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Playing Live with PreRecorded Tracks Audio Interfaces
Old 19th May 2006
  #1
Gear Nut
 

Talking Playing Live with PreRecorded Tracks

One of my favorite local bands had a show the other night and I was amazed at how closely their sound was to the CD. It sounded amazing. I later found out that the band all had in ear monitors and that the drummer was playing to a click track. Mixed in with the live band were doubled vocal choruses, synth stuff, maybe some doubled guitars, and a lot of pre recorded background vox. It sounded huge and amazing and I could actually hear label guys talking about how good this band was live.

So how is this done? I am the only one who can sing in my band and the lack of background vocals live compared to the tons of it on our disc makes our live show sound like ass. It seems like you would need three sync'd tracks going into the monitors, one for the click that DOES NOT go through the mains, and then the other tracks like bgrnd vox and such that DOES go to the mains.

More questions: Do you guys think this is cheating? From what I've been told, a lot of rock bands are doing this now, Disturbed being one of them (and lo and behold they sounded amazing live as well).

If the live guitarist is panned hard left and a pre recorded guitar is panned right, does this open a hole for the center vocal like it would in a mix or does the live acoustic make it different?
Old 19th May 2006
  #2
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seaneldon's Avatar
 

the following is 100% opinion:

if i wanted to hear a band's cd i'd buy the cd.

a live show is supposed to be way less sterile and scientific than a recording. it's supposed to be different and exciting, and i think it's a huge crock of **** when any band has the nerve to rely on a click and use prepared tracks. it's all an illusion. if they sound "good" because of this, they're lying to you. strip a band down to amps and drums in a room with a ****ty PA, if they still sound good, THAT'S a great live show. not this crap you're describing.
Old 19th May 2006
  #3
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AlexLakis's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Analog
If the live guitarist is panned hard left and a pre recorded guitar is panned right, does this open a hole for the center vocal like it would in a mix or does the live acoustic make it different?
Depends on who's running sound! Most live sound guys I know are running all mono or nearly all mono to avoid issues with the acoustical space, feedback, individuals' placement in the audience, etc. And, to answer your question, naturally, yes, it would, although you have to realize that some of the sound will be picked back up by the mics, smearing the image a bit. Don't know exactly how big a problem that is for guys hard panning live, as I am not a live sound engineer.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Analog
More questions: Do you guys think this is cheating? From what I've been told, a lot of rock bands are doing this now, Disturbed being one of them (and lo and behold they sounded amazing live as well).
And, lo and behold, THEY'RE LAME!

As seaneldon said, if you wanna hear the record, stay home. Then you don't have to worry about paying for tickets, driving to the show, paying too much for drinks, having some sweaty fat guy rubbing up against you screaming lyrics in your ear, etc. Live shows should be live. BY DEFINITION. I can hang with using samplers and whatnot, but only if the loops are built live.

I also hate it when people get pissed off when a band changes up the song arrangement live. I remember a lot of teenie-boppers being pissed off at Bush because they'd change their songs up. LIVE A LITTLE, PEOPLE!!
Old 19th May 2006
  #4
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Cap'n Spanky's Avatar
 

Geez this is a tough one for me It's kind of akin to using steriods in sports, as far as the cheating aspect of it goes. I can't pass judgement on it, though. I used to play with my own tracks when I did a single act. But that was mostly cover songs.
Old 19th May 2006
  #5
Lives for gear
You do it like this:

Get a minidisc. Mix down all the elements you want to use live into the L channel. Click on the R. Then, get a 1/8" to stereo L/R cable, send the L out to a DI that goes into the house mix, and the R to a headphone amp. There's your click.

Just make sure you have 4 clicks BEFORE the 4 clicks to cue the band. Or it'll be allll messed up. Also make sure the FOH mixer gives a s*it - too loud can be really embarrasing.

REHEARSE THIS many times.

Bigger bands take around multitrack rigs with them for this reason. That way they can send all the elements seperately to the FOH for individual tweaking.

Depends on the kind of music, I think, with regards to if it's 'cool'.
Old 19th May 2006
  #6
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
Yeah the minidisc is good. More convoluted but giving you a lot more options is Ableton Live.

Cheating question is up to you. Once overdubbing and tracking started in the studio all bets were off as to cheating.
Old 19th May 2006
  #7
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this has been going on for years and years. in some respects, you're almost "behind the game" if you're NOT doing it. the advent of laptop-based recording rigs makes it a LOT more fool-proof too. gone are the days where the tape loop breaks or the cd skips.

i mean, this isn't restricted to the milli vanilli's and ashlee simpsons of the world anymore, either.......even Rush uses pre-recorded backing vocals in their live shows. sure they trigger all of them themselves from onstage......but they still use them. is that cheating? probably so.

me, i'm not so hip to the idea. give me a PA for vocals and kick, and let the guitar and bass amps handle guitars and bass and be done with it. just get out there and play.

but in doing the "real" thing.....you need to be completely cognizant of the fact that there are other bands (who may be your "competition") out there who are playing to pre-recorded tracks.

sure it's "cheating"......but it's the norm these days. unless you're playing in an unamplified acoustic session, all bets are off as to what's "real", "live" and "not".


cheers,
wade
Old 19th May 2006
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Fans deserve to hear you at your best. Having 0 background vocals where the album has tons of it isn't our best. Is it cheating that i did all the background on the album too?

I think the background vocals and a little bit of doubled lead vocal chorus will really enhance us on stage and present a more pro sound. It'll just sound more impressive. Its completely accepted in the POP world. Why not rock? Thanks for breakin down the system with minidisc, seems like a cheap and easy way to start. I'll look into Abelton live.. As for laptops, I'd be more afraid of them crashing then a minidisc. I also dig our drummer being in control of it rather then a sound guy.

The "competition" aspect of this, especially in LA, is the deal winner for me. We need to compete, we need to impress any random label guys in the venue, and we need to get closer to our recorded sound.
Old 19th May 2006
  #9
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synthoid's Avatar
 

The Alesis HD24 is a great piece of gear for this. Record background parts to it, and a click track on one of its tracks. The extra hard drive can be a duplicate that you pop over too in case of failure.

If you use a choir and strings on a song, should you never perform it live if you can't put a choir and orchestra on the stage?

-synthoid
Old 19th May 2006
  #10
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drockfresh's Avatar
the two best live shows I've seen in the last few years used pre-recorded tracks: 1. Mr. Bungle (thumbsup thumbsup) 2. Flaming Lips
Old 19th May 2006
  #11
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sleepwalker's Avatar
 

I personally hate this. When I can identify that the band is playing to a CD player, I lose all respect for them and I will never watch them live again. Sparta is an example here.

Conversely, if a band strips a very produced album down to something basic, I gain a lot of new respect. I saw the band Muse lately. Their album has a billion things going on and they condensed it into a 3pc live set. Amazing, I didn't even really like the band that much before the show.

I recently saw Tool and the drummer was triggering guitar samples. I'm mixed on this, but at least they're being triggered.

WHY WOULD YOU PLAY TO A CD PLAYER? It's crazy.

That said, I definitely don't mind people playing to a sequencer if it's triggering FX changes, lights, samples, etc.

In the end, it's about whether or not the band is cheating you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Analog
One of my favorite local bands had a show the other night and I was amazed at how closely their sound was to the CD. It sounded amazing. I later found out that the band all had in ear monitors and that the drummer was playing to a click track. Mixed in with the live band were doubled vocal choruses, synth stuff, maybe some doubled guitars, and a lot of pre recorded background vox. It sounded huge and amazing and I could actually hear label guys talking about how good this band was live.

So how is this done? I am the only one who can sing in my band and the lack of background vocals live compared to theh thes of it on our disc makes our live show sound like ass. It seems like you would need three sync'd tracks going into the monitors, one for the click that DOES NOT go through the mains, and then the other tracks like bgrnd vox and such that DOES go to the mains.

More questions: Do you guys think this is cheating? From what I've been told, a lot of rock bands are doing this now, Disturbed being one of them (and lo and behold they sounded amazing live as well).

If the live guitarist is panned hard left and a pre recorded guitar is panned right, does this open a hole for the center vocal like it would in a mix or does the live acoustic make it different?
Old 19th May 2006
  #12
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
Even some jazz acts like Chick Corea have been known to do it. It completely depends on what the artist has in mind and how he/she believes they can best represent their work.

For me if it's done to enhance the compositions and performances it's fine. If it's used to help pull off performances that otherwise would be impossible due to lack of musicianship up to the task at hnd I don't dig it. But as I said, the queston of cheating went out with multi tracking and going back to fixing it in the tracking room.

BTW I'd love to be able to turn back the clock to get rid of overdubbing, when the musicians held sway over the producers . . .
Old 19th May 2006
  #13
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sleepwalker's Avatar
 

that's interesting. I love bungle. What types of things were canned?



Quote:
Originally Posted by platypus
the two best live shows I've seen in the last few years used pre-recorded tracks: 1. Mr. Bungle (thumbsup thumbsup) 2. Flaming Lips
Old 19th May 2006
  #14
Gear Nut
 

Does the click track side usually include a bit of prerecorded guitar or something for the drummer to play to rather then just playing to a click the whole show? Or do they usually one ear it? Also, anyone use a 5.1 DVD player to run multiple outs?

I'm thinking I would have a rack of DVD Player, 4 outputs to a rack mixer with pans to make a stereo mix of stuff that will go out stereo to the main snake, and the other output feeding a rackmount headphone amp that feeds click and whatever else to the drummer.

Sound good? Are there any decent digital four tracks out there that can hold enough data for a 60 minute performance?

Also, why would anyone choose minidisc over a simple CD player, doesn't the latter sound better?
Old 19th May 2006
  #15
Lives for gear
Last I remember when seeing them, they all trigger samples from keyboards (incl. Mike Patton).

So not exactly a 'backup track'

Also, they bring a formidable band with them that switch to different instruments here and there (not to mention a dedicated percussionist).

I guess for a local band, you can't afford to hire the horn players that played on the really great song that always gets a great reaction live, so you have it on a minidisc or whatever....big deal.
Old 19th May 2006
  #16
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Rednose's Avatar
A tip is to have the first 4 counts 1/4 notes and the second 4 counts 1/8th notes.
This way, if tape gets miss cued, the drummer will still be able to cue the band correctly.
Experiment with different mixes, with only one track for FOH it can be tricky.
Playing to tape isn't exactly a treat, I would try to get your dudes singing if thats all that you need on tape.
I know getting band dudes singing could even be harder, good luck!
Old 19th May 2006
  #17
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Rednose's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Analog
Does the click track side usually include a bit of prerecorded guitar or something for the drummer to play to rather then just playing to a click the whole show? Or do they usually one ear it? Also, anyone use a 5.1 DVD player to run multiple outs?

I'm thinking I would have a rack of DVD Player, 4 outputs to a rack mixer with pans to make a stereo mix of stuff that will go out stereo to the main snake, and the other output feeding a rackmount headphone amp that feeds click and whatever else to the drummer.

Sound good? Are there any decent digital four tracks out there that can hold enough data for a 60 minute performance?

Also, why would anyone choose minidisc over a simple CD player, doesn't the latter sound better?
Because CDS and DVDS skip, tape doesnt!
A skip can spell disastor, believe me!
Old 19th May 2006
  #18
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Jazzpunk's Avatar
 

Who can believe that this is what it has come to?! I remember G.E. Smith being interviewed on N.P.R. after the infamous Ashlee Simpson SNL 'performance'. I just sat in my car cringing as he explained how, 'these days in the industry there are two accepted standards; 'Live' and 'Live live'. Apparantly by lipsynching Ashley was in the 'Live' catagory. What a joke!

It's depressing.
Old 19th May 2006
  #19
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rednose
Because CDS and DVDS skip, tape doesnt!
A skip can spell disastor, believe me!
Yeah, and I'll give you about a 100% chance that IT WILL skip if you try to use it onstage. I'd even worry about the minidisc - never put it on top of your monitor.

I used to bring a pillow to put that thing on.
Old 19th May 2006
  #20
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drockfresh's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by thejook
Last I remember when seeing them, they all trigger samples from keyboards (incl. Mike Patton).

So not exactly a 'backup track'

Also, they bring a formidable band with them that switch to different instruments here and there (not to mention a dedicated percussionist).
I agree.......it was far from being Karoake.......most (if not all) the pre-recorded stuff was triggered by midi.......wow.......what an amazing live show

the flaming lips......on the other hand......did seem to have plenty of pre-recorded background tracks when I saw them on the yoshimi tour (where they had a live drummer)...but it was still awesome. Even if 40% of what I heard was pre-recorded (and I'm not saying it was), the live drums, bass, guitar, lead vocals, topless women, light show, and rabbit costumes made it a fun, great sounding experience. The overall sound was huge.
Old 19th May 2006
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

Okay I'll give my opinion on this. We use tracks all the time in our band. We are mainly a cover band with some originals playing festival, clubs, lots of corporate, and private functions around Chicago and doing some occasional travel for corporate shows. We are 4 pieces (bass, drums, guitar, female lead singer). 3 people in the band sing. We play a huge variety of material including a ton of Top 40 Pop and Rock stuff as well as a ton of retro rock and dance. Being that we are only 4 pieces, we use the pre-recorded tracks to cover keyboard parts, horn parts, extra guitar parts if necessary, percussion, and loops to re-create the sounds as best we can. We don't blow vocals though, we cover all those live.

Sure we would love to have a keyboardist and a second guitarist, but to stay cost competive in our market and make a decent buck doing shows, running background tracks is essential. Also, years ago after we looked over at the bar and saw our keyboardist waiting in line to get a beer when he was supposed to be starting and singing the next song is when our experiment with sequenced background tracks began.

In all that time, we never had any complaints from the audience about it. They like the fact that we can re-create a lot of the popular songs very close to the radio and our lead singer is awesome so people really don't care very much about how we do it. Sure there are some musician in the audience who might have a problem with it, but in the long run, the format has been very successful for us.

Here is how we do it. I create all the sequences in Pro Tools and record what ever parts are necessary. I export out wave files of summed keyboard tracks (L/R), summed percussion and loops (L/R), click track (mono), extra guitar parts if needed (L/R). All the files are then imported in Sonar which is run off of a Gateway tablet notebook connected to a Motu 828MKII interface. Outs 1-2 are Keys and Guitars, 3 is count offs, 5-6 are percusssion, 8 is click track. I use Sonar because it is the only program that has a playlist function that you can have either go right to the next song or pause until you hit a key. It has been rock solid. We load the set list before each set (our sets always vary) and I (I'm the drummer) can load and delete songs with my left hand while playing with my right.

The band is all in-ears and we carry our own monitor desk with our own split snake.

That is how we do it.

www.lisa-rene.com for information on the band.
Old 19th May 2006
  #22
Gear Addict
 

I hate paying to a click even in the Studio. No way I would do that live.

-Gary
Old 19th May 2006
  #23
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by garymusic
I hate paying to a click even in the Studio. No way I would do that live.

-Gary
I am guessing you haven't played a lot with a click. To me, I really don't hear the click anymore. I have played so many shows with it. The key is to be able to groove with the click and let the click sink into your playing. You also get to the point where you are able to play behind the click, on the click, or on top of the click for different feels. I treat the click as a percussionist. I basically mostly listen to the tracks rather the click.

Just my .02 cents.
Old 19th May 2006
  #24
Gear Nut
 

Joe, do you have some of the instruments going to your in ears as well as the click?
what kind of monitor board do you have? and how do you split the snake, does the board have a passive XLR bay to go to the main snake?
Old 20th May 2006
  #25
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david1103's Avatar
 

I am informed that mini disk will fail or skip if it gets near a smoke machine, also of course, the quality is worse than mp3

I have been using audio and midi with a laptop/cubase/edirol usb sound card for ages with no problems, BUT this is not ideal as the hard drive could skip if the volume of the show was loud enough. Also I think the lap top is waiting before our biggest gig before it explodes!!

I think the ideal solution would be a hardware mp3 player with the music on a memory card. This is very cheap and plenty of choice, no skipping possible. Maybe a mono mix on one channel, and click on the other for some purposes.

If you need midi aswell maybe a mp3 based portastudio with midi built in... i think that will be my next purchase for this type of thing.

Had a quick look on google and found http://www.solidstatesound.co.uk/ which has a lot of solid state equipment!

As for the whole politics of playing live with a backing, some people are over reacting. Sometimes it is so much of an electronic band's sound that it has to be done... the idea of the musicians switching to guitar/drums/bass would be stupid.

David
Old 20th May 2006
  #26
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max cooper's Avatar
 

I've toured with lots of bands that have done this. It's hard to predict who's gonna be doing it, too.

I've seen a lot of ADAT's out there still.

I think they're stable and you have enough tracks.

We were always way to frugged up to follow a click live. Plus, we'd have stuff happen like the drummer would drop a few beats to throw up (I'm really, really not kidding) and we figured it would be better to drop the beats than to have them keep playing when the drummer was puke-ing.

I wish I were kidding.
Old 20th May 2006
  #27
Gear Nut
 

I have a Samsung MP3 player. I guess I can try it first with that.
So the click headphone amp thing I get. What do i need for the other side to get to the house mixer with, a DI BOX?
Old 20th May 2006
  #28
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s.d.finley's Avatar
This should be called FRAUD!! Is it LIVE or is it Memeorex? When you PAY for a LIve performance, that is what you should get.

sdf
Old 20th May 2006
  #29
Smile

i've been doing this for years and years. this is nothing new.

u2 has been doing it for years with their "war room" under the stage.

it's a great way to make any band sound huge, ambient, professional, consistent
(as in, like the recordings), competitive,
and completely blow everyone else around you away.

to get it really right, you need an md, or band doing their own md'ing,
who REALLY knows thair sh&t.

it takes a lot of work, rehearsal, and a good amount of planning,
and of course, GEAR: READ - BUDGET,
including sound guys, who REALLY know their SH*T
(AND LIKE you : ), to run your stuff.

iow, it's gonna be NEAR UNPOSSIBLE with a band who gets together occasionally,
in a rented rehearsal space (no fairly standardized set-up), with really loose
material and loose players who can't play to a click, have no in-ear experience,
constantly fighting over direction, etc., to pull this off.

imo, this is THE way to go, if you wanna sound HUGE live, and
really compete in the very PRODUCTION-based media environment in
which we currently live.

any band performing before you, or behind you, will simply NOT be able to compete with your sound, if you do it right.

and the audience LOVES it.

MOST OF THE TIME, they love a band that actually SOUNDS HUGE,
PRODUCED, AND RIGHT, AND LIKE THE RECORDING.

it does take a GOOD PLAN, a LOT of work, a decent budget, and a really good support system -
management, label, a bunch of wealthy people in the band, or friends or relatives of the band, etc.

you can accomplish this with all of the above components, or just some of them, depending on how
resourceful and hard-working you and your fellow project members are.

having a band of great players with a SERIOUS work ethic helps A LOT, too.
(especially, if they ACTUALLY LIKE working with each other : )

planned, arranged parts/ material (more md stuff) & a really tight/ rehearsed set-list is, basically, IMPERATIVE.

imo, if you're asking this question NOW, you've got anywhere from 2-5 years ahead of you to reach success
in this area, if you're VERY LUCKY - meaning,

THERE EXISTS, or you procure or assemble:

*a kickass business plan that everyone involved in your project believes in
- in other words, everyone knows WHY they're there, tirelessly working their asses off
week after week, month after month, year after year, etc.
(for example, respective "band" members have a cut of publishing, are hired, or have nothing better to do : )

*an extraordinarily charismatic front person that makes everyone in the room (rehearsal and live) REALLY excited
(this, along with the band and material, will be the "fuel" for your vehicle).

*kickass live material

*kickass parts crafted with a serious, genious, successful md/ producer, etc.

*a kickass band of experienced open-minded warriors/ co-worker musicians with similar direction,
TIRELESS work ethic (who all get along AMAZINGLY well), and respond REALLY well
to criticism (both internal and external) and react dynamically and intelligently to
constructive artistic (including material & performance items),
personnel, business/ management direction & changes, etc.)

*a kickass rehearsal facility - meaning, convenient to everyone,
able to permanently house all live project trinkets (which will be MANY, for this kind of project)

* a tireless work schedule, for example 6 months of 6 day, 3-6 hour a day rehearsals
this also means additional regular "a capella", acoustic (breakdown) and "performance" rehearsals, etc.
(if you're u2 or bill gates, you might have millions of dollars to cut corners,
and if you're blind peg legged sleepy one-eyed johnson, you don't give a f*ck)

*ridiculously symbiotic and integrated kickass gear (budget & knowledge/experience-base)

*kickass gearslutz to consult with you on your system designs, purchases and configs
(this means everything from in-ear, backing tracks, any synchronized performance stuff - lighting, pyro, etc.,
stage monitoring, FOH, multiple personal in-ear monitoring mixing, mutiple subgroup mixes for
click, sound effects, cues, count-offs, etc., emergency sync failure back up management systems, etc.)

*kickass gearslutz to help you run your systems, travel with you, etc.

*kickass internal and external management to make all this stuff work -
everything from traveling gear checklists, scheduling/ co-ordinating with club management -
(remember, you're dealing with a SPECIALIZED technical system protocol -
and this can be UPSETTING, to say the least, to grouchy old dog club guys and sound guys,
who just want you in and out),
to personnel management, scheduling, etc.

AND YOU HAVE A LOT OF LUCK FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE, ETC.

just my $.02

good luck
Old 20th May 2006
  #30
Gear Guru
 
henryrobinett's Avatar
Well you do get live performance, with augmentation. I'm not looking at this as REPLACING what would've been played live by someone who can't play it live, but rather as orchestrating; bring the studio concept to live. Why is it not considered cheating by most to do this in the studio?
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