Many of us make backing tracks to assist us in practicing chops, scales, routines, teach parts from songs or to give them to our band members in order to elaborate their parts if we don’t have the luxury of regular rehearsals. The difficulty of creating a backing track can range from very easy to very complicated depending on the quality and complexity that we are after (possible mixing – mastering). This article is going to introduce you to all the basic steps needed to get a very easily made backing track... and it's going to be done as a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) based recording.
WHAT DO YOU NEED?
What you need will depend on the requirements of the track you want to create. Some might make a backing track on a Hard Disk recorder (such as Fostex-VF16), some on a sequencer (Yamaha RY9), a keyboard (Yamaha PSR250), some on a computer and some even on a mobile phone. A backing track can consist of 1 track (i.e. guitar or bass or keyboard) or a multitrack recording. Again it depends on what the aim is in terms of instrumentation and what you want it for. If you are recording on a computer based system (PC or MAC) you will need an audio interface and a DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) such as: Cubase, Logic, Sonar, Record, Reason, Pro Tools etc.
Most of the DAWs nowadays come with sound libraries, plugins and VST instruments that enable you the option to record or program and arrange a project from scratch until the final stage. For this example we are going to use Steinberg's Cubase 5. First of all we have to consider what instrumentation we need for our backing. If we need just to practice (jam) over it, you can make it one comfortable speed and play along with different time values. If you need it for teaching purposes you might have to consider programming everything in MIDI so you can adjust it easily at any time to any speed (bpm). So let’s create a new project, (empty), give it a name and save it.
The backing track for this example is an Ionian mode vamp using the root note on the bass all the way through, the strings and guitar playing I-IV-V chords under it. So we are going to use Groove Agent One & Halion One as they come with Cubase 5.
For this backing track we will need drums, strings, bass, and rhythm guitars. So we selected to create 4 instrument tracks. From the "Project" drop down menu go to “add track" -> "Instruments" and click on it. Select number of tracks and click "add Track" . We have created 4 Instrument tracks
Then on each track we add each instrument that we need (on the Output of the track) and rename the track with the instruments name.
Make sure on all the tracks to set the MIDI outputs to the desired VST instrument for the track.
CREATING A DRUM BEAT
We’ll start by creating a drumbeat. Select the pencil tool from the menu bar and draw a bar.
Now go to MIDI on the top menu bar and select Drum editor.
Here we will program the drumbeat. For the example we’ll put a kick on the 1st and 3rd beat, a snare on 2nd and 4th beat and a hi hat counting 8th notes.
We hit play and we have the drum loop. You can duplicate the drum loop for as many bars as you want by right clicking on the created bar Edit-> repeat.
Here you can repeat the same loop as many times as you desire in order to make your track. For our purpose I’ll make it 8 bars
CREATING THE BASS
On the Bass track we start with the same technique (draw a bar with the pencil tool) and then we open the score editor or key editor under the MIDI menu.
Change the clef to F (bass Clef) by double clicking on the clef at the beginning of the bar and start inserting the note values on the chart. For the example we’ll be using a continuous 8th note pattern. And again we will duplicate that for 8 bars.
We chose the C note as we are going to be creating an Ionian vamp in the key of C.
CREATING THE STRINGS
With the same way we will create some chords in order to give us the harmony of the track. The chord progression is going to be changing every 2 bars and it will be as follows: C - F - G - C. Now we will create an 8 bar length form and we are going to use again the score or key editor and insert the chords.
CREATING THE GUITAR
Again, the same concept as above. We will be using a palm-muted sound playing the chords (power chords) in 8th notes and changing every 2 bars.
So now you have your backing track ready to jam along with and you can change the speed at any tempo without affecting the sound or anything else.
This is a very simple way to create your own MIDI backing tracks. You can record audio tracks as well but the problem is that if you use time stretch in order to make it slower or faster then the sound will be losing audio quality and it is not always going to sound right unless you record your audio instrument separately for each tempo you need. Now you can export (bounce) the track to any desired audio format by going to File->export->audio mixdown.
I hope this was helpful
Thanks for reading