Footswitch start/stop for iPod

Edwin, a guitarist asked me if there was any type of backing track player out there that could start and stop backing track playback using some sort of footswitch – ideally an iPod with a start stop footswitch would be perfect.

The problem he has as a guitarist is that he doesn’t have any hands free to manually push the buttons on the ipod or backing track player while singing/playing…

I am a solo guitarist/singer. I master my accompaniments to wave. I have read through the information regarding On Stage Performer. Is it possible to navigate between playlists and navigate between songs and start stop between songs/playlists with a footswitch during live performances with this software , the right footswitch and interface? I have been on your mailing list for 2-3 years since your iPod silent song strategy and I have been looking for a foot controlled solution since. Ideally I would like a rackmountable hard disk media player controlled by a footswitch, but this is impossible to find at the moment. I need foot controlled playback and navigation between songs and pre-programmed sets. Can you help me please? Your advice at your earliest convenience will be sincerely appreciated.
Yours gratefully,
Edwin Mitchell

Hi Edwin

Onstage performer is a great program but sadly no longer available.

I personally stopped using it a while back, not because I didn’t like it, but because my laptop finally fell to pieces due to the rigours of being on the road gigging.

I moved over to the iPod instead which is much smaller and more robust than a laptop.

With the demise of bands, many guitarists use backing tracks nowadays and getting a solution for playing back backing tracks with the facility to start and stop those backing tracks using a footswitch has always been a bit of a dilemma for guitar players.

At the time of writing I know of three possible solutions to this problem – they are remote controls for a laptop, a minidisc, and the iPod:

Footswitch to stop and start backing tracks

An alternative to the iPod, Minidisc & Laptop?

As you know, there’s a limited choice of available equipment when it comes to finding an alternative to your old minidisc player.

Here is another type of media player which has been recommended by one of our customers which could be of use to gigging singers:

Hi Kenny,

After reading your article on Laptop v Ipod there is another alternative for the professional singer who is finally about to drop the Mini Disc…. Great in it’s day but Technology moves on.

How about sharing information on the “Double SD Player!”

Made for the DJ market but great also for the pro singer it’s the same as a double CD player but nowhere near as big. It does have alot of features the pro singer wouldn’t need but you can ignore them.

It’s 19′ rack mountable and the basic models can play an SD card up to 4Gb….. thats a possible 800 songs per card, it takes 2 cards and the newer versions also have a usb, for plug and play.

You can access 1 card from both players at the same time (on both decks) so if you are singing track 10 on player No1 and the next song you want to sing is track 44 you can use player No2 and set it up as track 10 is playing, so there is no break in your show.

It has a single play or continues play mode,on both players which is just the press of a button AND it has a very visible screen, with track Number and time played /elapsed.

I have been using one for 18 months, (actually I use 2) and when I was back in UK in early December, I saw one for sale in Maplins for just 149GBP. ( I also use the Bose L1 system, with the Tone match mixer ).

Some of them now, are being made with an angled front so you can just put them on a table top or on your keyboard and everything is to hand and visible to the artist, without having to rack mount them, making it as portable as the now defunct mini disc player.



Thanks Gordon. Another alternative another customer has also recommended is the iDJ iPod 2 Channel Mixer.

Both are available from Maplin.

Just go to and type in to the search box:

DJ-Tech Dual Digital Media Player


iDJ iPod 2 Channel Mixer

iPods, laptops, and the Bose L1

Steve from England has asked me a few questions about whether he should use an iPod or a laptop for his backing tracks. He also uses a Bose L1 system but finds it limits at higher volumes, especially during vocals. Welcome to the club for frustrated Bose L1 owners Steve! Here’s my reply:
Hi Steve
I used to use a laptop on stage for my backing tracks but after the second laptop in 3 years fell to bits I decided to start using an iPod as it was more robust, more reliable, and much more portable.
Of course the big disadvantage of using an iPod for backing tracks over a laptop is the size of the screen. But as long as you have reasonably good eyesight then I feel it’s a fair trade-off.
Being new to the iPod, you say you are still taking your minidisc with you as a backup. That’s good – it always makes sense when you’re embarking on a new way of working or using new equipment to still have your old stuff on stand-by just in case you have any teething problems.

You’ll probably find though that as time goes by and you get more and more used to using the iPod, the only backup you’ll want to have is probably another spare iPod in your top pocket! 

If you do decide that you don’t like working with the iPod and you want to use a laptop, the only thing I would advise is that you choose a laptop that is well made and robust and has a good quality soundcard inside. 

Personally I would avoid Dell laptops because in my experience they are cheap but you get what you pay for. I’ve had more trouble with Dell laptops and desktops than any other make of PC (and I’ve had dozens and dozens of computers over the years). 

Also watch out for mains hum from the laptop soundcard – it’s a common problem on many laptops, even good quality laptops. Fortunately a ground loop isolator costing less than £20 can solve the problem of audio hum, buzz and crackle from the laptop soundcard (if you’re looking for an an inexpensive ground loop isolator, go to the Maplin website and type ground loop isolator in to the search box).

I don’t use the Bose L1 tonematch because I use two of the older L1 Classic systems rated at 750w rather than the newer Bose systems which only give out 500w. I don’t have a problem with the limiter kicking in on my Bose systems because they are both 750w each and I don’t play very large venues nowadays.

However I have tested out the 500w Bose systems and had the same results as you – limiting, especially when someone sings falsetto. The 500w systems limit even in small venues.

Robert (who works with us here at MP3 Backing Trax) asked Bose about this problem and Bose refused to admit there was any problem, saying that they had tested the 750w and 500w systems side by side and they give out the same volume.

This just isn’t true.

Robert even challenged the Bose engineer to come to one of his gigs and hear the limiting. The bose guy declined. That says it all.

An insider has confirmed to me that Bose know there is a problem but refuse to admit it. It’s such a shame they choose NOT to address this problem – I know plenty of musicians who have taken their new Bose systems back to the shop and asked for a refund because they found the limiting on the 500w bose systems so bad they were just unusable…


Find your key

I’ve been talking to a lot of singers recently who use backing tracks, and increasingly I’ve noticed I get the same question over and over again from singers who are non-musicians.

The question they always ask is “How do I find my key for a song”.

It’s not just newbies who struggle with this. Even those singers who have been professional for many years still often struggle trying to find the right key for their backing tracks.

Now, finding your key is dead easy if you sing along with the original recording and it’s fine for your voice. In cases like this the “original key” is fine for you (duh)!

But what if the original key is too high or too low for you? What key do you need the backing track to be in then?

I wrote an article a few years ago about how to find your key. The article is well worth reading.

But recently I wrote a further article about finding your key.

This new article is in response to those singers out there (and there are many of you) who use the “working it back” method of finding your key. This is where you compare the top note of your vocal range to the top note that has to be sung in any given song and “work it back” to find a key that will ensure you never have to sing a note in the song that’s higher than your highest note.

In theory the highest note method of finding your key sounds like the perfect system.

But in reality it’s far from it, and there are enough “exceptions to the rule” to make it unusable in many circumstances…

If you struggle trying to find the right key, take a look:

Download problems

Thanks to Tan Tee peng for advising of a potential problem for anyone who uses Download Accelerator…

Hi Kenny,
I have managed to find out the problem. You see I use Download Accelerator Plus to download the zip file. This is the problem, it does not work.
I tried again using regular download speed and file is downloaded to my PC. I think you should draw your customers’ attention to this.
Tan Tee Peng

Hi Tan Tee Peng

Glad you managed to download your backing track ok and sorted out what was wrong with your computer that was stopping it from letting you download.

Thanks also for letting me know about the rogue program you had installed that was causing you the problem (Download Accelerator).

I’ll let other customers know to avoid this program…

Sadly, problems can often be caused when you try to use third party programs and plugins – they just tend to interfere with things and are best avoided.

The best way to download anything from the internet (not just backing tracks) is to use a simple straightforward Windows PC and Internet Explorer.

There are millions of third-party programs out there, antiviruses, firewall and download software. They will all affect the way your PC behaves.

Unfortunately it’s impossible for us to list all of the millions of plugins and software in the world and report on how they will each affect your computers downloading capabilities.

Many times customers don’t even know that they have these third-party plugins installed on their computer because they were often installed without their knowledge during the installation of a completely different program.

In the help video I sent you, you probably noticed that the first thing I do is ask the viewer to make sure they are using Windows and Internet Explorer 5 or above.

It’s the only safe way to know that your computer is behaving as it should and downloading the way Microsoft intended it to download when you first installed Windows…

Recording a live gig

Juli contacted me to ask a question about how to make a CD of herself and others singing along to backing tracks during a live gig.

It’s not uncommon for famous artistes to release “live in concert” types of albums and you can also do this yourself pretty easily..


Hi Juli

There are a few “record direct to CD” recorders on the market which will record you singing at a gig and create a CD there and then.

But I’ve used a couple of these machines over the years and I don’t find them very reliable and a bit limited.

A far better option, I feel, would be to buy a dedicated stereo sound recorder which will record you at your gig directly from the rec-out on your mixer, and then when you get home, simply connect the device (via USB) to your computer and transfer the recorded music on to your PC.

Once it’s on your PC, you can then burn the songs on to a CD from your PC as normal.

Yamaha produce a great portable machine which I can highly recommend:



PS If you want to get creative you could also even use an audio editor like Soundforge to do a little editing like adjusting EQ, volume levels etc too and get a real good professional result:

Bose L1

Steve contacted me to ask about the confusion over how Bose name their L1 system…

Hi Kenny

Congratulations on such a great site – i found a lot of your articles very interesting. I bought the Bose L1 Mk 2 system at the end of last year, alongwith the Tonematch mixer and 2 subs. You mention the L1 and the L1 Classic – does that make 3 different systems in total then?


Hi Steve

Yes you are correct – there are 3 systems!

The original 750w system was called the L1, but when they introduced the lesser powered 500w L1 they renamed the original 750w L1 and called it the “L1 Classic”.

They then brought out the L1 Mk 2 which is 500w and has an H shaped type of power stand where the bass subs “slot” in each side.

So the L1 Classic (750w) and later L1 (500w) both have a horseshoe shaped type of power stand and the newer L1 mk2 (500w) has the H shape power stand.