The distance in semi-tones between keys

Hi Kenny, Just saw your latest blog on “Keys”……Question! The distance in semi tones between keys…. ie if key is A…. Is it 1 semi tone down to get Ab and 1 more to get G likewise is it 1 semi tone up to get Bb… and if so is it consistantly 1 up or down over the entire range???? I was at a friends Karaoke the other night and he asked the question. I couldn’t answer!!!! 
Gordon

Hi Gordon

Yes, that’s correct – each key on a keyboard represents a semi-tone. The notes follow the alphabet from A up to G# but after G# instead of the next note being H, you repeat the notes again (i.e. A, A#, B, C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#).

By the way, A# is exactly the same note as Bb (just as C# is the same as Db etc etc). The reason these notes are given two different names is because of the way music notation is written. If you don’t read or write music notation then don’t worry about this – just know that to flatten a note you would pick the note to the immediate left on a piano keyboard, and to sharpen a note you would pick the note to the immediate right of it.

Most of the newer modern karaoke systems do work in semi-tones so 1 down will usually mean 1 semi-tone down, but they certainly can’t be trusted to give accurate pitch changes.

Karaoke was designed for amateur singers, not professionals so sometimes when a karaoke system says it is taking a song “one down” it will often take the song more than a semi-tone down. To be fair they karaoke was never meant to be as exact as that – amateur singers who find a song too high just want it lowered, they don’t know or care how many tones or semi-tones the karaoke machine is moving the pitch…

Clicktrack and bass guitar tracks

Hi Kenny
I have read almost all off your articles, but couldnt find any about my spesific question. What I wonder is how to send the drum track to the drummers headphones amplifire and the bass track straight to the PA system. If I have to pan those tracks, how do I do that? You see we are three in the band, guitar, keyboard and drums, and need only the bass track into the PA system. What equipment and software do we need? With regards 
Mira

Hi Mira

It’s very easy to route the stereo from a backing track to two different destinations. You don’t need any special software to do this (although you will probably need some sort of headphone amplifier for your drummer if you want one of the stereo sides to go to him).

First of all, you need backing tracks which have been specially created with the drums on one side and the bass on the other side. You can create these backing tracks yourself if you have a multi-track recording studio at home or, if not, you can have a backing track company like us make you backing tracks with all the panning already done for you so they’re just ready to plug in and play.

Take your backing track with the drums on one side and the bass on the other side and using a simple stereo output cable, plug the right side of the cable in to your PA system and the left side of the cable in to your drummers headphone amplifier.

And that’s it. The drums will come through the drummers headphones and the bass will come out through your PA system.

If you don’t have a recording studio to make up these types of tracks yourself, we can do it for you – we often make these types of tracks up for customers (see http://www.mp3backingtrax.com/customtrax.htm for more info).

Usually when making up a track like you’ve described, we would normally make a click-track on the left side and the bass on the right side.

However there’s no reason why you can’t have us make the tracks up for you with the full drum track on the left and the bass on the right if your drummer prefers hearing a full drum track rather than a click-track…

Intro clicks on backing tracks

Thanks to Bill for bringing up this question about intro clicks at the beginning of backing tracks…

Kenny, I want to say “Thanks” for your response and the information provided. I am certain that it will be very useful. I started using customizable Backing Tracks exclusively for these arrangements and I really appreciate the quality and effort that is but into your company’s recordings.

For several reasons we began 3 months ago to downsize from a 5 piece band to 2 players… so, without having to burn up a lot of our time creating our own backing tracks and still cover tunes with a full sound, I was fortunate to find your company online.

Admittedly I am learning my way to make this work. The Audacity software has helped a great deal and I look forward to working with the recorder software you noted below. Intro click tracks and keys have been the biggest challange. Audacity has solved the key issue.

Some of your tracks have an intro click track while others don’t. I would love to see you have this available for ALL customizable song tracks… it would really be a benefit. 

The other piece I’m working through is mechanics; just physically manipulating the backing tracks onstage. I found some ideas and practices you put online and as a result have been working with an ipod. I am still searching for a cleaner, quicker, user friendly way to accomplish this.

Your newsletters are great, extremely informative, and of great value. Please keep them coming and as much information on “best practices” the better as far as I’m concerned.

Thanks again for your response and knowledge on intro’s. You truly have a wonderful company!

Regards

Bill

Hi Bill

Our off-the-shelf tracks are full instrumental backing tracks and are intended for solo singers – that’s why there are no count-ins on the songs. When a singer sings along to a backing track he usually doesn’t start singing until after the intro of the song, so the music guides him to where he needs to come in – he doesn’t need a count-in.

The only people who need count-ins are musicians who are intending to play along with the backing track and we produce custom tracks for them, made-to-measure to their specifications.

Depending on which instrument the musician plays, he may need to start playing on the very first note of the song, so he will need a custom track with a count-in. He tells us what instrument he wants to play live with the backing track and we create a custom track for him with his chosen instrument(s) removed and add a count-in.

Ideally there should be NO count-ins at all on any of our fully instrumental backing tracks because, not only do singers not require a count-in, the audience can usually hear the 2 bars of “ticks” in the count-in and it just doesn’t sound very professional at all. If you listen to an album of original recordings by any artist you’ll never hear a count-in before the song starts. Even on live recordings and in theatres, the musicians usually do their very best to disguise the count-in (or at least to make it as quiet as possible so that the audience can’t hear it).

With some backing tracks, the vocal comes in straight away so in cases such as these it’s necessary for the singer to have a bell note or chord to pitch himself and a count-in so that he can come straight in with the vocal. Unfortunately there’s no way around this as the singer is singing without a band so there’s nobody there on stage with him to count him in discreetly. So that’s why some of our backing tracks unfortunately need to have count-ins (there’s no other way around this problem).

However, rest assured we only put the count-in on the track if it’s really, really necessary. The last thing we want is a solo singer performing with one of our backing tracks to look amateurish. It looks really bad when an audience are looking at one single solitary singer alone on the stage with no band while hearing a “non-existant drummer” going click-click, click,click,click,click before every song starts.

If you listen to the off-the-shelf backing tracks we have which have count-ins at the beginning, you’ll notice that they are all songs where the vocal starts right away.

All our “without guitar” backing tracks have count-ins though because they have been created for guitar/vocalists…

Will a full iPod charge last a gig?

There are no silly questions in this world – only questions you haven’t heard answered yet. It was a pleasure to help out our customer Paul with his transition from Minidisc to iPod…

 i am a solo singer, until now i have used minidisc backing tracks, i want to move forward and use ipod to mixer board. i have just found your website and it is an extremely valuable source of information, it has helped me tremendously particularly the helpful hints regarding hook up, volume settings and silent tracks for pausing etc, however, i can’t find an answer to my question, i am not familiar with ipod, i am yet to buy one, i’m not familiar with an ipods physical connection layout and i do not know how long the a fully charged ipod would last. QUESTION, “is it necessary and would it be possible to place the ipod in a charger dock with a wall plug and playback through the pa at the same time thus ensuring that the ipod power will not drain during a performance”. thanks,
Paul

Hi Paul

Yes, you could sit the iPod in a docking station which would certainly keep it charged up at all times. Then a cable from the docking station to your PA would carry the music signal.

Similarly, you could plug a simple iPod mains charger in to the bottom of the iPod too and that would do the same thing. In other words, the mains power connects to the large connector at the bottom of the iPod and the music goes to your PA via a stereo cable from the iPods headphone socket…

iPods have a pretty good battery life so you should get more than enough battery power from it to easily do a full gig. It’s video that really drains their battery life, audio is much less.

However it would be a brave man who attempted to perform live at a gig relying purely on battery power alone to get him through his full gig.

You see the rechargeable battery in the iPod won’t last forever so the 5 or 6 hour battery life you get when you first buy your new iPod will drop to 2 or 3 hours battery life as the iPod gets older and the battery gets older.

I strongly recommend you always work from an iPod which is connected to mains power at all times, just to be on the safe side…