(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)
Backing tracks, playback, backing track, rehearsal track, music track, karaoke and practice track are just a few of the many names singers give to a piece of music without vocal.
Although essentially these names describe the same thing, there are particular differences to each as to how they produce the sound and you need to choose the right type of backing track to suit the purpose you will be using it for.
For example, karaoke backing tracks are popular with amateur singers whereas professional singers would never use a karaoke track in their performance.
Similarly, rehearsal tracks are often just a basic piano accompaniment, often to accompany a music notation score/sheet, so are good for practicing a song and vocal techniques at home, but don’t have enough content to be used professionally at a live gig.
There are many places on the internet and in the High Street where you can find backing tracks in most styles and genres of music, and they are available in many formats – cassette, cd, minidisc, mp3, midi, dat etc. You should weigh up the pros and cons of each format before deciding which format is best suited to your particular purposes.
We at MP3 Backing Trax offer the most popular format – mp3 and have chosen this format because it is best suited to professional entertainers use.
The main types of backing tracks are:
Audio Backing Tracks
Audio backing tracks contain stereo, pre-recorded music, and are much better quality than midifiles or most mass produced karaoke tracks. Generally you will find audio backing tracks in mp3, minidisc, cd, cassette, dat formats and although the user cannot change keys or instruments on audio tracks, this can usually be done by the original supplier upon request.
For example, MP3 Backing Trax offer a Trax Editing Service for customers who require key changes and/or instrument removal. The quality of audio backing tracks is high because, unlike midifiles, the sound you hear when you play an audio track is exactly the same as it was when it left the recording studio in which it was produced.
Midifiles are purely instrumentation data files which tell your sound-card, sound-module or midi keyboard what “notes” to play. The resulting sound therefore comes from your sound-card, midi keyboard or sound module so quality of sound is directly linked to the quality of equipment you use to play your midifile.
Midifiles come with or without lyrics and the user can buy midi programs such as cubase, cakewalk, Emagic Logic Audio etc to mute, transpose or change instruments as required. Midifiles are usually supplied via internet downloads or mail order on floppy disks or data cds. Lyrics are often encoded into the file and most midifile playing software these days allows you to view the lyrics and/or print them out.
Karaoke files can be either audio backing tracks or midifiles (popular formats are dvd, vcd, cd+g, mp3+g, midi-karaoke .kar etc) Karaoke is aimed at amateur singers so the only professionals who use Karaoke tracks are the Karaoke presenters and Disc Jockeys themselves who buy them for their customers to sing to.
There are many different types of karaoke players available depending on the format you decide on (dvd, vcd, cd+g, mp3+g, midi-karaoke .kar etc). All karaoke players display the words on a screen (either a computer or TV screen) in time with the music.
There are many types of backing track suppliers, some specialise on certain types of music (i.e.classical, country, reggae etc) whilst others like MP3 Backing Trax have huge catalogue of all styles of music available.
There are also many companies who sell sheet music/notation (scores for bands and orchestras).
Many of the cheap Karaoke backing track music you find in the high street shops (eg Virgin, HMV, Woolworths, WHSmith) and online at Amazon, are actually very good for rehearsing because they often contain a lead-in vocal on the first line or have two versions of the song – one with vocals and one without, to help you practice and get it right.
They are all usually strictly licensed for personal use only so cannot be used for live performance (although we can’t think why you’d ever want to use an amateur karaoke practice track for live use anyway)!