Welcome to the world of backing tracks, where no solo singer with a smartphone or mobile device is truly alone!
And don’t worry, we’re not talking lip sync scandals at the Superbowl here – we’re talking genuine performances backed up by pre-recorded music. Sometimes, a backing track is just the right way to go.
Want to know more about what backing tracks are and where to get them? Read on!
What are backing tracks?
A backing track is a recorded piece of music designed for singers to sing over, used instead of live instrumental accompaniment. A backing track can either be an original piece of music recorded without vocals for a singer to sing their own composition to or improvise over, or an edited or recreated version of an existing or popular song which removes the original vocal or other instruments.
Why do I need a backing track?
If you don’t play an instrument yourself and are a solo performer, a backing track is a useful way for you to sing with accompaniment, rather than singing a capella. Some singers prefer to sing a capella, but if you’re less comfortable singing solo, or even if you think your performance would just benefit from having the sound of the rest of the instruments backing you up, then a backing track is the right choice for you!
Some experienced or even professional singers choose to perform to high quality backing tracks for reasons such as:
- The cost of even a professional bespoke backing track is significantly lower than the cost of hiring a professional live band
- No musical equipment is necessary – if there’s a speaker and a jack lead at the venue, the singer only needs to bring their mobile device
- There’s a lot more space onstage to utilise
How do I play to a backing track?
If you’ve saved your backing track onto your mobile device, you can often plug it into a mixing desk and play your track through a PA system. Then, all you need to do once you’re ready to perform is ask the sound engineer to press ‘play’.
We strongly recommend that you do download your backing track onto your mobile device rather than relying on streaming – while streaming may seem easier, you never know how strong the WiFi will be at your venue, so you might be stood there waiting for your track to buffer, or worse: get cut off mid-song. Plus, you wouldn’t want your performance to be interrupted by an annoying ad!
When do I need to play to a backing track?
You might find it useful to sing to a backing track when you’re practising at home. You might also sing to a backing track during an audition.
Some performers also use backing tracks for live performances, such as at open mic nights – and, increasingly, major artists incorporate backing tracks into their live performances, particularly for parts of their songs which would be difficult or even impossible to recreate in a live setting.
What are the different types of backing tracks?
If you’re using a karaoke machine or have purchased a karaoke album (or even if you’ve stumbled across a karaoke night at a local venue), you’ll be familiar with such companies as Stingray or Sunflower. Depending on who you get your files from, your backing tracks will tend to fit into these 2 main categories:
- Audio files – usually MP3 or WAV files, these will usually be better quality. The karaoke producers attempt to recreate instrumental versions of popular songs as closely as possible, but you’ll often find it sounds different – purely because the original recording artist didn’t perform on the track.
- MIDI files – Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) versions of songs have been recreated, as the name suggests, using digit instruments. Although technology continues to surge forward at breakneck speed, MIDI instruments still don’t quite sound like the real thing – but they’re great for practising along to, not least because they’re easier to manipulate in terms of tempo and key.
Do I need permission to use a backing track?
We always recommend reading the terms and conditions of the company who provided you with the backing track, but generally you don’t require any extra permission to perform along to a backing track in public. Most companies who allow you to purchase instrumental or altered versions of popular songs will specify that they are licensing the backing track to you, which means they’ve obtained the licence for that track themselves so you don’t have to – but do check with them first!
However, this licence typically does not cover recording – you’ll be free to use the backing track for practising and performing purposes, but if you want to record yourself singing over the backing track as a demo, you shouldn’t try to sell this for a profit.
Where can I find the best app for backing tracks?
The internet is a rich and plentiful resource for all things digital if you know where to look – and backing tracks are no exception. Naturally, there are backing tracks available of varying degrees of quality depending on how big your budget is, ranging from lower quality free tracks to more expensive custom backing tracks tailored to your exact musical needs.
Free backing tracks for singers
If you’re only just stepping out into the world of backing tracks, or even if you’re just on a tight budget, it stands to reason that you’d begin by exploring the free options first. There are plenty of passable free backing tracks for singers out there – here are some of the main contenders:
There are plenty of free backing tracks for singers to be found on YouTube – just type what you’re looking for in its search box and you’re bound to be served up multiple options. Be wary of lower sound quality, as this gets lost in translation when you convert videos to sound files – and also, since anyone is free to upload YouTube videos, it’s hard to know if you can fully trust the source.
The largest online music network, over 250 million tracks have been uploaded to SoundCloud by independent artists from all over the world. So not only is this a great place to search for instrumental versions of famous songs as well as original instrumental pieces you can use to improvise over, but it’s also a great way to connect with other musicians.
If you already have a Spotify Premium account, you can search through the thousands of backing tracks available on the streaming service until you find what you’re looking for. Plus, you’ll be able to download the album or a playlist you create yourself at no additional cost.
Paid for backing tracks for singers
For the more discerning backing track user, there are several companies who specialise in professional and often bespoke backing tracks. While they are only available to paying customers, the higher production values these paid-for professional backing tracks boast make this a necessary step towards becoming a professional yourself – here are our top picks:
If you want to customise your backing track to turn up, turn down, remove or isolate certain instruments such as the guitar, bass or backing vocals, you can do all of this and more on the Karaoke Version website. Once you’ve adjusted the levels to your liking, just click ‘add to cart’, then wait a few minutes while your custom backing track is mixed for you.
Visit the Paris Music website if you’re looking for professional musicians who can remake or remix tracks in any style to your specification.
Stop by the Steve’s Trax website for thousands of faithful recreations of classic tracks, which you can request in alternative keys and with certain instruments removed.
Music Backing Tracks (MBT)
Supplying vocalists with high quality backing tracks from every genre since 1985, you’d be hard pressed to not find a professional recreation of the song you were looking for on the MBT website.
Can I make backing tracks myself?
It is entirely possible to create backing tracks yourself – however, as we mentioned above, these can only be for private use unless you obtain a licence from the publisher of the song.
The two main methods of creating a backing track, put simply, would be:
- A – remove the vocals or other instruments from the original track
- B – recreate the track using either real recorded or MIDI instruments
For both of these methods, you’ll need a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) – basically, a computer program to make music with. If you own an Apple device, then you’ll have free access to GarageBand; if you’re a Windows user, there are other free DAWs out there which will allow you to do much the same thing, such as Cakewalk and Audacity.
We hope you now feel you know what you need to about backing tracks. Next time you’re performing solo or pop into a karaoke bar, your audience will be in for a treat!
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 Winehouse, 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.
Big Book Of Backing Tracks – 200 High-Quality Play-Along Tracks In All Styles (Book/USB)
Hone your lead chops and practise your favourite 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 to four minutes or more, 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.
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.
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.
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.
Karaoke 2016 Chart Hits
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.
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.
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
Our Singing School: Christmas (2 x CD)
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.
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.
Pop Hits Backing Tracks: Kylie
Singalong to 10 classic Kylie Minogue hits from across her pop career. Complete lyrics plus backing tracks on CD.
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.
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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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.
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 phone or device 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.)
Backing Track & Orchestration Suppliers
The sites/companies listed below are ones that the creators & contributors of Vocalist.org.uk 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.
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.