Audacity – listening to a backing track while recording your vocal

Donald from the UK is having trouble getting Audacity to play his backing track as he records his vocal:

Hi Kenny,
I have installed Audicity ok. But if I import an MP3 track and select microphone, then press Record, the microphone records but the backing track is silent. I will be thankful if you can help!
Regards,
Donald

Hi Donald

If everything is configured correctly in Audacity, all you need to do is plug in your microphone and hit record. You will hear the backing track playing and your voice will be recording your voice at the same time.

Of course the key phrase in the above sentence is “If everything is configured correctly in Audacity…”!

So to check you’re all set up ok, go to Edit > Preferences > Audio I/O and make sure the Recording source is set to wherever your microphone is plugged in to.

Then ensure that the Playback device is set to wherever your speakers are plugged in to.

“Software Playthrough” should OFF and “Play other tracks…” should be ON.

That should do the trick.

There are another couple of things to be aware of, although depending on your setup, they won’t necessarily apply to you.

Some sound cards don’t support full duplex recording – full duplex simply means the soundcard is able to play sound AND record sound both at the same time. Most modern soundcards, even cheapie soundcards support full duplex nowadays so this is unlikely to be an issue unless you’re using a very old computer or one of the budget laptops or desktops.

Another thing to bear in mind is that recording vocals with a backing track needs to be done in two stages. First you need to go to Project >Import Audio and load the backing track in to Audacity. Then you need to record your vocals on to a new seperate track while listening to the music on the other track.

Kenny

Yahoo BT Internet email problems

A customer called Mark contacted me to say he was having problems with BT Internet.

He had ordered backing tracks but hadn’t received the email with the download links and asked if I could help?

No problem, that’s what I’m here for!

The first thing I noticed was that his email address was a BT Internet address.

IMMEDIATELY I knew exactly what the problem was…and I knew exactly how to help him fix it.

If you have ever been in the unfortunate position where a friend has sent you an email, but you didn’t receive it, you really need to read my article:

CLICK HERE

Kenny

The old wild-west isn’t the only place with cowboys!

Thanks to Ron from Australia for this story (and a warning) about dealing with fly-by-night backing track companies who take your money and then cease trading…

 

Kenny
Thanks, I really enjoy your site, have learned a lot and will continue using it however, can you confirm nothing untoward is going on? I used a similar site to yours called tracks4you. As you can see they have unceremoniously folded with no regard for the people who supported them. Needless to say I received no response nor credit for outstanding funds
Regards
Ron

Hi Ron
 
This is quite a long reply but I thought it worth taking some time to reply to your email as you’ve hit on a subject that I care very passionately about – online fraud and cowboy backing track companies.
 
First, I’m happy to confirm that we have NO affiliation whatsoever with Tracks4you. I don’t even know who they are – they certainly weren’t any big player in the UK or in the online backing track industry. I know that, because if they were, I would’ve heard of them.
 
I did a bit of searching around for you though on the internet registry whois for the domain name tracks4you and it looks like they were probably one of those fly-by-night companies who buy a domain name, throw up a website, and then disappear after a year or two.

According to the whois, they only registered the domain name in 2007 so it looks like you’ve been a victim of one of those “here today gone tomorrow” type companies.
 
I also noticed that they have elected to keep the domain name owners address details out of the whois so there’s no way of contacting them (how convenient eh)!
 
I also checked the registrar of companies database here in the UK (http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/) and there is no company registered called Tracks4you which suggests that this website was probably being run by an individual and was never a proper registered company here in the UK.
 
There are a couple of ways you could try to find them and hopefully get your money back from them though.
 
1. Speak to your local Police in Australia – they should have an internet anti-fraud unit so might be able to trace the company owners. Your Police will have ties with the UK Police so between them they should be able to help.
 
2. Try contacting Nominet (http://www.nic.uk) the domain name registry for co.uk domains and ask them if they will give you the details of the domain name owner.
 
3. Contact the music licencing body here in the UK (the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society: http://www.mcps.co.uk ) because the company should’ve been licenced with them if they were selling backing tracks. Mind you, there’s every chance if they’ve gone bust that they never bothered to licence themselves and were operating illegally so the MCPS may never of heard of them, but it’s worth a try. You never know, maybe it was the MCPS who closed them down – if so, they WILL have details of where you can contact the owners and get your money back.
 
4. If you bought stuff off them in the past you must have paid them in some way (e.g by Paynova Plug n Pay, Paypal, Authorize.net,  etc)? If so, look at some of your back receipts and contact whoever took the payment because Tracks4you must have had an account with them if they processed the payments.
 
Getting back to our company, you’ll probably have noticed that when you make an order with MP3 Backing Trax we don’t use any of these “give us money upfront and we’ll open you an account for you” type systems.
 
When you buy backing tracks from us it’s a single one-off transaction EVERY time.
 
We do not hold your card details on our records or keep them on account or anything like that.
 
Here’s a little story that happened a few years back when rival backing track companies were springing up all over the place. I remember we lost one of our customers to a “rival” because the customer told us that our ordering system was too long and bulky and too much trouble – he objected to having to get his card out of his wallet and type in all the details EVERY time he wanted to make an order. He asked why we couldn’t be like other backing track companies and just take his details, keep them on account, and he could just go to the website and easily buy what he wanted when he wanted without having to look for his card and fill in an order form every time.
 
I told him we were sorry to lose him but we had no plans to change to an “open an account with us” type of ordering system.
 
He stopped using us and started using another backing track company (not tracks4you, but another company with a similar system).
 
A few months later I notice he started ordering tracks from us again out of the blue. I sent him a nice little “welcome back, good to have you back with us” type email and he replied telling me the full story.
 
The backing track company who he’d started using instead of us had their server hacked and the card details of all their customers stolen, including his card details.
 
He had spent 3 months trying to sort things out with his card company, getting all the unauthorized transactions reversed, his card cancelled, a new card issued etc.
 
Six months later, after it was all supposed to have been sorted out, he was buying a new house and was refused a mortgage because of a bad credit rating yet he hadn’t any debt or debtors…yip, you’ve guessed, the fraudulent transactions which the card thieves had made when they stole his card were still showing on his credit record.
 
He managed to get all the remaining bad debts taken off his credit record after he explained what had happened though so the story ended well.
 
But six months of his life was a nightmare, and all because he wanted to save a lousy couple of minutes when buying backing tracks!
 
Getting back to us again, you’ll notice at our checkout that the card payment options we offer you for payment are Worldpay and Paypal. When you buy tracks from us and select a payment option, you are transferred to Paypal (or Worldpay) and THEY take the payment, not us. They then notify us that your payment has been successful and we email you the download links for your tracks.
 
This means that at NO TIME do we ever get to SEE your card details never mind hold on to them.
 
This does mean that every time you order from us you need to get out your card and type the same details in over and over again with every new order you make and I know some customers find that tedious.
 
But the upside is that your card details are never seen by us or held by us on our server, NEVER. We don’t keep any of your funds “in account” or anything like that. This is much safer for you, it’s more secure for us, and it’s quite frankly the only honerst and good way to do business. Is this increased security worth the extra hoops we make you jump through when you order with us? We think so.
 
The story you’ve related to me about tracks4you going bust and keeping your money just confirms to me yet again that we do business right.
 
That’s why we’ve been supplying backing tracks online for 10 years and MP3 Backing Trax is known the world over as the internets most successful and established backing track company.
 
Finally, regarding our 75% discount offer, it’s exactly what it says it is…a large discount for regular, loyal customers to help them through this recession. Don’t read anything in to it more than that – it’s not a closing down sale or anything like that! I can assure you, we’ll still be here when all the others have gone.
 
In that respects, I actually welcome this global recession in a way because it will get rid of all the deadwood and fly-by-night backing track companies out there.
 
When the dust settles after this recession, only the good, solid, stable, backing track companies like us will have survived and the industry will be a better place for customers and companies alike.
 
The reason we can offer 75% discounts to regular customers and supply tracks so much cheaper now than we could before is because we’ve stopped supplying CD’s and Minidiscs and now do a larger volume of business which has brought costs tumbling down. Minidisc creation was particularly time consuming for us because tracks had to be recorded on to the minidisc in real time. For example, if ONE customer ordered 15 songs on Minidisc. it took a staff member a full 1 hour to create the minidisc (then it had to be labeled, packaged and sent to the post office etc). 
 
We supply mp3 downloads only now which are quicker and more efficient to deliver. By supplying downloads only, the whole ordering and delivery of tracks is completely automated so we’ve saved on staff costs, postage, and a ton of studio time.
 
I also bought a server recently from a company who went bust (they were a web design company and the server has Gb’s of bandwidth) so I’ve also managed to slash how much it costs us to supply each mp3 download.
 
When there are any new developements in the backing track industry you can be sure MP3 Backing Trax will be still be around, usually leading the way.
 
By the way, did you know that MP3 Backing Trax were the first company in the world to offer downloadable backing tracks? Yes, we were the first, long before people really knew what mp3 was. Customers feel a certain air of reassurance when they know they are buying from a long established company like us.
 
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery but I can’t say I agree. Sadly over the years I’ve watched a lot of other backing track companies who tried to imitate us come and go and good people like yourself get ripped off by the “here today gone tomorrow” cowboys. It’s not right.
 
When buying online it’s always a good idea to do the same things you would do if considering buying from a traditional offline bricks and mortar type shop – ask around. Ask friends, ask colleagues, ask family, ask anyone in the same business as you if they have ever bought from that website and how did they like the company, their products and their service.
 
It’s just too easy these days for unscrupulous people out there to pick a domain name, throw up a website, and start taking peoples money. The internet is a pretty anonymous and faceless place and sitting behind a big flashy global corporate website could easily be some teenage kid in Eastern Europe fleecing everybody who surfs by his website.
 
So you should always be vigilant, not just with backing track companies but with every company you come across and make sure you stick to the established websites out there.
 
Regards
 
Kenny

Recording audio and saving as mp3

Thanks to George for asking this question about recording audio and saving as mp3…

Hello
I have just read your information about converting minidisc backing tracks to mp3 format. The program you recommend is unavailable. Could you recomend another one. Most of my tracks are mono would this make a difference when they are converted to mp3?
Thanks
George

Hi George

Yes, that was an old article you read – the software manufacturer who made that program no longer supplies it any more (which is such a shame because it was an exceptionally easy-to-use program).

Good news though is that there is another program that can do the same job of recording audio on to your PC and save it as mp3.

Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000RO5O78/mp3backingtra-21

Regards

Kenny

Valve amp sounds from a Bose L1?

Jan from Sweden emailed me again with a bit more info about his set up…

Kenny!
Many, many thanks for your prompt and detailed answer. It helped my thougts about the L1-systems a lot. I actually bought both the L1 model 2 (8 months ago) and the L1 Compact (1 week ago) to my work-place (the parish of Karlskoga). I´ve brought them home for trial, and I agree: Bose L1 is a fantastic speaker system. Now I consider to buy a Bose L1 system myself. My basic music is from of the sixties, especially the sound of The Shadows (I play electric guiar). But  I´m also playing acoustic guitar and violin. So far, in my view, the L1 cannot replace my all tube amplifier if I play trough a Line6 POD. The sound is ok, but the sound of an electric guitar through a tube amplifier isn´t easy to replace with other gear. Maybe you have other experiences? I will also try my new Vox ToneLab ST, but I think that the L1 (if I buy one) will do the sound-work for backing-tracks, acoustic instruments and vocals. Maybe does “Mp3 Backing Trax” have some interesting tracks for me? Thank´s again.
Regards
Jan

Hi Jan
 
Yes, the Bose L1 will be perfect for your violin, acoustic guitar and backing tracks.
 
But I agree with you about your electric guitar and valve amplifier.
 
Any professional guitarist will agree that trying to get the warm sound that only an old fashioned valve amp can give is very difficult to replicate using any modern sound equipment, not just the Bose L1.
 
As well as keyboards being my main instrument, I also play guitar so know what you mean exactly.
 
The sound produced when the valves in an old valve amp heat up is such a unique sound that it’s like nothing else you’ll ever hear. The distortion produced when you overdrive an old valve amplifier is smooth and warm, not hard and grating on the ears like transistor amps when they distort (and digital distortion sounds even worse).
 
Getting an old valve amp sound out of modern equipment is not a new problem and it is certainly not just a problem for the Bose L1.
 
In my opinion, no manufacturer has really been able to come up with a perfect replacement for a good old fashioned guitar valve amp sound (although some have come close).
 
There are hundreds (maybe thousands) of effects units, pedals and amplifiers that have tried to emulate the old valve sound and to be fair some have done a reasonably good job of trying to capture that old valve sound.
 
But, ask any guitarist to plug his axe in to a real valve amp on a stage and do a gig and he’ll be in heaven! The difference really is that noticable.
 
The Bose L1 excels at producing extremely high quality sound which it then disperses around the room in a very even way.
 
But guitarists who are used to using valve amps are not looking for a clinically clean sound…they want a very warm and “dirty” sound.
 
The tone-match on the Bose L1 is very good and can emulate the sound of many of the most famous amps and instruments in the world. But at the end of the day, it can still only attempt to emulate them. A valve will always be a valve.
 
Just listen to very old recordings of singers like Jim Reeves and Bing Crosby – the warmth and depth of their voices was captured beautifully by using valve microphones. Even though recording equipment was primitive back then, the valve microphones still managed to capture their voices in a way no other kind of microphone can.
 
And that still holds true today. Just take a look around the music shops and see what a valve microphone will cost you to buy. There are a few companies out there who still make valve microphones today so there’s still a demand for them, especially in good quality recording studios.
 
Regards
 
Kenny

Power output in RMS of the Bose L1

Jan from Sweden contacted me and like MANY others, raises this point yet again about the Bose L1.

Come on Bose, for goodness sake start telling your customers the power ratings of your L1 systems!

Every week another of your prospective customers contacts me asking me about power output and loudness etc. Every week others contact me to tell me that they’ve bought the Bose L1 but took it back to the shop for a refund because it wasn’t powerful enough.

If you, Bose, would just simply tell everyone the power output of your Bose L1 system, everyone would be able to make a reasoned judgement of whether to buy it or not and your customers wouldn’t have to contact ME all the time to get the info that you, Bose, are hiding from them!

 

Hi Kenny!

I`m thinking about to buy a Bose L1 system. I´ve been reading your articles about the difference in power output between Bose L1 Classic and Bose L1 model 1 with great interest. What´s your experice in this matter with Bose L1 model 2? Is this, even newer, model still too weak compared to the Classic? Your article about L1 Compact has conviced me that this amp is not my choice.

Best regards

Jan Berglind, Sweden

Hi Jan
 
I think the real problem is not so much with the L1 itself but the way Bose market the L1.
 
Bose (correctly) say that the L1 disperses the sound around the room in such a way that the audience at the back of the room can hear the sound almost as loud and clear as the audience sitting at the front of the stage. This is quite unique because, as you know, with conventional amp/speaker systems, the audience at the front of the stage usually hear the sound MUCH louder than the people at the back of the room – the loudness of a conventional PA usually drops off considerably when you move more than 10 feet or so away from the speakers.
 
The sound coming out of a Bose L1 doesn’t “drop off” as much when you get further away from it than conventional speakers – so Bose are not making false claims.

The problem is that Bose are happy to infer that because of the unique way that the Bose L1 disperses its sound, you don’t need as much power as you would with a conventional amp/speaker system.

I don’t believe this to be true.

Increased dispersion of sound around the room you are performing in is a fantastic thing, and Bose really excel at doing this with the L1. But speakers still need power – and the more power the speakers have, the more they can push sound waves out and the louder it will be. That’s simple physics (as Star Treks Scottie would say “you cannae change the laws of physics”).

Bose purposely do not reveal any RMS output details of the L1 in their sales literature. They argue that they want you to HEAR the system with your own ears and decide for yourself how loud it is rather than pre-judging it by knowing the power output beforehand.
 
Well, I’ve done that with every L1 system Bose have brought out, and I have come to the same conclusion every time. The quality of the Bose system has to be heard to be believed – it’s incerdible, brilliant. But don’t be fooled. The quality of it’s sound and the unique way it disperses all that lovely quality sound around the room does not mean that you can get away with less power.

If you are thinking of buying a Bose L1 and your old speaker system was a 2000w system, one Bose L1 classic 750w or L1 model 2 500w will most certainly NOT do.
 
My experience of using all of the different Bose L1 systems in a variety of different venues of all shapes and sizes has convinced me that if you want to replace your old speaker system with a Bose system, the Bose L1 you choose will need to have at least 75% of the power output of your old system.
 
If I was a guitar player with a 500w amp/speaker combo, I’d be happy to trade it for a Bose L1 model 2 (500w).
 
If I was a guitar player with a 1000w amp/speaker combo I wouldn’t trade it for a Bose L1 model 2 (500w). It wouldn’t be loud enough.
 
If I was a singer with a 2 speaker 2 x 300w PA system, I would happily trade it for a single Bose L1 model 2 (500w).
 
If I was a singer with a 2 x 500w PA system I wouldn’t.
 
Individual instrument players tend to have an easier ride changing from their old amplifier/speaker combo to a Bose L1. This is because they usually don’t have much more than a 500w amp/speaker combo to begin with, so as far as power is concerned the Bose L1 pretty much puts out as much sound as their previous amplifier (and the Bose does it much better and with much better quality). That would be a good trade.

The problem is when someone with a fairly large conventional PA system (i.e. two speakers at either side of the stage) tries to replace that kind of system with an L1 or even two L1’s. Even two Bose L1 Model 2’s (500w each) sitting at either side of the stage will NEVER sound louder than a 2000w or 3000w conventional PA system.
 
Every week I hear from singers and musicians who have gone to their local music shop and spoke to the sales person who told them to get rid of their old PA system and buy a Bose L1 or a couple of Bose L1’s. In every case, the singers and musicians who took their advice and replaced their small PA systems with Bose L1 systems are delighted with their new Bose L1.

The singers and musicians who replaced their big powerful PA systems with Bose L1’s are usually dissapointed.
 
I hope this helps shed a little bit more light on the Bose L1 system and it’s capabilities.
 
As always, I cannot say strongly enough how fantastic quality the Bose L1 PA system is and how well it evenly distributes the sound around the room.
 
I just wish Bose would stop hiding the power output details of their systems to prospective buyers.

If they gave out the power ratings of their L1 systems it would help prospective buyers make a better informed decision on whether the Bose L1 system will be up to the job of replacing their old amp/speaker system.
 
Just as a reminder, here are the output power rating specifications of the various L1’s again:
 
Bose L1 Classic = 750w
 
Bose L1 Model 1 = 500w
 
Bose L1 Model 2 = 500w
 
Bose L1 Compact = 250w
 
Kenny

Backing tracks for newbies

I received an email from William, a new, prospective customer from England who asked some basic questions about backing tracks, how to download them, and how to use them with an iPod.

Of course I was happy to help him out with some answers.

At the same time it also occurred to me that very often it’s easy to forget the new singers/entertainers who are just starting out in the business and who need some basic advice.

So, here’s my answer to William which also goes out to all you “newbies” out there…

Hi
Are your backing tracks compatible with 5th generation iPod 120gb? Can they be downloaded easily?
William

Hi William

Yes, our backing tracks are in mp3 format and ALL types of iPod can play mp3 songs.

Ordering and downloading backing tracks is easy. Have a look at our help video:

How To Order

How To Download

Regards

Kenny