(The original version of this article was first published on the Mp3 Backing Trax website circa 2006 – 2012)
Home users of the iPod can simply plug in their earphones and their all set to go. But us singers and musicians who use backing tracks on stage know that there’s much more to getting a good sound than simply plugging the iPod in to a PA system and setting the volume!
My article on “Getting a good sound” applies to the iPod in just the same way it does to any other playback media you use on stage, and if you haven’t already read it, I suggest you do so now – it’ll make life much easier for you, believe me!
The iPod was designed for personal listening, not for musicians and singers to play backing tracks. Because it wasn’t specifically designed for this purpose, it’s important that you set up your iPod in the best way possible so that it can be used to it’s maximum potential when you’re on stage.
Although not specifically designed for this purpose, the fact is that neither are any other mp3 players and at least with the iPod it is the most user-friendly player on the market…and, if set up correctly, it actually works brilliantly on stage because it responds quickly (essential in an onstage environment).
The auto pause (or lack of)
The first mistake people make when they consider an iPod for backing tracks is that they consider the lack of an auto-pause function to be a problem (especially if they’ve been using minidisc for their backing tracks up till now).
I personally have an old creative mp3 player which, although it doesn’t have an auto-pause, it does play one song and then stops (which in a way is the same thing as auto-pause). The problem is, the creative player isn’t very easy to use onstage (it’s not very user-friendly).
The iPod on the other hand is very easy to use on stage (it is extrememly user-friendly), but doesn’t have an auto-pause!
So, how do we fix this iPod “problem”?….easy!
Auto Pause Solution 1
Do you actually need an auto-pause? Minidiscs usually have to be placed at the side of the stage but an iPod can be attached to your music stand or microphone stand which makes it within easy reach.
Just hit the pause button at the end of the song.
But, if you do rely on an auto pause facility then don’t despair. There are other ways it can be done.
Auto Pause Solution 2
Put each backing track in your iPod in it’s own playlist. That way the iPod plays the song and then stops. Simple!
Auto Pause Solution 3
Use a “silent song” (ie a song which has no music, just a couple of minutes of silence). Then when you make up your set list with all the songs you want to sing in the order you want to sing them, simply insert the “silent song” beteween each backing track in your playlist.
This way, when you’ve finished singing each song, you don’t need to hit pause – the iPod will just move on to the next song (which is a few minutes of silence).
That should be long enough to do whatever you want to do, or say whatever you want to say to your audience.
If, after a few minutes or even a few seconds, you want to play your next song, just hit the >> button and the next song will start to play…
Don’t know how to make up a “silent song”? Don’t worry – We’ve created some “silent songs” for use with the iPod (1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes and 10 minutes of silence): Download them here
Auto Pause Solution 4
You could buy the Apple Remote – a remote control accessory which can be used with the Universal Dock and lets you control the iPod from a distance. This may be the best option if auto pause is a major issue to you.