Bose L1, backing tracks, laptops and mp3 players

Thanks to Rita for this question about the Bose L1, backing tracks, laptops and mp3 players…

Hi Guys,

What an informative site – amazing.

I read about the L1 Model (Kenny’s article).

I have the latest model but unlike his friend, I have never used the earlier model. I am really pleased with my Bose system, but then again I only do small audiences of up to 100-150.

I only have one base box and Kenny’s article has concerned me a bit now as I’m soon to be singing in a 200+ sized club. Will it be enough?

I’m a solo artist using ipod so hopefully output will not be too limiting? Kenny’s input would be great if he gets a moment, i.e. should I buy another base? I certainly cannot afford another system in its entirety, having only just paid off my last instalment!!!

I would also like to ask Kenny to give me some techno info about what type of laptop to buy, completely off the record so to speak. I’m presently using a 5th generation ipod. My budget is limited. I have been told I can simply go and buy a laptop off the shelf around £300 and it should be fine for playing back backing tracks (using itunes or similar).

After googling I came across an article saying the Intel Pentium Processor (as used in Centrino laptops) are an excellent choice………need less fan cooling, quieter and more portable? Kenny’s advice would be a blessing, even if he gives me a couple of models to check out.


Rita B

Hi Rita

One of the most important things you need to take in to account when deciding how loud something needs to be is not just the size of the venue and the amount of people in your audience, but also how NOISY the audience will be.

I have personally played in a large restaurant (200 people) where the crowd were very quiet and attentive and didn’t need much volume.

Conversely I have played in a small lounge half that size with less than 100 people and needed twice as much volume because of the audience shouting, screaming, singing along, and dancing on the tables – they were a real lively bunch at that gig!

If you have a noisy audience, then you have to play at louder volumes to get your music to project above the noise of the crowd.

So, you need to look at 3 things:

1. The size of the venue

2. The amount of “bodies” in the audience

3. How noisy/lively you expect that audience to be

Larger venues will generally need more sound. The amount of people in an audience is very important because bodies “soak up” the sound so louder music is necessary to get above a noisy crowd. If you play too quiet, your gig will lack “atmosphere”.

I’d be very surprised if one 500w Bose L1 will be enough to fill a room with 200+ people. Even if that audience are relatively quiet and attentive, I still don’t think 500w will be enough amplification to get your music loud enough to create an atmosphere.

Regarding your question about laptops, laptops which contain an intel pentium processor have always been considered better for playing music. It’s not so much for reasons of cooling because cooling depends more on the reliability and efficiency of the fan serving the processor rather than the actual processor itself.

It’s more because intel processors have historically been better at floating point calculations – they do them very quickly and efficiently…and that’s good for music production.

However, we’ve come a long way from the old days of slow processors, rattly fan systems, slow floating point calculations, and small RAM memory, so none of this is much of an issue these days. So your friend is correct – a budget laptop could very well do the job just fine for you.

More important when buying a laptop is the quality of the soundcard in the laptop.

The better the soundcard, the better the quality of the sound it’ll put out.

For live music purposes, any small differences in quality are usually fairly unnoticable except when listening carefully through headphones. Again this gets back to the noise of the crowd in a live music venue easily overpowering any artefacts in your sound and rendering them pretty unnoticable.

Most singers I know tell me that they get just as good results from a budget laptop as they get from a more expensive high-end laptop.

In saying that, if the soundcard is too cheap it WILL be noticable so beware.

If you do end up with a laptop with a cheap and noisy soundcard, fortunately there are ways around this. An external soundcard will usually help.

Personally, I use a little iPod on stage. Luckily my eyesight is ok so the small screen doesn’t bother me. The quality of the iPods output is excellent for playing backing tracks live on stage and the fact that I can carry my entire repertoire around in my pocket really appeals to me.

One of the reasons I bought my Bose L1’s is because I wanted to cut down the amount of musical equipment I carry around with me to gigs so the “Bose + iPod” combination is perfect for me (and sounds fantastic)…

The death of midifiles and minidiscs part 2

Danny replied to me regarding midifiles versus mp3…

Hi Kenny
Thanks for your reply and advice, i did suspect he was not being honest. I noted you said minidisc is becoming harder to get and i take from you reply that you are saying Mp3 players are the way forward, my only concern is our set lists and playing the songs in any order and more to the point not playing one after another without stopping, i do have a mp3 player but it plays continuous i would need a player that stops after each song, as this is all going to new to us i want to get it right, is there any mp3 player that fits the bill without braking the band, as we have just upgraded our PA system.
Thanks Again

Hi Danny

With the iPod you can group songs together and make them in to a playlist (i.e. a set list).

The iPod also has a cool little function called the “on-the-go” playlist which is superb and really easy to use too. It lets you pick songs and make them in to a playlist from the iPod itself rather than setting it all up on your computer via iTunes.

I’ve written a short article about organizing songs in your iPod at:

Regarding getting the music to stop after each song, there are a few ways this can be achieved on the iPod even though it doesn’t have an autopause facility. My article about how to auto pause the iPod at explains more.

The advantages of using MP3 are enormous compared to any other music format. MP3 is open-source and has no restrictions, unlike Microsofts WMA format and Apples AAC format which are protected formats which restrict what you can do with them.

This means that you can, without restriction, transfer your MP3 music files from your computer to your mp3 player, burn a CD of them, back them up on to a data stick etc. There are no restrictions and EVERY player in the world will play MP3 files. Home DVD players, newer CD players and car CD players nowadays all play MP3 files – many won’t play WMA or AAC files.

Even Microsofts Zune and Apples iPods play MP3 files even though these big companies try to force their own formats on the public (they’ve all had to concede that MP3 is the choice of music format for all the world now so all Apple iPods and Microsoft players will all play MP3 files).

The only advantage I can see of the old midifile format is that a band can easily drop instruments in or out of the midifile while on stage. Although this might not seem to be a major benefit or particularly important, it can be depending how your band normally do gigs. For example, if one night the bass player takes ill or doesn’t turn up, with a midifile you would simply put the bass back in to all your songs for that night.

Similarly, if you sometimes go out as a duo or a trio or a full band, midifiles are ideal for dropping in or taking out various instruments depending the bands line up that night.

Of course, it is entirely possible to do a similar thing with MP3 backing tracks. But the difference with MP3 is that you would need different versions of all your songs – one with the bass in and one with the bass out, another with the guitar in and another with the guitar out etc. In other words you would need a seperate backing track created for you with those particular instruments removed to suit each different band line up you intend to gig with.

As I say, there’s absolutley no reason why you can’t do this and have different mp3 tracks for different band set ups (and the MP3 track would definitely sound far better than playing a midifile), but it may work out a little expensive having all those duplicate songs created with different instruments removed…

The death of midifiles and minidiscs

Thanks to Danny from the Revive band for this question…

Hi Kenny
Thanks for singing tips in latest email found them very helpful.

My question is regarding MP3s, our band currently use midi files through a Roland Discover 5m which has been great allows us to remove live instruments at the touch of a button. We are currently considering moving to backing tracks as the cost is just the same.

The problem is we would to keep most of our current midi files as we are used to them, I suggested to the company we buy them from if we transfer them to mp3 then onto Minidisc, he said Mp3 is a harsh sounding format, is this true??? funny thing is his samples on his website midis coverted to mp3 and sound ok to me.

If we go down this route do you supply backing tracks with Live instruments removed, we would need bass and guitar removed the reason i asked we were watching a friends band last night and they have exactly the same line up as us but use full tracks and it looked quite false as the bass player lifted his pint up during a song and the bass was still heard, down here in Ayr a lot of the full bands moan about what they call karaoke bands so thats why we like bass and guitar removed if we make a mistake you hear it.

Play back devices for mp3s any good ones at a reasonable price some pro mini players i have seen are around £500


Re-Vive (band)

Hi Danny

Oh dear, it seems your midifile supplier doesn’t want to lose your business and is trying to put you off using mp3. I just hate it when some of these music companies give poor advice to their customers just so they can squeeze a profit out of you.

His suggestion that mp3 is a very harsh sounding format is complete rubbish.

MP3 is the most popular music format in the world and has achieved its success BECAUSE it is such excellent quality.

I’ve never heard such cobblers in my life. For your midifile supplier to even try to suggest to you that everyone on the planet, including companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sony etc etc are all deluded and have mistakenly embraced a technology which is “harsh” and doesn’t sound good is…well…staggering!

Of course, you don’t have to look too far to see what he’s really saying. When he says don’t move to mp3, what he’s really saying is “Don’t change to mp3…keep buying midifiles from me…!”

The only thing that’s harsh is the harsh reality that midifile is a very old and outdated format – midifiles have been around for two decades and as you probably already know, they are only as good as the sound modules you play them on.

Some of the midifile arrangements that websites out there are selling are nothing short of horrendous. No doubt you’ve heard many of these bad midifiles with their annoying “doo doo doo” voice sounds, synthesized choirs instead of backing vocals, and those stupid pan-pipes playing the melody!

On the upside, with a bit of dexterity a good midi programmer can usually butcher a midifile about to improve it if it’s not too bad in the first place. And then if you play it through a half decent sound module, it can sometimes sound quite good.

Minidisc is a very good music format, but should be avoided too. Not because of the quality of sound (in fact the quality of sound from minidisc is very, very good) but because it is, again, an old and outdated format. Minidisc deck players and blank minidiscs are getting harder and harder to find.

MP3 is the most solid route to go down for playing backing tracks (and will be for the forseeable future).

Every major electronics manufacturer in the world has embraced the mp3 format and produce mp3 players because of the quality of mp3 and the popularity of mp3. That’s why mp3 is the number 1 music format in the world today.

We here at MP3 Backing Trax can create customized mp3 backing tracks of any of the songs in our catalogue specially for you without the bass and guitar so you can play those instruments live on top of the tracks.

There is 1 hour of studio time required to do this so the cost is £20 GBPounds per song.

If we DON’T have a particular song in our catalogue, we can still create it specially for you (see for more info).

The price of producing a song which is NOT in our catalogue will depend on how many hours work it takes to create it for you. I can give you quotes for any non-catalogue songs you want created.

Just one last thing, and this isn’t something we usually do but it may be an option for you. You say you already have a collection of really good midifiles you use for your current set list – there’s every possibility we could actually use those midifiles to create mp3 backing tracks of your songs without the bass and guitars. Again, there’s probably only 1 hour of studio time required to do this so the price would be £20 GBPounds per song with you supplying the midifile….

Getting your band signed to a record label

Dustin from Nebraska in the USA has asked me a question about how to go about getting his band a record deal…

Hi Kenny,
I was just seeing if you had any record labels for unsigned artists because my band is looking for one and we don’t have any good luck. If you can find any in the Nebraska area give me and email back! Thanks.

Hi Dustin

The way it used to work was small local record labels would sign up new, unknown acts and later sell them on to one of the larger labels. 

But nowadays most large record companies get their new acts from the internet (especially MySpace). 

So new acts can now pretty much skip the lengthy process of trying to get a local record label to take them on and, instead, put their music out there on the internet directly in front of the big boys.

Usually the A&R men from the big record companies will try to seek out acts who have more than 1,000 MySpace friends (indicating that the act has achieved a reasonable level of popularity and has a ready-made fan base they can build on).

For more detailed info on how to get a record deal, take a look at the eBook “Entertainers…harness The Power Of MySpace