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#2080387 - 05/10/13 02:27 PM Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital?  
Joined: Jul 2012
Posts: 304
kenjazz Offline
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kenjazz  Offline
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Does anyone allow recorded accompaniment (backing tracks) to be be played by students during their recitals? I'm an adult jazz student. I mostly have been working on trio or group numbers. I hate to go try to work up a solo number in a week or two (when I haven't been playing that style). I would much rather plug in a Wave radio, turn on the backing track for an arrangement that I've actually worked on and have at it.

It seems like a real recital etiquette problem though. Has anyone ever done this with students? Thanks.


The Melody Never Lies

Schimmel 120J

Learning To Play Jazz Piano After Age 50+
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#2081522 - 05/12/13 05:44 PM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: kenjazz]  
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musicpassion Offline
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Originally Posted by kenjazz
Has anyone ever done this with students? Thanks.

Yes, probably someone, somewhere on this planet earth at some time in history has.

But I think your question is actually how accepted canned music is in a formal performance situation. I have never even considered allowing any canned music in a recital I'm organizing, and I think most other musicians with an academic background would feel the same.

There are some places where canned background music seems fairly common and accepted: churches and restaurant type gigs. But a student recital is supposed to showcase a student's music, not a canned background track.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2081572 - 05/12/13 07:18 PM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: musicpassion]  
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kenjazz Offline
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Thank you for replying! I thought this would be a shutout discussion. My predicament is that trio/combo playing is a certain style completely distinct in technique from solo jazz efforts. I haven't bailed on a recital yet, but it is always a pretty poor effort as I try to learn a new number and style that I have not been studying in a week or two.

You really don't think it would show the pianist's talent/advancement if he were playing the same tune with a virtual bass player and drummer vs. a live group?


The Melody Never Lies

Schimmel 120J

Learning To Play Jazz Piano After Age 50+
#2081662 - 05/13/13 01:03 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: kenjazz]  
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musicpassion Offline
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musicpassion  Offline
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Originally Posted by kenjazz
You really don't think it would show the pianist's talent/advancement if he were playing the same tune with a virtual bass player and drummer vs. a live group?

I think it shows a different thing than playing with other musicians. Playing with a recorded ensemble feels different than with live musicians. I think part of it might also be that we - meaning musicians - don't want to loose the interactions between humans playing music.

I've seen a distinct bias against recorded accompaniment, and I'm just trying to explain some of the thinking I can discern behind it.

That being said, I've used canned accomaniment before when I played in a church setting. There weren't any other options, so it was that or nothing. If you're in the situation where it's the track or nothing... well, we're musicians and musicians want to share the music.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2081667 - 05/13/13 01:22 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: musicpassion]  
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musicpassion Offline
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musicpassion  Offline
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Originally Posted by musicpassion
Originally Posted by kenjazz
Has anyone ever done this with students? Thanks.

But I think your question is actually how accepted canned music is in a formal performance situation. I have never even considered allowing any canned music in a recital I'm organizing, and I think most other musicians with an academic background would feel the same.

I wanted to explore this more. In addition to artistic considerations, this is also a business decision. I'm a university educated music teacher, and my clients (students, adult students, and parents) have expectations about what that means. I don't have any problem doing something new from time to time, but obviously I want to avoid things would be bad for my business. For example I also wouldn't hold a formal recital on an electronic keyboard. It would be bad for my business.

Some clients wouldn't care about any of this. Others certainly do.


Pianist and Piano Teacher
#2081729 - 05/13/13 04:48 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: kenjazz]  
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Exalted Wombat Offline
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A program like Band-in-a-Box can be invaluable for a jazz soloist who requires a rhythmically stable backing while practicing improvisation. There are limitations of course. But not as big as NOT having anything to play against!

Would a student trio - playing the wrong changes and failing to hold tempo - be better? :-)

You'd have to present it appropriately to a recital audience:

"We'd much rather have Messers Brown and Thigpen with us tonight! But, as you're not paying that sort of money, let me show you how we use BiaB as a teaching aid. You might be pleasantly surprised!"

#2081761 - 05/13/13 07:18 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: kenjazz]  
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Morodiene Offline
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Morodiene  Offline
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Originally Posted by kenjazz
Does anyone allow recorded accompaniment (backing tracks) to be be played by students during their recitals? I'm an adult jazz student. I mostly have been working on trio or group numbers. I hate to go try to work up a solo number in a week or two (when I haven't been playing that style). I would much rather plug in a Wave radio, turn on the backing track for an arrangement that I've actually worked on and have at it.

It seems like a real recital etiquette problem though. Has anyone ever done this with students? Thanks.
Have you asked your teacher if she/he has other students who play other instruments and jazz? Perhaps you could put together a little combo? I did that before, although with two singers, and a cellist with me playing harpsichord on my digital piano for a Vivaldi piece. I also got a student who played violin to play with a piano student and a singer. Letting other students with other talents participate always adds to the excitement of a recital. Of course, perhaps if you had other musicians you can work with your teacher would let them come as guests. It would be a real treat for everyone!


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#2081764 - 05/13/13 07:23 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: Exalted Wombat]  
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TimR Offline
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If you do use backing tracks, I'd suggest taking some care with the sound quality, both of the recording and of whatever system you use to play it.

I've heard some really awful sound quality, and that's incredibly annoying. And I was guilty of it myself a few times when I was producing canned music for a church service, and learning how to do it. I cringe when I think what I subjected parishioners to, though I guess it was better than nothing. (This resulted in my starting piano lessons - my wife said with all the time you're spending on the computer doing that, you could probably just learn to play it.)

Whether it's appropriate to use recorded or produced music might depend on your mindset. Are you developing a piano player, or a performer? Some of our definitions of performing may be too restrictive. Unless we're singing unaccompanied, we're always using tools to help us produce music.

I can think of a number of concerts I've been to where performers used additional tools well. Steve Turre for example used some kind of loop playback device. He'd play a bass line, click a button with his foot, and that line would continue looping while he added a harmony line, and then both looped while he soloed over it. Or, I heard Abbie Conant in concert where she made very effective use of recorded sounds while she played avant garde trombone with it.

What if you use the tool to make your own performance easier, or even possible, allowing yourself more creative room for expression? I think that will offend the purists, but the audience may appreciate it. For example, what if you needed to hold a fast trill for an extended time, while playing other notes otherwise unreachable? What would be wrong with having a hot key that did it for you?

Getting off topic, perhaps. But you are probably familiar with Lisa Dalby's performance of the Brahms G-minor Rhapsody, Opus 79, way back in 1994, using some computer enhancements.

One of the difficulties is the possibility of mechanical failure. While the occasional piano string does break during performance, we don't fear it the way we fear a hard drive crash on Easter Sunday with everybody waiting for the music to start!


gotta go practice
#2081806 - 05/13/13 09:03 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: kenjazz]  
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kenjazz Offline
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Thanks you all for your comments. I do use BIAB for recording tracks. The quality is pretty good I think. You can hear a number of my recordings using this technique at Learning To Play Jazz Piano After Age 50+. These are all professional musicians, not MIDI, so it would not sound embarrassing at a recital IMO.

I did see a recital once that was so big that the owner was able to bring in semi-professional accompanists. But that was the only time that I ever saw that.


The Melody Never Lies

Schimmel 120J

Learning To Play Jazz Piano After Age 50+
#2085032 - 05/19/13 02:00 AM Re: Does anyone allow backing tracks during their recital? [Re: kenjazz]  
Joined: Apr 2010
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timtopham Offline
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Richmond, Victoria, Australia.
Backing tracks are great! Go for it! Students love them and it's much more interesting for the audience when pieces are played in different ways - eg. duets, trios (or more), small groups, backing tracks, duets with one student on synth or string sounds on a keyboard. I even have a couple of students who sing and play their own songs!

I teach with a keyboard as a second piano and regularly play along with my students whether it's a bouncy backing for a scale, drums to go along with a rock song or bass and piano for a jazz improv.


Tim Topham
www.timtopham.com
Inner Circle Piano Teachers' Community
Expert in Creativity in Music Education
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