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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 midifiles 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
Both CD and Minidisc players allow you to jump to the exact start of a track or you can organise songs into the order that you wish to sing, the quality is higher than audio cassettes which are harder to line up.

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.

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. 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.


Every week, MP3 Backing Tracks give away 100 free backing tracks to 100 lucky customers. To take part in the Giveaway, browse through their catalogue and pick a track which has FREE beside the title. Each week, we'll draw out 100 lucky winners and if you're successful, you'll receive the download link for your free track.

Musical Gifts
Our associate site contains musical gift ideas including hymns and xmas songs in backing and karaoke audio plus sheet music, books, seasonal clipart, games and humour.

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.

MusicRoom UK
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. Try Sing With... an excellent series for vocalists. The book in melody line arrangement with guitar chord symbols and full lyrics enables the vocalist to learn from score with or without the CD. The accompanying CD includes specially recorded 'sound-alike' tracks including Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Soul Sisters, Robbie Williams, David Gray, Westlife, Ricky Martin, Travis, Oasis, Coldplay, Abba, Elvis Presley, Shania Twain, Pop Idols and a whole lot more!!

SheetMusicPlus
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. 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 midifile format converter and other utilities, a puzzle and a screensaver.

Soundback International UK
supplers 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).

Sound Choice Custom Karaoke CDGs
provides custom karaoke backing tracks on CDG for karaoke singers and rehearsal