Practising with Backing Tracks

We often focus on the use of Backing Tracks for performance as a substitute for live musicians, especially in the classical field. A standard backing track gives you something to sing or play over the top of, and in preparation we often tailor our performance to suit the backing track rather than the other way around. This can hamper our musicality, and hold back the expression that we can give to our performance. 

So what are the positives for our development and performance that we can get from using backing tracks?

Train your inner pulse : “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”, or words to that effect from Pablo Picasso, sum this up nicely. As with any aspect of our technique, ear and pulse training are crucial, and teachers around the world prescribe metronome practice to students as a way of kicking that inner pulse into gear. The use of good quality backing tracks can make this a more enjoyable and fulfilling experience.

Visualise your performance : From the comfort of your practice room it can often be challenging to recreate and prepare for how you will feel in a stage or studio environment. Being able to give a full audio recreation of the sound that you will hear in performance certainly makes this an easier process allowing for a well-prepared performance.

Playback through speakers : This allows you to prepare for a live scenario, hearing the accompaniment as you would in a performance situation.

Playback through headphones : This is great training for a studio environment. Most classical singers and instrumentalists like to keep the headphones off one ear so that you can hear a combination of the track or accompaniment and your live sound in the room. Moving from practising without headphones to suddenly needing to perform with them and the red light ON can be disconcerting without preparation.

Become more tech-savvy : Classical singers and instrumentalists have a reputation for being ‘behind the curve’ in terms of changing technologies and how they can help us. Spending endless hours in the acoustic environment of a practice room often keeps us away from the developments that are easily seen by musicians in other genres. Perhaps something that we have all learnt over the course of a terrible 2020 and beyond is that technology is something to be fully embraced if we want to reach audiences beyond the thresholds of our own homes.

Using backing tracks and some basic home recording techniques is a really fantastic way of developing our musicality in ways that we perhaps did not expect a few years ago.

Source great backing tracks : As with anything else in life, we can be limited by the quality of the resources that we use. Great quality tracks that have been tailored to your needs with a sense of realism and musicality really can enhance your preparation and performance rather than being a mere tool. 

Please visit or email John Hutchinson at to discuss how bespoke classical backing tracks can help to bring your project to life.

Achieving a classical recording sound at home

I decided to put finger to keyboard after recently coming across a sudden abundance of home recording advice and expertise online, some of which is often counter-productive when trying to create a natural-sounding recording of your voice or instrument at home.

There is a lot of great post-lockdown advice on the technical stuff, setting yourself up with a good microphone, interface/pre-amp, deciding what software or DAW to use. I am very happy to chat to anyone who wants any advice on this (please do drop me a line to but in this article I am dealing with the absolute basics:

The Room – ‘They’ tell you to record yourself as dry as possible with no sound reflections, close up to a decent microphone so that the audio can be manipulated to the max by expert mix engineers. However one of the biggest defining factors to a classical or more natural sound rather than a commercial sound, is that the space that we perform in as actually part of the music! Music is written to be performed in a particular space, so it is important that we keep this in mind while planning where to record ourselves.

A makeshift vocal booth made from wrapping a duvet around your head and the microphone is not the way to go. Find the acoustic in your house that you feel most comfortable singing in. The aim is to find a balance between resonance/reflection (most easily achieved by a bare room with no carpets or furniture) and detail (most easily achieved wrapped up in a duvet). The space in between is the warmth that we want. Find a nice resonant acoustic if you can, and then treat it slightly to dampen it down. This can be done with the aforementioned duvet perhaps pinned to an expanse of bare wall if there is one, or a rug placed in the middle of the floor for example.

Microphone Technique – ‘They’ tell you to position the mic as close to you as possible. This gives you an accurate recording, cuts down on background noise and interference, and gives you the most scope for adding effects to the sound afterwards. This does not take into account that we then miss out completely on the space that our music is being performed in, also adversely affecting our performance if we can not hear any natural resonance to our voice or instrument.

I would recommend placing whatever mic you are using at least 2-3 metres away, and then pointing yourself 20-30 degrees either to the left or right of the mic – whichever side has the most ‘space’ around it. This should give you a good balance of the resonance and detail and hopefully give you some natural warmth

Some mics and pre-amps have a low cut feature. This cuts out the very lowest frequencies when you record – this can be really useful if you are concerned about background noise such as the rumble of passing cars etc. If you don’t have this feature, this can be adjusted afterwards with some EQ. Again, please do drop me a line if you want any help or advice on this. 

Make sure that you check you microphone levels by singing or playing louder passages and checking that the red light doesn’t come on in your interface or in within whatever software you are using. If the levels max out, the sound will distort and this can not be fixed after the fact.

The most important thing is that you are recording your best possible performance with the best possible natural sound. We can fix or adjust any audio issues that occur as a result of this, however if our focus is on just getting the most detailed sound (wrapped in our duvet), you can not add the musicality of a performance in afterwards!

For regular updates, and also to receive a FREE orchestral performance track, please click the link below:

How do changing technologies effect the way that we promote our music online?

All tracks at continue to be created and licensed for each musician’s own exclusive use, so there is no possibility of tracks being duplicated by other artists. 

Why is this important? As audio recognition software gets more and more sophisticated, tracks can often be rejected by streaming platforms or music libraries because elements of your musical creations have also been used by other artists.

At has long been considered the case that that you can purchase a fully licensed track off the shelf, record your own vocal or instrumental solo over the top, add some mixing polish, and the new musical creation is now yours. This has not changed, your duties as a recording artist have not changed with regard to making sure that you all all relevant copyright clearances etc.

What IS changing is the level to which software can analyse and potentially question or reject tracks that contain the same recorded elements, such us backing tracks.

This is why it is important that you give as much thought and attention to the accompaniment that you use as you would to your own performance!

‘Audio fingerprinting’ as it is often referred to, is now commonplace in commercial releases, and it is starting to become more commonplace for content for platforms such as YouTube, where perhaps you have considered the music to be primarily promotional.

If you have any questions about this or would like advice on how best to tailor your tracks, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

‘Off the peg’ tracks can still be a great tool for rehearsing and arranging. Sign up for occasional updates below, and we will send you a FREE Orchestral Backing Track of your choice (choose between Let the Bright Seraphim, O Sole Mio, Ave Maria and O Divine Redeemer).

“Is this just karaoke?”

In those halcyon, pre-COVID days when gigs were not aplenty, but they did however exist on a regular basis, it was very easy to look at pre-records and backing tracks as taking work away from jobbing musicians. There are some circumstances in which I might agree with this argument. For instance a venue that has the budget for a full band but opts to employ a single musician with tracks at a fraction of the cost, is damaging and takes much-needed money out of the industry.

This is a much broader question though. Generally, in my experience a soloist performing with tracks is operating in a different market. There are also cases where this brings live music into venues that otherwise, could not consider it.

Along with affordability, the key factor surely has to be (as with anything else of value) quality. Many of the critics of performers using tracks equate it to karaoke. With the performers that I have worked with to create tracks, nothing could be farther from the truth. These are artists across broad genres (classical, jazz, crossover, musical theatre, pop, rock) that want every element of their performance to be as good as it can be.

Granted, pre-programmed performance tracks do not give the same scope for spontaneity as a live accompaniment. However you can still achieve an individual performance with the ebb and flow of tempo, dynamics, arrangement, and all of the other important factors in a beautiful performance. They can also be completely tailored to how you want it.

And now we live in a very different time. Restrictions on live performances are sending us all online – for now this is our only outlet. Our YouTube channels and Facebook pages provide the venues for our performances. This can feel like a daunting change… but it needn’t be.

If you want to look at having some fully customised performance tracks created to spruce up your social media, live streams or remote recording projects, please do get in touch with me. I can help!