Backing tracks from Minidisc to mp3

Hi team,

i just wanted to know if you could help, i am a singer and i use mini disc, however my method of transfering songs from cd to md is becoming more difficult because my hi fi system is about 10 years old and won’t read many cd’s that i burn from my pc,

i just wonderd if you know if you can link a minidisc up to the computer directly ,

i would use my Ipod to play my backing tracks but you cant alter the sound level so if its a low backing track then i have to have my equipment turned up to the max…

if you have any ideas or solutions to my problem then i would very much appreciate it many thanks


Hi Darren

I wrote an article a while back which you may find useful on how to make mp3 files from Minidisc:

Regarding volume levels, the iPod doesn’t make a volume control available to you until a song is playing. This often confuses iPod users in to thinking it doesn’t have a volume control.

It does.

You can change the volume level when you play backing tracks on your iPod by simply turning the click wheel WHILE THE SONG IS PLAYING and it’ll alter the volume.

A good tip to save you having to constantly change the volume of every track you play on your iPod is to record it to mp3 at the correct volume when you make the initial conversion from Minidisc to mp3.

You can do this by changing the volume of the Minidisc output while you’re recording each song in to your computer.

Most of the modern portable Minidisc players have a volume output level, but if you happen to have one of the older Minidisc deck types of Minidisc players which doesn’t have a volume control, then you can use the headphone output on the Minidisc deck.

Most Minidisc decks have a headphone output with a volume control – use this output to connect to your computer instead of the two rca plugs at the back.

Just make sure if you’re doing this that you keep the headphone volume level quite low as a headphone output is a powered output which is designed to power little headphone speakers. If it’s up too loud it may create too high an input volume for your computers soundcard to handle and distort.

At worst it could even blow your soundcard, so just be careful if you’re going to do this…


Using an external soundcard for your backing tracks

Thanks to John for this question about buying an external soundcard for playing backing tracks through his laptop…


Hi John

Yes, I used a laptop for my backing tracks for many years before moving on to the iPod and I very soon discovered that an external soundcard gave much better results.

It’s a bit confusing that they call these things “soundcards” because they’re not an actual card at all – external soundcards are little boxes which sit at the side of your PC or laptop and connect to it via a USB cable.

There are many makes and models of external soundcards available (see but if you are only intending using it for singing with your backing tracks in live music venues then you certainly don’t need to go spend fortunes.

You’ll only really hear the extra benefits of a high quality external soundcard if you’re using it in a recording studio environment.

I personally used a Creative soundblaster external soundcard for using my backing tracks with my old laptop at live music gigs for years.

In fact I still have it and it still works perfectly so I would highly recommend a Creative soundblaster external soundcard.

You can find the newest version of their external soundcard at:


Problems with zip files

A customer, Brian, had a problem with his computers zip program and couldn’t get his backing track to unzip.

His PC kept telling him the file was corrupt even after he’d downloaded it anew.

I tested the download from the very same link he had and it downloaded perfectly and unzipped perfectly.

Immediately I knew what the problem was – he was using a Windows computer and Windows is very poor at handling downloaded zip files.

Thankfully there is a solution…

Hi Brian

Windows and Internet Explorer will normally download a zip file no problem and with ease. But if you then find there is a problem with that downloaded file (perhaps Windows says it is corrupt or just refuses to open it) then you will need to download it again anew – and that’s where Windows has problems.

Windows isn’t very good at all at over-writing files you download.

Yes, Windows will tell you it has over-written the file with the new downloaded file, but it often doesn’t actually do that.

Instead, Windows keeps the original file and compares it with the new downloaded file and if it thinks they are both the same, it keeps the old file (even though it tells you it has over-written the old file with the new download)!

The only way to force Windows to download a file you tried to download previously anew is to COMPLETELY get rid of the original downloaded file (i.e. remove all traces of that file completely from your hard disk before trying to download it again).

It’s also good practice to download the new file to a different folder, just in case there are any traces of the old file still there.

Apple Mac users don’t need to worry about this problem though because Mac computers never overwrite a file on your hard disk when downloading it anew. Instead Mac computers give the new download a different file name by adding the number 1, 2, 3, 4 etc to the end of the file name each time you download it.

This keeps all your backing track downloads separate and distinct (wake up Microsoft and start offering this facility in Windows please). And while you’re at it Mr Gates, please fix Windows built-in unzip program – it’s terrible, especially in Windows Vista!


Fixing backing track volume problems

Martin contacted me with this common problem many singers face when they buy backing tracks from all different companies…

Hi Kenny

Great emails – thanks. Several of my Sinatra backing tracks (bought from various different backing track companies) are at different volume levels to others.

Do you know how I can get them all at the same volume level so I don’t have to keep remembering to adjust the volume between each song?



Hi Martin

The process of making all the tracks the same level is called “normalizing”.

Audacity can do it….open the audio file in Audacity and then boost it’s volume then save it as a new file.

Also there are lots of other programs (some are free, some not) which can also normalize files.

Have a look at:


Audacity timing issues

The questions and comments about Audacity continie to roll in. Thanks to Jean for this question about a common problem…

Hi kenny
Why is it each time I record my voice it comes in late and other times comes in too fast.
How can I fix it?

Hi Jean

This “delay” is known as latency and is caused by your computer soundcard.

This is a common problem on cheaper and/or older soundcards. Usually the standard soundcards that are supplied with new PC’s are just cheap cards to keep the price of the systems down when you buy them.

Basically, what’s happening is that the soundcard you have installed on your computer is not powerful enough to handle the music AND the recording of your voice at the same time.

As the soundcard flirts between trying to do two jobs at once (which it isn’t good enough to handle), it devotes it’s processing power haphazzerdly to each job, causing glitches and timing errors.

The best solution is to buy a newer and better soundcard (see but if you don’t want to go to that expense there is also a workaround for the latency problem (albeit a bit of a fiddly workaround!