This evening I probably set a record for the longest time ever taken to record a backing track. I'll get faster at it. Using recording software is a new skill for me, but one that I'm keen to develop. Once I'm comfortable with it, I'll probably use it to record a solo album. To learn the software (Garage Band), I'm recording backing tracks for myself.
There's some controversy about using backing tracks for professional gigs. The purist says that you should use all live musicians. If you want to play with a group, then hire the musicians. I've felt this way about backing tracks for a long time, but I've recently taken more realistic view.
First, let me say that I prefer playing with other musicians. With a group of live musicians, you get the spontaneity and chemistry that is lacking in prerecorded tracks. Unfortunately, most of my potential clients have been unwilling to pay for a quartet, and so most of my paid gigs are solo gigs. Maybe in the future, as my stock goes up, I'll have more luck convincing people to hire my group, but right now I need to take the gigs that come my way, and that means a lot of solo work.
I enjoy playing solo gigs, but 3 or more hours of solo jazz guitar is rough on the hands. That's where the backing tracks come in. Some people may consider this cheating. I don't. I'm going to be spending hundreds of hours learning the software, recording every single part, and tweaking everything until it's just right. It's an investment of time. When I'm finally ready to use my prerecorded music in public, I'll have a collection of unique backing tracks that I created with my own sweat and creativity.
One unexpected benefit to creating my own tracks is that I'm becoming a better musician. I just finished recording a backing track for Take Five. To help create a good accompaniment, I listened very closely to some recordings, analyzing the bass lines and deconstructing the drum parts, listening to exactly what the drummer was doing with the hi-hat, kick drum, snare, etc. As I continue to record more backing tracks, I'll be sharpening my listening skills and gaining a deeper understanding of jazz and blues.
I'll always prefer playing with other musicians, but once I've recorded a series of tracks, it'll be handy to have another option.
- Tom Godfrey
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.