A while ago, I began recording backing tracks for myself. I had completed a couple, but then I got sidetracked. I don't remember if I was preparing for a musical or if I just had a bunch of gigs. For whatever reason, I forgot about recording for a while.
Lately, I've started recording backing tracks again with the iPad, and I'm having a blast with it. I'm using Garage Band for the iPad. As recording software goes, it's very scaled down, but I don't need much for what I'm doing. For most tracks, I just record bass, percussion, rhythm guitar, and sometimes a keyboard part. Sometimes I also record a second lead guitar part to harmonize with my live solo guitar. One handy thing about using the iPad for recording is that I can record anywhere. For example, I often record bass and drum parts on Wednesdays at NWUUC after dinner while waiting for my choir to show up. The church has a huge porch, and it's relaxing to sit outside, fire up the iPad, and record a few tracks.
When I perform for background gigs, I mainly play and sing solo with no backing tracks or loops. Two or three hours of purely solo guitar is rough on the hands. Playing with a backing track allows me to play single notes for a while and give my hands a break.
Yesterday, I had a chance to use my backing tracks for the first time on a gig. I played at Tessitura for the 2012 Oakhurst Wine Crawl, singing and playing background music as literally hundreds of people filed through for a glass of wine. Every 20 minutes or so, I threw in an instrumental with a backing track. Not only did this rest my hands, but it provided a nice stylistic change. My music tends to be smooth and relaxing. Even the uptempo tunes come out that way. My backing tracks have more of a groove to them, and they allow me some space to jam. Overall, it was a successful event for both Tessitura and me. I think Tessitura will get more business out of this, and a substantial number of my cards were snatched up. After the wine crawl, I was told that lots of people were commenting on the music. Hopefully those comments, plus the missing business cards, will turn into future gigs.
I'm enjoying the process of recording, and I'm learning a lot. The main thing I learned at the gig was that I need to check the overall balance between tracks using the amp through which I'll be playing the tracks. Headphones aren't enough, especially my cheap headphones. Through the headphones, my tracks sounded balanced. Through the amp, though, I got just enough percussion, a little too much bass, and not quite enough rhythm guitar. I don't think it was noticeable to people standing in line, chatting, and waiting for wine, but it bothered me a little. I'll use my amp and balance out those parts before next week's gig.
*Side note. The only weird part of the gig was when a guy shooting video got up close and personal while I was performing. I often use background gigs to work in new material, and he could have started filming while I was performing something I wasn't entirely comfortable with yet. Fortunately, he got up in my face while I was performing Autumn Leaves, which is a song I can probably perform in my sleep.
- 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.