part of the mix of the band.

Typical setup would be

Perc
‘Music’ - so any pads/programming/synth etc
Guitars
Vocals - extra backing vox etc etc
Lead - anything that should be balanced loud

DrewE 8th November 2019 07:10 PM

A couple of general hints, probably not worth anything more than you've paid to get them: when compared to a traditional studio recording, backing tracks generally should have less (probably substantially less) reverb, as you'll be getting more or less natural--or possibly artificial--reverbation in a live venue. The music arrangement itself often works best if it's simplified down somewhat; subtle nuanced bits often tend to get lost but still contribute to overall muddiness. Creating a stereo mix is okay, but make sure it collapses to mono without problems and be aware that few if indeed anyone in the audience is going to get anything resembling a good stereo image (most people will be significantly closer to one speaker than the other, quite possibly to the point where they can really only hear one of the two channels). That implies that hard pans are generally not useful in this use.

Traditionally, it's not uncommon to make a backing track with one channel a click track and the other a mono backing track. The need for a click track obviously depends a great deal on the makeup of the group and the content of the backing track; if you have sections where the backing track is silent or has long held chords/pads, and so need to stay synchronized without an obvious beat, a click track is well nigh essential. On the other hand, if the backing track has a steady drum beat throughout, that can frequently serve the same purpose (possibly excepting a count-in).

brew 8th November 2019 08:20 PM

Imagine recording a show, then playing it back.

That's how you should treat backing tracks. There are not any different considerations.

admana 10th November 2019 06:12 PM

We are developing a hardware backing track player with separate outputs so you can keep the tracks as stems rather than having to bounce it to stereo. This means the sound guy can still mix your songs for the space you are playing and keep it feeling more 'live'. Check it out here: http://idoru.live/ cooge

Brent Hahn 10th November 2019 06:26 PM

The ones that work best in a live context, for me mixing FOH, have little or no bus compression.

Jason Valentine 11th November 2019 01:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by admana (Post 14314749)
We are developing a hardware backing track player with separate outputs so you can keep the tracks as stems rather than having to bounce it to stereo. This means the sound guy can still mix your songs for the space you are playing and keep it feeling more 'live'. Check it out here: http://idoru.live/ cooge

great concept

admana 12th November 2019 09:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jason Valentine (Post 14315345)
great concept

Thanks, as Brent and others have said above, I've found it best with less compression on backing, but then the mix of the stems still sometimes needs adjusting to the room so should ideally be sent to the desk separately. It was hard to find a good modern solution for this, so we designed our own.

hughshouse 12th November 2019 01:42 PM

Hey folks , this ain't rocket science for those of us that do our own mixing on stage. Most all decent DAWs have processing memory and a two mix feed for the tracks that have been generated. Mix the tracks to fit the venue at the sound check and simply press the song play button when the tracks are needed. IMO most solo or small ensemble acts that deploy pre-recorded tracks manage them from the stage. The ability to deliver stems to a remote console is necessary for some acts however it certainly is not for many of us.
Hugh

Diehljm 15th November 2019 06:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by admana (Post 14317763)
Thanks, as Brent and others have said above, I've found it best with less compression on backing, but then the mix of the stems still sometimes needs adjusting to the room so should ideally be sent to the desk separately. It was hard to find a good modern solution for this, so we designed our own.

This is essentially what I end up doing as well. What was important after trying a bunch of different scenarios is that I wanted to split the sends up as much as possible. So we are rocking 2 PlayAudio iConnects now that gives us 20 outs and I can do a little stem mix within our tracks file and land them very separated on my desk so I can treat them like more inputs from the stage!

admana 15th November 2019 02:01 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hughshouse (Post 14318027)
Hey folks , this ain't rocket science for those of us that do our own mixing on stage. Most all decent DAWs have processing memory and a two mix feed for the tracks that have been generated. Mix the tracks to fit the venue at the sound check and simply press the song play button when the tracks are needed. IMO most solo or small ensemble acts that deploy pre-recorded tracks manage them from the stage. The ability to deliver stems to a remote console is necessary for some acts however it certainly is not for many of us.
Hugh

Just curious, is it not quite annoying to have to keep jumping on and off the stage during sound check to adjust things though? I'm assuming you mean physically being on-stage and doing the FOH mix from there?

hughshouse 16th November 2019 01:25 PM

As many of the readers of these threads are aware I have been deeply involved in the acoustic Americana genre for 50 years. For many reasons maintaining control of sound reinforcement from the stage was preferable to the hit or miss realities of individual channel console manipulation with venue personnel. The primary reason for this is the importance for the performers on stage to be free to shape their own blend and dynamic control. This is particularly true of vocal trios and quartets that rely upon clean monitoring of the house SR in their monitors: be they wedges, or in/over the ear devices. The sound check determines needed individual channel processing adjustments and the stage two mix delivered to venue SR will be appropriately calibrated by venue personnel when fannies are in the seats. 20 years ago we decided to work from seated positions with as many as six performers on stage. This made the use of side addressed tube studio mic placement between the instrument and the performers face possible to capture instrument and vocal simultaneously: this was a huge improvement for my video work. I use KV2 EX10 wedges that are HP trimmed to replace the mids and highs lost in the house SR stack rear bloom. There are no hot back line amps to deal with so we can carefully listen to each other with a stage mix that should be very close to the house sound.

10 years ago we moved away from traditional Bluegrass into a more diversified performance that included selections requiring my CP5 stage piano and kit loops. The move to working solo with pre recorded tracks is a natural progression from my studio and video recording work and was absolutely necessary for collective personnel scheduling reasons. For small venue gigs I provide the SR with a QUsb and an AT4060 tube mic along with either EX10s or an rcf Evox 12 system. When the occasion calls for it I use my Digigrid/Waves LV1 processing for two mix delivery to venue systems as I have previously described.
I maintain complete control of the recorded stems and my mic exactly the same way I did with the band seated next to me. It really is no big deal.
Hugh

DJRAZZ 20th December 2019 02:35 PM

Mixing the tracks as though they are musician's in the band is the key. Also not everyone needs to hear the click track; just the drummer. That will keep the live feel. The songs must be well rehearsed and all musician's must be very familiar with the designed arrangement.

In a smaller type group, a drum machine or recorded drums synced to the tracks will get it done. If there are no drums everyone will need a click track or a pre-recorded instrument that let's them know where they are in the song. It must be something they can hear well in the monitors.

lesfousfrogs 28th December 2019 12:50 PM

I always try to have things well compressed - in a live situation you don't need or usually want the sort of dynamic range you do for a recording.

Getting the mix spot on at home or in the studio is always a bit tricky. They always sound different at full volume through the PA. Its a pain (and a bit dangerous) to use a DAW live but I recently found this small and so far solid solution www.gigcontrol.com which allows multiple tracks (stem mixes, clicks etc) which are sample-locked. There is a mixer page where you tweak and save the mix. Plus live multi-track recording of the show - also useful for virtual soundchecks.

Cheers