replacing a damaged soundcard


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 external “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 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:

Low volume problem after transferring 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 Classic 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 doing this.

How to changing the key of a backing track

There’s a right way and a wrong way to change the key of a backing track. Before you do it (or pay any company out there to do it for you) make sure you know they’re doing it right because if they cut corners and do it the cheap/wrong way, you’ve wasted your money (you could have done it just as well yourself for free)…

Hi, Is there any way I can alter the key to your tracks. Normally I use Midifles and Cakewalk or Van Basco. Thanks 

Hi Derek

The most inexpensive way to change the key of audio tracks is to use a karaoke player (hardware or software) to pitch-shift the song to a different key.

While doing it this way costs you nothing, the downside is that pitch-shifting affects the quality of the audio so is ok for karaoke but far from acceptable for a professional act.

The proper way to do it is have the key changed from the master arrangement and re-recorded in to the key you want it in from scratch. This way is much more professional and keeps the full quality of the track (because you are, in effect, having a brand new track created in that particular key).

There’s more info at

Changing the volume of the bass in a backing track

Derek asked a question about changing the volume of the bass guitar in a backing track. I replied asking him if he meant the bass in general (as in the eq) or whether he meant the volume of the bass guitar sound in a track? 

Hi Kenny,
Thanks for the reply. At least you are interested–not like Ameritz. I would like to reduce either. On a midifile when using Cakewake I can lower the EQ / Volume of the bass guitar. I am struggling to find a programme that lets me do this on MP3s. I like to try and keep most of the tracks at the same level to save keep on altering the desk during numbers. By the way I am recording your MP3s onto minidisc

Hi Derek

The way to reduce the bass frequencies on an entire song is to apply EQ to the song (i.e reduce the the low frequencies). So then when you play the mp3 while recording it to minidisc, the Minidisc will be recording the song as it hears it (i.e. with the reduced bass frequencies).

It’s not possible to alter the volumes or EQ of individual instruments like the bass guitar or any other instrument on a stereo audio track.

This is because all the instruments in the stereo audio file have already been mixed together on to just two tracks (left and right). You can’t separate the instruments once they have been mixed together.

Music manufacturers and audio software engineers have tried for years to produce software which remove an instrument or a vocal from a stereo audio track but none have succeeded yet. If you’ve ever tried to use a vocal removal machine you’ll know what I mean (these machines still leave traces of the vocal and can’t completely remove them).

Midifiles are different though. You can separate individual instruments on a midifile because midifiles have each instrument on a different track. Standard midifiles will usually have 16 stereo tracks with a different instrument on each track so it’s easy to open up a midifile and change the volume or EQ of an individual instrument.

But to change the level or EQ of a single instrument on an audio song you would need access to the multi-track master arrangement of the song which the studio used to create the backing track. There’s not many studios will let you have their multi-track master arrangements though (I know we don’t supply these and I don’t know any other backing track company who does)…

Backing tracks created with a live band

A customer asked us about producing backing tracks using a live band…

hi-kenny if kenny when you remove the guitar sound from a backing track and some of the other sounds are sounding a bit mechanical could you ajust for me please so gives a live sound
many thanks for your work saver..

Hi Shaun

Yes, the mechanical nature of a backing track is one of the downsides of using backing tracks instead of a live band.

With a band everything is nice and loose as the different players each keep time with the singer. The “live feel” comes about because the band members are playing the song and following the singer but they are each using their own timing. These small, sometimes even just milliseconds variations in the individual timing of each player in a band is what gives a song that “live feel”.

But with a backing track, it’s the other way around. The backing track is pre-recorded, it’s not live, so it can’t keep time with the singer – the singer has to keep time with the backing track.

All the individual instruments that make up our off-the-shelf backing tracks are synced together, not just to keep all the instruments in time with each other so the singer can keep time to the tracks, but to also make the backing tracks easier and cheaper for you when you need us to edit them etc.

For example, we can edit backing tracks really quickly for customers and we don’t charge them much for this service (see  The reason we can do work like this so cheaply is because all the instrument parts that make up our backing tracks have been carefully produced and synced together so editing them is a quick job for us to do and therefore cheaper for you, the customer.

But if the instruments in a track were out of time and coming in to different bars at different times (just as live musicians would play), it would take us longer to make edits and changes to a backing track so the customer would have to pay much more for our editing service.

So keeping things synced together reduces costs to you, the customer, and in an internet world where you are only a click away from your competitors pricing is important to the majority of customers.

If money is no object though, that’s a different story. Then we can do anything at all you want.

And the best way to get a real live feel on a backing track is to get a bunch of musicians in to the studio and get them to play your song while recording it live so that it has that live feel that you want. We can do this for you in our studio.

Of course it will take a good few hours of studio time to record all the instrument parts again live and in real time and there’s the expense of the live musicians on top of that too. Your track would probably take a full day in the studio plus the musicians wages so you’re probably looking to around £160 for the studio time and £150 each per session for the musicians. The total I would expect to be around £800 or thereabouts.

Let me know if you’re interested in this kind of live recording and I can certainly give you exact quotes for any songs you’re interested in…