You are here

Software for playing backing tracks live

For current or would-be users of Apple Mac computers, with answers to many FAQs.

Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Fri May 17, 2019 2:45 pm

One of the bands I play with augments their live sound with backing tracks.

Currently I am using Logic 9 running on a 2012 MacBook Pro to run them with all the audio in a single 90 minute long "arrangement", which runs uninterrupted apart from where I have used Meta Events to pause playback at certain points and markers to allow me to jump to the start of each individual song.

However with this set up, changing the set order is not particularly quick or straight forward, especially if I have used any automation to change levels of the various audio tracks. Also because the tempo of the "arrangement" is set at the default 120BPM the bar lines bear no relationship to the song structure (unless it happens to be a 120BPM song), so it's not possible to pick up from a certain point in the song if we want to go over a section in rehearsal and we can't use any tempo related functions or easily put in things like MIDI events for patch changes on the guitar and bass effects.

What I'd like to be able to do is to have each song as a separate Logic file which runs at the right tempo with all the automation tweaks, which would then automatically switch to the next song at the end and either pause or start playing as required. However Logic is really not very happy about having multiple song files open simultaneously, and manually closing one song file and opening another during the gig takes too long and looks unprofessional.

I had a look at MainStage, but that appears to have its own audio playback mechanism rather than allowing me to load a Logic file into it. Also from my initial look there doesn't appear to be any way to add a MIDI tracks to play alongside the audio in sync, or at the end of one song to jump to the next and start playing automatically. It may well be able to do all these things, but the lack of a printed manual, combined with on-line searches have yet to reveal how to achieve this functionality.

So is MainStage a viable possibility? Or is there another programme that will do exactly what I want, and if so what is it? I don't need to be able to make changes on the fly or than perhaps to skip a song if we are running out of time, but what I do want is to be able to quickly make a new set by dragging and dropping individual song files. And also to be able to pause and resume playback using MIDI events generated by my Line6 Helix pedals.

Most of the songs consist of a mixed stereo backing plus a click track for the drummer. However some of them are more complex and have intros and outro sound effects that overlap the main stereo backing.

Any ideas?
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby G-Doubleyou » Fri May 17, 2019 4:48 pm

Take a look at Band in a Box, I used for solo gigs about a decade ago.

The app has drastically improved since that time, also found it useful for composing.

:thumbup:
User avatar
G-Doubleyou
Frequent Poster
Posts: 940
Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2006 1:00 am
G-Dub Studio G-fx 2011 15inch 2.0GHz quad-core i7 Macbook Pro, LPX 10.3.2
2.3 GHz quad-core i7 Mini

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Mon May 20, 2019 4:11 pm

G-Doubleyou wrote:Take a look at Band in a Box, I used for solo gigs about a decade ago.

The app has drastically improved since that time, also found it useful for composing.

:thumbup:

Are you sure this answer was for my post?

I've just had a look at the Band In A Box video, and I can see no trace of how to use it for what I need.

Maybe I wasn't too clear in my original post. I have all the audio for the backing in the form of either a single stereo file or multi-track stems plus a click track for each song as a separate audio track. I would like to be able to work on each song individually adding MIDI data for program changes for the live instruments and volume automation for the audio tracks and then have some way of chaining the individual songs together into a "set" that can easily be altered without having to worry about lining up multiple audio tracks and ensuring that the MIDI and automation data move in sync with the audio.

Does no one here use a Mac to run backing tracks with audio and MIDI in them?
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby The Elf » Mon May 20, 2019 4:44 pm

I use Cantabile to do all that and much, much more, but at the moment it's Windows only. As I understand it that is perhaps set to change. It would be worth taking a look and see/ask what the current position is.

Cantabile really is fantastic. It's one of those pieces of software where the answer is almost always 'yes' - you just have to ask the right question of it. It does, however, take time to master.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12559
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby The Red Bladder » Mon May 20, 2019 6:15 pm

Cantabile is still just Windows - but it really is the answer for MIDI with audio!
The Red Bladder
Frequent Poster (Level2)
Posts: 2226
Joined: Tue Jun 05, 2007 12:00 am
Location: . . .
 

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby The Elf » Mon May 20, 2019 7:01 pm

Yes, just Windows right now, but I know that a port is being worked on. As to timescales... :?:
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12559
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby rzzz » Mon May 20, 2019 10:20 pm

Why not use Apple's Mainstage https://www.apple.com/au/mainstage/

rz
rzzz
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Mar 28, 2019 9:02 pm

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Tue May 21, 2019 4:36 am

rzzz wrote:Why not use Apple's Mainstage https://www.apple.com/au/mainstage/

rz

I have been looking at MainStage, but trying to find the specific information I need in order to know whether it is suitable for my needs is proving difficult.

So can you confirm that I will be able to do the following and point me at a written source of information that tells me how to do it.

1. Import a Logic song with audio and MIDI for playback.

2. If this cannot be done how do I import individual mono and stereo audio tracks apply volume and EQ automation to them and assign them to specific outputs of my audio interface.

3. Import MIDI tracks and get them to run in sync with the audio tracks - these are to control external hardware devices rather than internal instruments.

4. Set a song tempo and allow the use of MIDI clock for those external devices that require it.

5. Control what happens when a song in the set list reaches the end. I need to be able to set the following:
a, The song stops the next song is paused ready to play.
b, The song stops and the next one in the list starts to play automatically.
c, The song stops and the next one starts to play automatically after a programmable pause time.

6. Allow pause and play commands to be sent as MIDI messages from a hardware controller (Line6 Helix).

7. Once I have created my set, change the order of the song playback simply by changing the order of the songs in the set list, Any automation attached to a song moves with it, but I can change what happens at the end of each song.

Thanks!
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby innerchord » Tue May 21, 2019 5:32 am

Only Logic can load Logic songs, surely?

If MainStage is not suitable (I don't know it myself, but most of the pro Mac people use it) then look at GigPerformer.

I think Ableton Live could do it, too, as could Studio One.
innerchord
Poster
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed May 11, 2016 12:00 am
 

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Tue May 21, 2019 7:50 am

innerchord wrote:Only Logic can load Logic songs, surely?

If MainStage is not suitable (I don't know it myself, but most of the pro Mac people use it) then look at GigPerformer.

I think Ableton Live could do it, too, as could Studio One.

Since both MainStage and Logic are Apple products and until the most recent versions were sold together as part of the Logic Studio package, I don't think it is too unreasonable to expect a Logic song to be able to be incorporated as part of a MainStage Performance?

I think the problem I'm having is that all these performance programs appear to be designed first and foremost to allow keyboard players to incorporate AU and VST instruments into their hardware rig, and, AFAICS, they do this admirably.

The functions I am looking for are very much secondary (if that) in nature and I am getting the impression that the only way I am really going to find out if any of them will do all the things I require is to actually try using them, and then ask a million questions that hopefully will make more sense and be worded with the correct terminology, once I have a clue about what I am doing.

As I already own a copy of MainStage 2 that came with Logic Studio 9 I will start there and see what happens...
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby innerchord » Tue May 21, 2019 2:31 pm

BigRedX wrote:
Since both MainStage and Logic are Apple products and until the most recent versions were sold together as part of the Logic Studio package, I don't think it is too unreasonable to expect a Logic song to be able to be incorporated as part of a MainStage Performance?


That's up to Apple, of course. Isn't MainStage $30 and Logic $200? There's a clue...

Your requirements include DAW-style control, which I why I strongly suggest you look at Ableton Live and Studio One.
innerchord
Poster
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed May 11, 2016 12:00 am
 

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby MOF » Tue May 21, 2019 2:48 pm

Why don’t you put all your songs in one logic song and then map the timing to each song so that the bars correspond to tracks that aren’t 120bpm.
You can then have a midi instrument to send the click to the drummer or a separate audio track (not fed to the PA) for count ins.
You can re order songs for each gig but be careful that the tempo data has moved with the song data.
I don’t know how you would get auto stop to work after each song but if you left a two minute gap that should be enough to stop, re cue and start the next song when you want it.
MOF
Regular
Posts: 354
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 1:00 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Tue May 21, 2019 2:51 pm

innerchord wrote:Your requirements include DAW-style control, which I why I strongly suggest you look at Ableton Live and Studio One.

Thanks. I've dabbled with Studio One since the last studio we recorded at uses it and I needed to export the tracks for remixing in Logic, and I couldn't see any way of chaining individual songs together into set.

Can you give me a clue as to how this is done?
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby The Elf » Tue May 21, 2019 3:14 pm

Seriously, at this point it may be worth considering begging/borrowing a Windows laptop and trying Cantabile. It really can do all this stuff for you! I don't know enough about Mainstage to compare, but I'm PC only.

My laptop is pretty humble, but it handles a set full of multi-track audio/MIDI backing, triggered effects, time-triggered patch changes, controller mapping, VST hosting, key-splitting, looping (with filters to simulate controller latching), multiple combinations of variable-sized keyboard rigs... you name it!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12559
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Tue May 21, 2019 4:43 pm

The Elf wrote:Seriously, at this point it may be worth considering begging/borrowing a Windows laptop and trying Cantabile. It really can do all this stuff for you! I don't know enough about Mainstage to compare, but I'm PC only.

My laptop is pretty humble, but it handles a set full of multi-track audio/MIDI backing, triggered effects, time-triggered patch changes, controller mapping, VST hosting, key-splitting, looping (with filters to simulate controller latching), multiple combinations of variable-sized keyboard rigs... you name it!

Thanks.

I had a look at the Cantabile site, and superficially it looks a lot like MainStage as does the other recommendation, GigPerformer. That's why I thought I'd have a go with MainStage as I own a copy via Logic Studio.

Can Cantabile handle automatically playing the next song in the set list without any user intervention, and conversely go to the next song but not start playing as dictated by the user when constructing a set?

I have to say I'm not keen on Windows having been a Mac user since 1989, every time I have to do something on a Windows machine its just too alien.
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Tue May 21, 2019 4:50 pm

MOF wrote:Why don’t you put all your songs in one logic song and then map the timing to each song so that the bars correspond to tracks that aren’t 120bpm.
You can then have a midi instrument to send the click to the drummer or a separate audio track (not fed to the PA) for count ins.
You can re order songs for each gig but be careful that the tempo data has moved with the song data.
I don’t know how you would get auto stop to work after each song but if you left a two minute gap that should be enough to stop, re cue and start the next song when you want it.

That's basically what I am doing at the moment, but I'm having problems when trying to re-order the set keeping all the audio and MIDI data along with automation and tempo changes together for each separate song. It doesn't make changing the set order at short notice a reliable option.

Stopping between tracks in this mode is easy. You just insert the Meta Event #52 in the appropriate place.
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby The Elf » Tue May 21, 2019 5:26 pm

BigRedX wrote:Can Cantabile handle automatically playing the next song in the set list without any user intervention, and conversely go to the next song but not start playing as dictated by the user when constructing a set?
Yes. The answer is almost always 'yes', but I won't say it's simple. These things require a level of understanding of Cantabile that takes time to acquire.

What you are describing is a Song 'On Load' binding that will trigger Transport to go into play. I've developed my own way of switching between 'rehearsal' and 'live' mode using Cantabile's 'Background Rack' features. I know this all sounds like gobbledy, but it does become clear eventually!
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 12559
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby MOF » Tue May 21, 2019 6:14 pm

I'm having problems when trying to re-order the set keeping all the audio and MIDI data along with automation and tempo changes together for each separate song.
This should help https://support.apple.com/kb/PH13207?locale=en_US you might have to copy the audio and midi to the same starting point separately.
MOF
Regular
Posts: 354
Joined: Thu Mar 06, 2003 1:00 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby BigRedX » Tue May 21, 2019 6:42 pm

MOF wrote:This should help https://support.apple.com/kb/PH13207?locale=en_US you might have to copy the audio and midi to the same starting point separately.

As I said trying to move everything in sync is a complete nightmare, and of course since the songs aren't all exactly the same length, just changing the position of a single song in the set involves moving lots of items, and hoping that everything is still in sync when I've finished. Not something I'd be keen on doing for a last minute set change after the sound check...

Which is why I thought there must be a better way of doing this.
User avatar
BigRedX
Frequent Poster
Posts: 688
Joined: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:00 am
RockinRollin' VampireMan

Re: Software for playing backing tracks live

Postby innerchord » Tue May 21, 2019 7:40 pm

Studio One!

Have a look at the Arrange Tracks and Scratch Pad options.
You have a complex section? Just create a part in the arranger and it's all movable with a couple of clicks. Not much of a nightmare, really. :smirk:

You could have multiple Scratch Pads for different sets, for example. Even edit them on the fly if need be.

You can control the whole shebang with MIDI too, using Macros.

I'm fairly sure Ableton Live does all of this stuff since live control is its focus, but I don't use it at all myself.
innerchord
Poster
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed May 11, 2016 12:00 am
 

Next

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: ManFromGlass