mp3 bit rates

A backing track user called Paul contacted me about mp3 encoding for backing tracks:

Hi Kenny
Can you please give me some advice on what settings to
save my tracks as files i.e Mpeg Audio(*mp3). or wave (wav)
etc and what attributes – LAYER 3 acm 44100Hz 128 kbs.etc
so as to attain max quality playback sound due to the fact
my tracks have lost some of their oomph since using mp3
on laptop
Cheers Mate

Hi Paul

Encoding to mp3 only compresses the size of an already existing music file, so, if the existing music file is already poor sonic quality, no matter which bit-rate you use to encode that file, it’s still going to sound just as poor as the original file you encoded it from. It’s a bit like baking a cake and starting with poor quality ingredients. Yes, you could use the very best stove or oven money can buy to bake it, You could even have the ingredients mixed and cooked to perfection by the best chef in the world. But it’s still going to taste awful because it started it’s life with poor quality ingredients (it’s the old saying, rubbish in, rubbish out).

In normal mp3 music encoding, the higher the bit-rate, the better the sonic quality (so 320 kb/s will give you better quality sound than 128 kb/s).

However if you are using backing tracks in a live gigging situation 128 kb/s will produce much better results for you.

My article about mp3 encoding explains this paradox in more detail:




Drum loops

Tom from Leicester asked me a question about how to get a hold of some drum patterns so that he could jam along with his guitar…

I am after a very simple drumbeat machine or software.
I don’t want to make my own loops or anything. Just
want a good selection of beats so I can play along with
my guitar in my room. Any thoughts?

Hi Tom

If you were intending recording with the drum beats there’s no substitute for a dedicated hardware drum machine.

But for rehearsal purposes there’s a free drum pattern maker at:



Audacity Quick Start Guide

Looking for a quick start guide to Audacity? Then look no further: 

Many people seem to struggle at first with Audacity but Audacity is actually VERY easy to use once you know how.

This 5 minute quick start guide has been designed to introduce the new user to the main features of the program. 

For a far more comprehensice guide, you should read the Audacity manual of course.

However, the above article will only take you a few short minutes to read and will get you on the right track asap (no pun intended)!

Buying a microphone

A young lady called Fiona who is new to singing with backing tracks contacted me and asked me what microphone she should buy :

Hi Kenny,
Sorry for bothering you, but I was wondering
if you would be able to point me in the right
direction for me getting my own microphone
or if you no of any good websites or shops
that i should go to. I’d appreciate your help. 

Hi Fiona

There are hundreds of microphones on the market today but the industry standard and best all-round mic (for quality of live vocal reproduction, durability & price) is the Shure SM58.

The SM58 retails at around £89 and any local music shop will stock them.

However, usually the best prices you’ll find are online – have a look HERE



BBC presenters warm up their vocal chords

The fun continues, and all for a good cause. 

Here’s a quick peek at some pics of the BBC presenters being put through their paces by Robert, our resident singing expert. 

It’s really coming together and it’s now starting to look like the bones of a real choir are really coming together.

On Wednesday, each of the presenters were given a copy of the MP3 Backing Track I produced so that they can practice at home.

Robert reports that some presenters are doing better than others though…perhaps they need to download a copy of the singing tutor and get to work!

BBC Radio Children In Need And MP3 Backing Trax Update

As you know, Robert, our resident singing expert has been putting the BBC radio presenters through their paces, teaching them to sing…all in the name of charity (BBC’s Children In Need).

Today on the Fred McCauley show we let the secret out. The tune Robert is teaching the BBC presenters to sing is……taaraaaa…..drum roll….”Lean on me” by Bill Withers.

Yesterday, with only a week to go, I prepared a special backing track arrangement of “Lean On Me”. I created it in a female key because Robert reckons that the two strongest singers out of the group are two of the girls so he’s planning to have them up front singing the “solo” singing parts. 

It’s proving to be GREAT fun – everyone’s loving it! And, let me also say right now that there’s no truth in the nasty rumour going round the BBC that Robert will be putting the good singers to the front and the “donkeys” to the back – no, it’ll be the tallest presenters to the back…unless you sing like a donkey that is. Woops!

So, would you like to hear how Roberts victims, oops I mean pupils, are doing so far?

Have a listen and see for yourself.

Just remember, don’t be too judgemental on these poor BBC presenters – this is just a bit of fun for Children In Need, they are NOT professional singers (ahem, as you’re about to hear)!

Tune in to the Fred McCauley show every day on Radio Scotland at:

MP3 Backing Trax And BBC Radio Scotland Join Together For Children In Need

Robert, our resident singing expert has been challenged with the (mammoth?) task of taking a bunch of BBC radio presenters and teaching them to sing…in less than 10 days.

Fred McCauley (from TV’s McCoist & McCauley fame) has asked Robert to take his merry band of presenters and producers and turn them in to a top notch choir…in just 1 week!

Of course it’s all in good fun and for a very good cause – the BBC’s Children In Need appeal.

MP3 Backing Trax have supplied the backing track music for the song the presenters will be singing (but we’re not revealing the name of the song just yet…that’s a big secret which you’ll have to wait until 14th November to find out)!

So how do you think Robert will cope trying to teach a group of non-singers to sing like Pop Idols in just a few hours of tuition?

Can Robert really turn these “sows ears” into “silk purses”?

Tune in to the Fred McCauley show every day on Radio Scotland and find out…!

In the meantime, here’s a short clip from the Fred McCauley Show on the 4th November where Robert tells Fred his plans for our wannabe superstars…

Graphic EQ for Audacity

Paul from England wants to know about graphic EQ’s for Audacity…. 

Hi Kenny,
Can you recommend I site where I can download a
graphic equalizer?

Hi Paul

You could try using an EQ called Clasic EQ by Kjaerhus, a VST plugin:

You’ll need to have the VST Enabler plugin before Classic EQ (or any other VST plugin) will be recognised in your plugins folder. Download it at: 

Just as an extra little note, you need to put VST plugins directly in the Audacity “Plug-Ins” folder for them to be available in the Effect menu. Audacity doesn’t always support VST plugins the makers of VST (Steinberg) sometimes restrict the use of their code. Unfortunately this often makes the use of VST plugins a bit of trial and error!