Backing Tracks for Singers: Types, Tips & Suppliers

Playback, Backing Track, Rehearsal Track or Practice Track are terms used to describe a musical recording with the vocal performance missing. These can be used for learning a song or licensed for use in public performance. Most styles and genres of music are available from specialist companies and high street shops.

Backing tracks are available in many formats, the pro’s and con’s of each should be considered before tracks or playing equipment is purchased.

Types of Backing Track

1. Audio Files – Recorded live or pre-programmed instrumentation, usually better quality than midi files although no changes to key or instruments are possible. Supplied via internet download (Mp3) or mail order (mp3, cd, minidisc, audio cassette or dat). Lyric sheets are usually included by most companies and some supply full scores for use with bands or orchestra’s (check with the company).

2. Midi Files – Programmed instrumentation, with or without lyrics which allows the user to mute, transpose or change instruments as required. Supplied via internet download or mail order (floppy disks or cd). Lyrics are usually supplied encoded into the file which requires a software program like Cubase, Cakewalk or similar to view/print.

3. Karaoke Files – Can be either of the above. For use by professional Karaoke Jockeys require specific Players, that display the words on a screen in time with the music (ish!). Supplied via internet download (mp3, midi) or mail order (cdg, mp3, midi).  For further information on Karaoke visit the KrazyKats Karaoke website.

There are many types of backing track suppliers, some specialise on certain types of music, i.e., classical, whilst others have huge catalogues of all styles of music available. There are also companies who sell scores, orchestrations, fakebooks and arrangements with matching licensed backing tracks.

Some of the Karaoke backing music available in high street shops (hmv, woolworths, whs, tandys etc) are very good for REHEARSAL. Most contain lead in vocals on the first lines and may be in a different key or arrangement from the original artist. These are meant for personal use only and not usually licensed for use in live performance unless specified otherwise.

Most backing tracks downloaded free from the internet are provided for personal listening only and are not licensed for performance use by professional singers, therefore if you require backing tracks for live use, a company specialising in supplying these tracks is advisable.

The fees for each track charged usually contain the combined cost of producing the track plus the license to perform them, but in all cases check with the company before purchasing. Prices per track vary with each company and range from between £4 to £25 per pre-recorded song depending on the medium (midi, cd etc.,) and wether extra instruments, backing vocals or guide vocals are required. Custom tracks can also be purchased for a specified fee.

If you require a license for broadcasting or commercial release, or for any use other than live backing then you should contact the company who supplied the backing track and the Performing Rights Society (or your countries equivalent) who can inform you if the author has provided permission for other use and work out the applicable copyright fee required. In cases where the author has not provided prior permission, (i.e., recording and release by a record company), the publishing company who produced the sheet music should be contacted for the writers or their agents permission.

When buying backing tracks, be aware that you are purchasing the right to use the track and not the original master which remains with the company. They also retain the right to remove permission of use if they feel the user has abused their Terms and Conditions.

When recording a demo using a backing track of a covers song, check the smallprint for acceptable use or if the studio are providing the tracks ask if the track is licensed for demo purposes. In some cases the record company keeps the original backing track that was used on the record. These may be purchased and licensed from the label, publishing or production company.

Licenses to use backing tracks as an accompaniment to live performance is granted to the named licensee ONLY. Third party use is strictly forbidden. In the event of a name change the licensee must advise the company from which they purchased the track and request that an amended license is granted and unless/until such amended license is granted use of the backing tracks is usually forbidden. A license for minors may be obtained by a specific third party and third party will be responsible that proper use of license is maintained by the minor. Always read the suppliers Terms & Conditions.

Hints on using Backing Tracks

Make sure you can hear the music! This means placing the speakers at the rear of the stage or using a monitor or foldback speaker so that you can hear the music and vocals properly.

Turn it UP! Make sure your volume levels are up before you play the track! Sounds silly but it’s a common mistake, especially when you’ve turned everything down or off during a break.

Read Live Band or Backing Tracks, browse the Audition Repertoire page to check out our books and cd’s developed for auditioning singers or the newly extended Repertoire Section which contains sheet music collections, many with accompanying audio backing tracks suitable for all ages, standards and styles. A few recommended backing track suppliers are listed below for convenience, along with a small selection of backing track collections available to purchase.

Backing Track Collections

The following are a small selection of backing track collections more of which can be viewed in the relevant repertoire sections of this site listed by FACH, Era or Genre or via the merchant site.

100 Hits Presents: 2000s Karaoke Box Set
100 pop classics of the decade for CD+G includes a wide rang of hit songs and artists including Amy Winehous, Rihanna, Nelly Furtado, Beyonce, Lady GaGa, Cheryl Cole, Duffy, Girls Aloud, Alesha Dixon, Britney Spears, Gnarls Barkley, Kayne West, Lily Allen, Outkast, Robbie Williams, Ricky Martin, Ronan Keating, Westlife, James Blunt, Pink, Will Young, Kings of Leon, Muse, Stereophonics, Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Kelly Clarkson, McFly, Snow Patrol, Oasis, Adele, Green Day and many more.
Read more at Amazon UK

Big Book Of Backing Tracks – 200 High-Quality Play-Along Tracks In All Styles (Book/USB)
Hone your lead chops and practice your favorite licks with this vast collection of backing tracks in blues, jazz, rock, country, and other styles. This package includes professional full-band audio tracks for all 200 examples in the book over which you can practice your latest and greatest guitar licks, and the USB flash drive and online audio include audio demos of every single track. The audio tracks range from approximately one minute (for the short progressions) to four minutes or more (for the full-length “song†progressions), and numerous styles, keys, and tempos are covered to make sure you’re well-versed in practically every style. Ten hours of audio tracks in all. The book also includes multiple scale options for each chord progression; music theory primer; fretboard diagrams; chord symbols and Roman numeral harmonic analysis; and more. Whether you are a rocker, a jazzer, a bluesman, or a bluegrasser, the Big Book Of Backing Tracks has plenty for you.
Read more at SheetMusicPlus

Bollywood Hindi Karaoke Hits
Vocal-Star 150 Bollywood Hindi Hits CDG Disc Set. 10 Discs Included in a Stylish Gift Box, Vocal-Star are renowned for the Best Quality of backing tracks in the Karaoke Industry, used by karaoke hosts and professional singers all over the world. No fade outs, all Vocal-Star Song Packs have definite endings. The Lyrics will appear on your tv screen when used with a CD+G compatible player.
Read more at Amazon UK

Chart Hits of 2015-2016
Play the hits you have been hearing on the radio all year long! Includes: Burning House, Cant Feel My Face, Exs & Ohs, Hello, Like Im Gonna Lose You, Perfect, Renegades, Stitches, Uma Thurman, Writings on the Wall and more.
Read more at SheetMusicPlus

Festive Backing Tracks: Christmas
Singalong to ten massive Christmas hits. Contains complete lyrics to all songs, plus professionally recorded backing tracks on CD. Includes such festive favourites as, Fairytale Of New York, Lonely This Christmas, Mistletoe And Wine and more.
Read more at Amazon UK
Read more at Amazon USA

Karaoke 2016 Chart Hits CDG CD+G Disc Set
80 Songs on 4 Discs Including The Best Ever Karaoke Tracks Of All Time including Adele, Coldplay, One Direction and much more. This karaoke Set Includes 80 quality karaoke songs on 4 CD+Graphics discs. It’s packed in a stylish Jewell Case, making it the ideal gift! All tracks have definite endings – no fade outs – which means these recordings are also suitable for the professional singer as well as the serious karaoke enthusiast! The lyrics will appear on your TV screen when the discs are played in a CD+Graphics karaoke machine.
Read more at Amazon UK

Karaoke 2017 Chart Hits CDG CD+G Disc
18 Songs on 1 Disc Including The Best Ever Karaoke Tracks From March 2017 including Ed Sheeran, Katy Perry, Rag N Bone Man and much more.
Read more at Amazon UK

Our Singing School: Chart Hits CD
This popular series offers CDs of backing tracks for musicals and the latest chart hits. Rule the world, Love story, Hero, S.O.S., Warwick Avenue, Footprints in the sand, Sweet about me, Broken strings, In the air tonight, Shine, The winners song, Mercy, Run, When you believe, Halo, Hallelujah, Changes, Viva la Vida
Read more at Amazon UK

Our Singing School: Christmas (2xCD)
40 well loved festive backing tracks. All the festive favourites are here on this new set of backing tracks including carols, chart hits and songs made famous by legendary singers and the movies.
Read more at Amazon UK

Our Singing School: Glee Backing Tracks
Join the club and sing-along to those outstanding backing tracks from the hit TV show on this great CD. It is perfect for solo or group performances in class, at assemblies or in concert. Content: Dont stop believin, Cant fight this feeling, Gold digger, Take a bow, Bust your windows, Taking chances, Alone, Maybe this time, Somebody to love, Hate on me, No air, You keep me hanging on, Keep holding on, Bust a move, Sweet Caroline, Dancing with myself, Defying gravity.
Read more at Amazon UK

Pop Hits Backing Tracks: Kylie
Singalong to 10 classic Kylie Minogue hits from across her pop career. Complete lyrics plus backing tracks on CD.
Read more at Amazon UK
Read more at Amazon USA

Songs of the 1970s (Piano/Vocal/Guitar Songbook with Online Audio)
The New Decade Series with Online Play-Along Backing Tracks By Various. This songbook features over 90 quintessential hits from the 1970s arranged for piano and voice with guitar chord frames and also including great optional orchestrated backing tracks for play-along fun. You access the tracks online for streaming or download. Songs include: ABC, Afternoon Delight, American Pie, At Seventeen, Bridge over Troubled Water, Candle in the Wind, Cat’s in the Cradle, (They Long to Be) Close to You, Copacabana (At the Copa), Dancing Queen, Dust in the Wind, Free Bird, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Heart of Glass, Hotel California, I Am Woman, I Shot the Sheriff, I Will Survive, I Write the Songs, Imagine, Joy to the World, Killing Me Softly with His Song, Layla, Lean on Me, Let It Be, Maggie May, Maybe I’m Amazed, Money, Nights in White Satin, Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone, Piano Man, The Rainbow Connection, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, Theme from Shaft, Smoke on the Water, Stairway to Heaven, Superstition, 25 or 6 to 4, Walk This Way, The Way We Were, We Will Rock You, We’ve Only Just Begun, Y.M.C.A., You Are the Sunshine of My Life, You’re So Vain, You’ve Got a Friend, Your Song, and more.
Read more at SheetMusicPlus

Songs of the 2010s (Piano/Vocal/Guitar Songbook with Online Audio)
The New Decade Series provides great synopses of the musical decades and lets you play the iconic songs along with optional orchestrated backing tracks that make you sound great! The audio is accessed online for download or streaming and features PLAYBACK+, a multi-functional audio player that allows you to slow down audio without changing pitch, set loop points, change keys, and pan left or right – available exclusively from Hal Leonard. The 2010s features over 65 top hits, including: The A Team, All About That Bass, All of Me, Bad Romance, Blurred Lines, Brave, Call Me Maybe, Cups (When I’m Gone), Empire State of Mind, Forget You, Get Lucky, Happy, Hey, Soul Sister, I Knew You Were Trouble, Just the Way You Are, Need You Now, Pompeii, Radioactive, Rolling in the Deep, Royals, Shake It Off, Shut up and Dance, Stay with Me, Take Me to Church, Thinking Out Loud, Uptown Funk, Wake Me Up!, We Are Young, What Makes You Beautiful, and many more.
Read more at SheetMusicPlus

Vocal Complete — Female Voice Jazz Standards
Piano/Vocal Sheet Music with Orchestrated Backing Tracks. Sing 16 of the world’s most beloved jazz standards in the style of legendary vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Etta James, Eileen Rodgers, Barbra Streisand, Sarah Vaughan, and more! This deluxe package (songbook plus two enhanced CDs) provides everything you need to arrive at auditions and performances completely prepared, whether your accompaniment will be live or pre-recorded. If a pianist is present, hand them the complete piano/vocal sheet music. (Chord fingering grids are also provided for optional guitar accompaniment.) If recorded accompaniment is required, the fully-orchestrated audio tracks will lend a professional touch to your performance. Vocal demonstration tracks are also included for each song. Titles: Anything Goes, At Last, Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Cry Me a River, Don’t Rain on My Parade, Dream a Little Dream of Me, Embraceable You, I Get a Kick out of You, Misty, My Funny Valentine, Over the Rainbow, Someone to Watch Over Me, Summertime, They Cant Take That Away From Me, Whatever Lola Wants, When I Fall in Love. With Vocal Complete, the sheet music matches the original key and form of the backing tracks, so if you practice singing with one, you won’t encounter unexpected variations with the other. Upload the tracks to your portable music player for practice, performances, auditions, parties, or even singing for fun in the car! There are two versions of every song on the CDs: a full-performance track with sound-alike vocals for listening and learning, and a professional-quality backing track for singing along. When the CDs are played on a Mac or Windows-based computer, the TNT (Tone ‘N’ Tempo) Changer lets you customize the key and tempo of each track to suit your voice and style. (The key changer modifies audio playback via computer only. The sheet music remains in its original key.)
Read more at SheetMusicPlus

Backing Track & Orchestration Suppliers

The sites/companies listed below are ones that the creators & contributors of have personally used and can recommend although we advise checking keys and arrangements for suitability before making any purchases. All listings cater for clients worldwide although prices quoted below may change without notice and do not include shipping. Please note: We do NOT accept requests for addition from retailers in this section but you may submit details for review to our Music Business Directory.

Chappells of Bond Street UK
the website for well known and established music shop based in London, supplies sheet music, music books, backing tracks and musical instruments.

Hands On MIDI Software UK
suppliers of MIDI & MIDI Karaoke files, MP3 backing tracks, Band Arrangements, Music Digital Sheet Music to the music industry. The sheet music arrangements are scored for keyboards, bass guitar, drums, guitar, trumpet, saxophone and vocals and are 100% compatible with their midi files and backing tracks. Prices range from £4.50 – £7.04+ for backing tracks and from £0.99p for individual fakebooks to £35.19 for best of year compilation albums. Visit their site for a full list of products and prices or telephone 023 9278 31000 for futher details.

Karaoke Island
mp3 Karaoke – Downloadable mp3 tracks with embedded lyrics. Professional playbacks with live instruments and backing vocals, freeware mp3 Karaoke player, software to record your own performance, “Sing with your PC” Karaoke CD-ROM Series, which will turn your PC into a Karaoke Machine, Custom CD+G Disks, Karaoke MIDI-files.

compilation audition, backing and rehearsal tracks in all styles and genres from opera to rock and pop, classics to chart hits, all available in CD format with piano and vocal music arrangements plus guitar chord symbols and lyrics. 

The annual **MUSIC MINUS ONE** Sale is a unique set of sheet music and CDs that offers musicians the opportunity to play with recordings of the piece’s orchestral or piano accompaniments minus the soloist, many of which are listed in our Repertoire Section. SheetMusicPlus also have over 354,000 titles, gifts, instruments and equipment available for Worldwide Shipping. Free delivery in the US for orders of $25 and over.

Song Galaxy UK
have 2000+ MIDI-files – Oldies, the hottest Chart Climbers and much more and 6000+ Audio Backing Tracks on CD or MiniDisk. Prices range from 4 – 10 GBP. You can order online or through their sales team. While they do sell MIDI-files, these Audio Backing Tracks are a different “life-form” all together. They are played in by real musicians, complete with backing-vocals, live guitar and instruments recorded in professional studios. Bulk discount up to 25% and new Mp3 download option now available plus custom tracks on request. Site also includes several free downloads including a midi karaoke player with 5 demo songs, a midi file format converter and other utilities, a puzzle and a screensaver.

Soundback International UK
Suppliers of licensed backing tracks for singers in any key on Mini Disc, Cassette, Dat or CD plus Karaoke Tracks and can supply backing tracks worldwide or via online purchase & download from their site. Tel: 08704 581 446 (uk) or Tel: +44 1273 202277 (outside uk).