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Thread: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

  1. #1

    Default Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Not sure where to post this...
    Question- Is it permissible/okay to play solo gigs with backing tracks? I did a couple of these a few years ago with guitar just soloing over jazz backing tracks. It seemed to be well received. I thought I might give it a go with a mandolin. I'm not sure if it's "cheating" or not?! I'm not talking about large venues or any manilli vanilli stuff
    I'm just thinking small coffee shop settings to add a little background music. Anybody ever done this? Thoughts?

  2. #2
    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Most guitarists are good enough/solid enough rhythm to play the backing. Could be more fun, I remember in California there were lots of women who were good enough (and more importantly) happy enough to play simple 'backing tracks'.

    I guess if I played, then I wouldn’t want a backing track that’s too complex, but if you want to play jazz…

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    Registered User John Kelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    When everything works and the electronics behave then it can be fun, especially if you are playing to your own backing tracks. I know two local performers who do this in my home area, using CDs to provide their backing. One is a singer of Scottish songs and the other plays guitar and sings. They seem to be quite happy with their set-ups. The big nightmare would be if something in the chain malfunctioned and you were suddenly there, on your own, with your backing track gone AWOL. With a live partner you can always cover up if one of you has a lapse.

    On a positive note, the venue will be happy to be paying for only one live performer rather than two or more.
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    I've seen people booked for gigs when they were playing on the street... in what, IMO, was a less-than-tuneful performance.

    There are no performance police. If you and the venue come to a mutual agreement, then game on!
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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    I began developing my prerecorded back tracks over 5 years ago out of necessity. At this point I have almost 100 tunes on my iPad and gig regularly at local restaurants and such. I was apprehensive at first but nobody blinked and most were tapping their toes so off I went. Prior to this period I've always played with people and love it. These days in my area few if any musicians are in my musical niche. Lots of local performers use looping gear. Then there are the ones that turn their nose up to any and all machinery. In the long run I just love to gig and play music.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    People have been doing it for decades now. At least 10 years ago I was directed to the "best guitarist in Key West" to see some guy with a looper, backing tracks, and an acoustic guitar playing to an enthusiastic crowd. Personally, i would rather bang my toe with a hammer than listen to ten seconds of that, but a lot of people love it.

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    It was funny, one time I was outside a pub with some friends and they had live music.
    It was like one of those Brazilian bands with 12 people, sounded great, two female backup singers, and even laughter in the middle of the song.

    We walked in, the place was dark with flashing disco lights, and EMPTY!
    -apart from the one guy with a mini acoustic electric guitar who was sweating, busy stamping on foot pedals.
    We had a good time though, just because it was so bizarre.

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?


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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    At least 10 years ago I was directed to the "best guitarist in Key West" to see some guy with a looper, backing tracks, and an acoustic guitar playing to an enthusiastic crowd. Personally, I would rather bang my toe with a hammer than listen to ten seconds of that.
    Funny (mostly) you should mention Key West. When I mysteriously materialized here nearly twenty years ago, The main deal was solos or duos - typically rhythm guitarist and singer, and picker/accompanist. There were a couple-few people playing solos with backing tracks - ones they'd downloaded from the interweb, not created themselves. They were looked upon with mild derision by musicians, but the public didn't seem to mind, if they even noticed. (They tend to have lower standards, and pay more attention to drinking than listening, anyway.) But slowly, one by one, more of the solo acts began working backing tracks into their acts, and slowly duos began getting pushed out, as they tend to be more costly than duos (as was noted). One of the best of these was a monster multi-instrumentalist - guitar, fiddle, banjo, even mandolin. He kept inviting me to sit in, and I'd always politely pass. One day I said all right, and he got me all miked up, and off we went. It was sounding pretty good, dontcha know, even if he had to take a bit in between songs to dial up the next one's track. (He had a tower of racked equipment behind him.) Then about an hour in, we were doing "Folsom Prison Blues," a few rounds into the instrumental, and he said, "Hold the fort, I gotta go pee," put down his guitar, and left. Not into taking breaks for fear of losing the crowd, apparently. I was taken by surprise, but had no choice. So I kept riffing away, each round wondering whether I could keep coming up with new riffs, for what must have been 3-4 minutes but felt like forever. He came back, picked up his guitar, waited for his turn to come around, and launched in, finally finishing up with the last verse. Terrifying, yet oddly thrilling - a baptism of fire. Kids, don't try this at home.

    Or actually, do just that, if you're going to do this. Find your backing tracks or work up your own, practice with them diligently till you can play with ease and confidence, and make it sound as natural as you can.

    BTW, my dear friend Dagmar played a lunchtime gig at a tiki bar up in Sarasota. When I finally visited her after a forty-year interlude (looong story), she asked me to sit in. Turns out she played with an ancient drum machine. And I mean, it was pretty ticky-tacky. But OK, that's what you like, fine. She got a bit off-track for "Me And Bobby McGee," dialing up a rhumba beat instead of a straight 4/4, not noticing till we were already into it. I've got some experience in such syncopation, and had some fun playing with that, which ended up being a good bit of fun. Wish we had a tape of that!
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Dave Hum (RIP) has awesome backing tracks. The best I ever heard, just perfect for busking. He fronted them on banjo. His mandolin picking is excellent, you can here it on many of his album tracks.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtOSNRd6k1A

    and

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy5N771mqkM

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Epilogue: After Hurricane Wilma clobbered us in 2005, closing down the entire music scene for over a month, when clubs began to open one by one, they hired only solos and solos with backing tracks. The money supply was really tight, and they just weren't going to shell out for duos. This was when my duo partner got a job at the Shipwreck Museum, where the boss loved music and was proactive on employees playing - anything to attract attention and lure in customers. He kept nudging me to join him, and I kept passing - I'd quit a good-paying job to come here and play music, and did not want to take another job. But as time went on and clubs still weren't hiring, I went for it - and it changed my life, becoming about the best job I ever had.

    We wore 1850s clothing, told tales of the wrecking industry (salvaging OF shipwrecks, actually), doing a little skit outside every 20 minutes to bring customers up to speed a bit (and hopefully entice more customers from passersby), after which the actor playing the boss would bring them in and talk about the exhibits. If no one showed up for a show, we'd push the clock ahead and have a 15-minute break. We might all just yak about this or that, but we often played music during these breaks. The two of us might play along with the recording of a local band playing sea chanties and Irish tunes being played in a loop over the PA (a fine backing track, now that I think of it), or we could turn it off and play our own stuff - didn't have to be period-appropriate. We might even work on material for gigs, when we finally started getting some. Imagine that - playing music AT a day job! A musician's dream!

    This was also when I learned to play the conch, such as it is - any way to attract attention, and the company even bought me one. Even after we parted ways, I kept in touch, and when times got to where I needed to drop back into employment, they took me back. My boss had moved up the corporate ladder, but the current management was still in favor of live music. All in all, it was pretty fun job. And even though I've had jobs that paid better or offered more personal freedom, this had it all and really suited me. I'm glad to have this as my last job.

    We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming, already in progress ...
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

    Furthering Mandolin Consciousness

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    Finders Keepers, my duo with the astoundingly talented and versatile Patti Rothberg. Our EP is finally done, and available! PM me, while they last!

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    Dave Berry
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    It's a good question. I think it depends on the venue. I've been known to play outside at the local cafe with a Bluetooth speaker and people like and don't notice at all. I even use Strum Machine backing on occasion. That said, I'd probably not do that at an indoor paid venue. YMMV
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  17. #13

    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    I really appreciate everyone taking time to reply! Good information for sure. If I put it together, I'll give a report on the experience!

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    Registered User Simon DS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Yes in a small venue, I imagine a simple double bass backing track could sound really good too.
    The main problem is that you can’t as a mandolinist do a lot of expressive work with rubato etc. (Unless you have a foot operated tempo control).

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    Dave Berry
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Quote Originally Posted by Simon DS View Post
    Yes in a small venue, I imagine a simple double bass backing track could sound really good too.
    The main problem is that you can’t as a mandolinist do a lot of expressive work with rubato etc. (Unless you have a foot operated tempo control).
    Yes, a pedal is always going to give more flexibility. I don't know if you have used Strum Machine but it has some interesting features like adjusting the timing of each backing track (bass, guitar, mandolin) and auto spead-up with a max. There's a 14 day free trial. I have no financial interest but it's a great tool.
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  20. #16

    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    The answer to the question is YES you can do whatever you wish to do. If you are worried about what people think then you won't do it. Some will turn their nose up at backing tracks but they have been on the go for so long and if you enjoy playing along with them, then its your life. Do it.

    I would not think twice about what anyone else thinks. Enjoy your music in all ways you can.

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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Right on, Jimmy!

    A long time ago I figured out who I was playing for and it's NOT musician-types sitting in judgement. Like I care!! The people who enjoy what I do are the ones I care about. I put my all into every facet of my performance including my back trax which I continually refine and polish.

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    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Billy, does that mean you record your own tracks?

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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Many moons ago I played in a duo at a dinner house. [Yep, I’m old!] A guy came to the stage at our break and asked pointedly why we used recorded backing tracks on a pair of the songs in that set. I told him and asked if he was offering his services for the next night. He said he was a musician but never played out. I shook my head and pointed to a room of eighty-some people who were eating dinner and looking forward to the music resuming and I said, “That’s my audience. I watch them while we’re playing. None of them has ever looked unhappy about the occasional recorded backing track. In fact, they like it. Of the few who took notice over several years, only you questioned it.” I let it go at that.

    By the way, on Leland Sklar’s youtube channel he told a few years ago about a big name act he toured with who used a recorded segment during one of his songs. I opine that it’s fine as long as it’s a support, an enhancement to the music and not the bulk of the performance.
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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Lately, someone here took that to it's ultimate, and played fiddle along to not only backing tracks, but fronting tracks as well.

    She had been doing it long enough to fool most non-players, I guess, judging from her tip jar.

  27. #21
    Registered User Mike Buesseler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    I recorded this with a Strum Machine track. It makes me think seriously about getting a good Bluetooth speaker for a small-venue gig.

    SM - Cooley’s Reel.mp3

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  29. #22

    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Since covid I've made no attempt to collect with others. I'd take an "All-In-One Portable 40 Watt PA System with Bluetooth Connectivity, Battery Operation and Transport Handle..." for backing percussion tracks. I play a very rhythmic style on various instruments (Brazilian and various Latin forms, Arabic maqamat, flamenco, etc) and while I used to do all this solo (without backing), I've been using the percussion tracks on my kids' Yamaha keyboard since "retiring" - with which I can just improvise endlessly.

    Of course it's not as fun as playing with live percussionists, but it's a different world these days.. Besides, it's very difficult finding percussionists in my area who can play this music.

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  31. #23

    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    I should say instead of sounding smug - of course there are pros and folks who play genre, I'm just going by craigslist outreach. There's just not much Latin influence in MT

  32. #24
    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    I produce my back tracks using a verity of sources.
    Billy Packard
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  33. #25

    Default Re: Mandolin solo gigs with backing tracks?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buesseler View Post
    I recorded this with a Strum Machine track. It makes me think seriously about getting a good Bluetooth speaker for a small-venue gig.

    SM - Cooley’s Reel.mp3
    Wow, that sounds great! I had no idea there was a thing called "Strum Machine".....I need to get out more.

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