Backing Tracks Revisited

All active members here know I play in fully live bands…it’s just what I’ve done all my life. Since the pandemic, so many things have changed here for live music. Many venues are going to duos, and bands without drums. There are many bands using backing tracks here lately.

I’ve been offered several duo gigs. I could do acoustic stuff, but that grows old on a crowd very quickly in many of the venues here. So, I am going to backing tracks on those gigs, and have everything lined out. Everything is working fine. But a problem has arisen. I am working with an “old school” guitarist (no inears) and he likes to improvise. Staying true to a planned song does happen, but then the leads creep in.
I am using mp3s and @dave_dores “loop breaker” which does help when extending a lead. I know Ableton is perfect for this, and considered VST Live, but Cantabile is where all my settings are. Plus, I don’t really have the time to learn another in depth program.

Any ideas or shares are VERY welcome!



Shock Collar with Cantabile binding


Last weekend, I hurled a wireless mouse at a bassist who was into himself with his eyes closed. He quickly came up for air, and we could end the song. He was only mad for a few days. I was glad I didn’t throw my stool at him, which was my 1st thought. :innocent:

So the entire song has been distilled to a single mp3 except what is being played live by you and the guitarist? You and guitarist then play over the track?

Hey Corky,

Not an idea but more a question. How does Abelton improve your situation with the guitarist? I’m am not too familiar with Abelton so what does it have to remedy a discipline problem of a player? Are the loops it uses better suited to your needs in that area?



Yes. I have some multi tracks on a few songs. I play keys, guitar, harmonica in this duo.

I’d play the mp3 in Cantabile and add visual cues on a floor video monitor using the WebUI. I’m pretty sure there would be a way to count in and out of the allotted lead solo measures.

That’s a nice way to phrase the problem…

One can have multiple loops that can be triggered whenever they are needed. I haven’t used Ableton since I pulled the trigger on Cantabile. From what I remember, it was a cpu hog. Although, better computers with much RAM and SSDs would have made it much more usable. That was 2015-16 time frame.
I think for what I am doing, Ableton would be easier, but I never expected to use it after I got the hang of Cantabile. Like I said, I never used backing tracks before.

The guitarist is really good about eye cues, and has actually played some of these without problem. When he decides to take off, he does cue me, but I need to know it before the loop ends.

You the boss…Has the guitarist slaved over putting the backing tracks together, stitching bindings, getting all the plugins to exist in harmony? I’d suggest a financial penality for every off reservation lead break.

Hmmmm. That sounds reasonable. :grin:

I’ve played with backing tracks (that I created myself, all instruments and harmonies) since 1988. In the early days it was midi tracks in the sequencer playing my synths, later I moved to DAW-created audio tracks, and i play either guitar or keys to them, and sing. I’ve only once had any say the word “karaoke”, and the other folks around him pretty much threw him out of the pub.

At THIS time, I don’t use Cantible for that, I use Reaper (which I create the tracks in), as I do MIDI automation for effects, and tempo maps etc and since I already had them in the DAW tracks, it’s just easier. However, if I can figure out how to do that midi automation in sync with a mixdown mp3 of my audio tracks, I would definitely use Cantible as it has much better setlist and performance management capabilities than Reaper does. (I could try to create my own performance “theme” in Reaper but who has time?)

My only advice/opinion- do your own tracks, don’t buy them. This lets you look someone in the eye and say that the performance is all yours. It also allows you to put in your own interpretation of the song instead of modifying your performance to someone else’s interpretation. However, different strokes, if you’re looking for song quantity and to be able to do ad-hoc requests, it’s a lot of work to put together the backing tracks yourself for all that stuff. I’ve had 30+ years to collect a LOT of songs.

One other thing- mix non-backed songs up with backed ones.

Welcome to the forum @gdekhayser!

Thanks for your input.

I am using backing tracks with Cantabile, and I used different DAWs years ago for live performance. The problem was the additional CPU load from most DAWs.
All my 500+ songs are setup within Cantabile, with midi settings, state changes, lyrics, key splits, vst settings, etc. To change now would be a hair pulling event. :crazy_face:
My backing tracks were integrated into my existing Cantabile songs, and are working very well, but I was studying a way to adjust for improvisation on the fly. Looping and end looping is working, but not to my liking.
Much appreciation for sharing your experience and knowledge.



Oh I wouldn’t change FROM Cantible! I’m thinking of changing TO Cantible… I use Cantible for my band rig for guitar and keyboard, mostly just VST hosting and guitar patch changing. I haven’t yet tried to do a song with backing tracks with it, with all the stuff I have programmed.

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Hey Corky, I’ve also noticed the huge increase in single and duo acts with tracks. Club profit margins are tighter since Covid I guess. I’ve been using tracks in a 4 piece band for several years (mostly keys and special effects, rhythm guitar under leads, etc), and finally abandoned the whole concept of trying to optionally extend a lead. I just never found any way that was easy and safe.

This doesn’t fix that, but I made audio cue tracks for the songs where a player needs some “reminding”. Just my voice on a separate track, output to an IEM-only channel… e. g. 'End lead in 8 7 6 5 … ’

Just my . 02

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Thank you Tom. I never thought I would ever use backing tracks, but you are correct…venues are cheeping out more and more. Some are now refusing bands with a drummer.
I get the lead countdown is the professional way to do it, but unfortunately, my duo partner refuses to wear inears. (old school curmudgeon :older_man:)
I create my own tracks, and I try to give specific drum fills to trigger when to come in and out. I need to educate him more.



That’s a new one. There are some smaller places around here that only pay $100 per band member and a meal on the house. I heard that and did one Hell of a double take. That’s not enough to cover the chiropractor after the show! Like I’ve always heard and and believe, “You don’t pay me to play, you pay me to setup and tear down!”


I replaced my right hip in May this year, just because I moved pianos, B3s, Leslie cabs, and Voice of the Theater PA systems, up narrow stairs, and 4ft + stages all my life. My left hip will be fixed next year, and I will still move equipment as usual…then my knees will give out, only because I love performing.

Hi Corky,

If you have an iPhone that is beyond OS11 then get StageTraxx 3 for one-time 20 bucks (I abandoned all programs and apps that force you to rent them). StageTraxx 3 has everything from handling tracks to loops to improvise to lyrics. However far you want to go and it responds to MIDI commands to start, stop, loop, etc and handles all backing tracks.

Learning curves are temporary. The benefits are long term.

Just chiming in.

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Hi John. I do have an iPhone. I will check it out! Thank you for the info!



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