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Professional Backing Tracks – Midi vs Audio

The last couple of decades has seen a revolution in the music industry. Live performers have had to roll with the changes in technology and expectations of their audiences.

Backing tracks are now commonplace in many venues. I can remember when MIDI ruled. The ability to adjust tempo and key made MIDI the preferred format for many soloists, and small groups. The downside was the artificial sound of synthetic instruments. Although, I can remember being very impressed with the ‘realness’ of the instruments on my Roland Sound Canvas, there was still a massive gap between virtual and real instruments.

I once worked with a trio who used MIDI backing tracks for their drums and bass. The additional live guitars, saxophone and vocals effectively masked the fakeness and resulted in quite a pleasing mix. But today’s audiences would probably be more critical of this.

Even though MIDI is still alive and well, it is still agreed that properly produced and recorded audio tracks are far superior in quality and realism. The difference is so obvious that anybody can easily discern the difference.

I’ve been producing these kinds of backing tracks now for over 17 years. Customising an arrangement for a performer is not always as simple as hitting the ‘transpose’ button. Ensuring that all instruments are played correctly and within their natural range is crucial to creating a convincing and accurate arrangement. Making adjustments to tempo and key on a MIDI track will often result in muddy, inaccurate tracks. It’s the details like these that make all the difference.

Then there is the choice of instrument samples, effects and recording techniques. General MIDI uses a standard instrument set that is designed to meet the needs of most musical genres, but is obviously still very limited. The effects are also limited to reverb and chorus. So creating a convincing rock track is next to impossible.

So, in summary….. while MIDI has had a valid place in the world of live performance, it is no match against the quality of professionally produced audio tracks. If you’re a pro singer or performer, the quality of your performance hinges on the music. Make sure your tracks enhance your performance, not sabotage it!

Contact me if you’d like to find out more about having some custom backing tracks produced for you.

Or you may like to check out the list of available backing tracks in my online store.


Craig Bryant