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    Soundware Guides: How to Make a Backing Track

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    In this guide we'll show you the hardware and software you can use to make your own backing tracks on computer...
    Making Backing Tracks

    With the right equipment, you can easily make backing tracks for practising or performing on your home computer.

    Making a basic backing track can be very easy with the right software - some applications are designed to produce a full backing from a simple chord progression with just a few clicks.

    If you want to get more involved, though, you can make the process as simple or as complex as you like, by using MIDI virtual instruments for better quality instrument sounds or even recording your own instrumental lines or backing vocals. Once you understand a few basic principles, it's possible to create anything from a basic bass guitar and drums backing to a full orchestral arrangement!

    Where to Start?

    If you're completely new to making music on your computer, there are a few options to consider:



    Automatic Accompaniment Software

    Some software is designed to do practically all of the work for you - simply type in a chord progression, choose a musical style and the software will build a backing track automatically. It doesn't get any easier than this!

    Automatic accompaniment software often gives extra features too, like the ability to edit the backing track if you like, to print sheet music or record your guitar or vocal performance over the top of the backing.

    Automatic accompaniment software is very quick and easy to use, but more experienced musicians or arrangers might find its preset styles a little limiting. Still, it's a great starting point for beginners or for people who just want basic backing tracks, quickly.

    View our Accompaniment Software Section for more software...

    MIDI Sequencers

    If you want more flexibility for your backing tracks, you can use MIDI to create music using a MIDI sequencer.

    MIDI sequencers allow you to create musical arrangements which are then played back by your computer using synthesized sounds. This gives you much more control over how your backing tracks turn out, since you can build a song from scratch.

    Most sequencing software will also allow you to record audio tracks, like vocals or guitar lines, on top of your MIDI tracks, as well as adding effects and burning your finished tracks to CD.

    If you don't want to work entirely from scratch, some sequencing software includes libraries of loops - short pieces of music, like drum beats or basslines, that can be repeated to build up songs.

    View our Sequencers Section for more software...

    Virtual Instruments/Plugins

    If you're using a MIDI sequencer, you can increase the number of sounds by buying virtual instruments. These are separate pieces of software that 'plug-in' to your sequencer, giving you extra sounds or effects to use in your music.

    Some virtual instruments are designed to give a wide range of different sounds (like a synthesizer with lots of presets), while some are specialised to give one particular instruments sound, like a piano or guitar. Many virtual instruments give very accurate, high quality sounds, and can really improve the quality of your finished backing tracks.

    View our Virtual Instruments Section for more...

    MIDI Controllers

    Having to input each individual note into your computer with a mouse and keyboard can be very fiddly and time-consuming.

    Using a MIDI keyboard or other controller can make using sequencing software much faster, as you can 'play' your ideas into the software rather than having to use the mouse.

    Best of all, MIDI recordings can be edited later. You can also use your software to fix any mistakes you make while recording, or automatically snap your playing into perfect time by using the quantize function.

    Most MIDI controllers connect to your computer via a spare USB port. MIDI keyboards come in all shapes and sizes, from small models that'll fit in a backpack to full-size weighted keyboards designed to feel like pianos. Small keyboards are best for playing in simple bass or melody lines or chords, but if you're a pianist and want to use both hands it's best to choose a larger keyboard.

    There are also MIDI controllers without keyboards - these might have drum pads for playing in percussion lines, faders for mixing or DJ controls.

    View our Keyboards & MIDI Section for more...

    Audio Interfaces

    If you want to record instruments like guitars or vocal lines over your backing track, you'll also need an audio interface that will allow you to connect a guitar or microphone to your computer. An audio interface is an external sound card - it connects to your computer via a USB or Firewire port.

    View our Audio Interfaces Section for more...

    View our Guide to Sound Cards for more information... If you're unsure about any of the above, or if you're not sure which products would be best for you, please contact us and we'll be happy to offer friendly, impartial advice and recommendations.

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