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Pre-recorded music vs. live orchestra 
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Salome wrote:
I am 100% against pre recorded

it sounds terrible plus the orchestra needs to follow the actor not vice versa.


Agreed.

I once did a show with backing tracks and it was awful. Sounded like crap and there is no room to hold a note a second longer or speed a section of your song up. Plus the sound guy may have forgotten to press play once or twice :roll:

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Tue Mar 17, 2009 4:51 am
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I have never been able to steer the orchestra. EVER. If they start too slow and I try to speed up, I spend 4-8 bars looking unintelligent. This was with multiple conductors and orchestra members.
Granted, I have been in a few shows with great conductors who were consistent and therefore had no problems.

When I was in "The Will Rogers Follies", our rehearsal pianist (and orchestra pianist) MADE a bunch of tracks for us to use... mostly the chorus numbers for dance rehearsal reasons, and so that everything would be consistent. The only problem was he ran them through is keyboard and it's speaker, so it wasn't always loud enough and if people weren't paying attention, they could get off tempo.
The tracks sounded great though, really lush and full.

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Tue Mar 17, 2009 1:14 pm
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Fresh Face
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Post follow the tracks?
My best recommendation for any theatre endeavoring to use tracks with a live musical production is to grab a NUMARK CDN model 88 or 90 or 95.

It's a rack mounted dual CD player with an automatic sampler built in and a tempo "slider" (center dentente is 100% normal tempo).

All the operator has to do is keep a finger on the tempo key and let the singers do whatever the heck they want.

8 measures of intro music and the actor is late getting onstage? No problem, just like a live orch, you can either 1) repeat from the beginning or (more likely) 2) slow down to a pitifully s-l-o-w tempo until the actor has had time to say the lines. Then you just CLICK up to the center (standard tempo) and the song is back at normal..

Actors want to take a "moment" and stretch that high note at the end of the love song? No problem, slow that sucker down and let them send the goose-bumps into the audience.

Likewise, a diva can't hold out that 16 measure note at the end of Act I? No prob, just kick up the orch speed and save her butt (then let her know about it at intermission).

It is a standard MISunderstanding that tracks are hard to follow. If you've been listening to the same thing for 8 weeks of rehearsal, and it's the SAME during performances, the chances of "getting lost" are negligible.

I've been producing full orch tracks for over 15 years (see www.bway2.com/tracks) and have NEVER EVER EVER had an actor lose the place after practicing for more than a couple of weeks with the tracks. I wish I could make the same claim for the last 30 years of live pit work!

Many here have gotten it half right.. you need to get good tracks but also, you need to have a SEPARATE SOUND SYSTEM to play them (separate from the speakers that kick the vocals). There are several reasons for this, that have to do with the placement and the physics of sound.

BEST SPEAKER PLACEMENT: Backstage (unblocked by curtains or set) so the speakers play THROUGH the actors TO the audience.

This will allow sound level to boosted to a "live orchestra" level, rather than having to dim the sound to an artificial low level when using the same speakers for vocals AND music.

Physically, if you have a 20' deep stage, the "music" is 20' FURTHER AWAY from the audience, so the singers mouths (and the singer's speakers) are CLOSER. The audience can then spatially "place" the orchestra, rather than doing the "gee isn't that tape nice" reaction. (Theatre IS illusion, nes pas?)

PLACEMENT OF ORCH IN HOUSE SPEAKERS: This will occur naturally as the vocal mics and area mics pick up the sound from the rear speakers. This is a GOOD thing, because the music will be at a MUCH lower level, being 10'-20' further from the vocal mics than the actual voices!

ELIMINATION/REDUCTION OF FEEDBACK: Ah, the oldest bugaboo of using mics in live theatre.

HOW FEEDBACK OCCURS: The sound of the voice is introduced into the microphone, then amplified and played through a speaker. When that sound of the voice being recreated by the speaker "hits" the back wall and bounces back, it gets picked up once again by the microphone and THAT reflection is re-amplified and played again through the speaker. Multiply that several thousand times (actual reflections at the vocal range of audio spectrum ) and when the amplified voice hits a "standing wave" (the frequency in which the theatre soundspace resonates, THAT'S where you get that feedback tone.

TRACKS PROPERLY PLAYED REDUCE/ELIMINATE FEEDBACK: By having the tracks being played from a separate sound system (this is not a big expense or inconvenience, every group has a music guru with a PA, you only need a head and a couple of 3-way speakers to borrow/rent) and BEHIND the singers, the actual tracks are acting as a BLOCKER to the reflected voices.

HOW?
Now your music speakers are 10'-20' from the wireless/area mics, and the reflection is coming from the speaker length to the back of the theatre and the bounce back. The music is CLOSER than the reflected voice signal and acts as a BLOCK. Try it sometime and see.

As others have said here, COMPETENT LIVE PLAYERS is best, GOOD TRACKS are THIRD best. The SECOND best is a HALF/HALF, live and tracks, so you can have the excitement of the live players and the accuracy and fullness of the tracks with a reduced staff.

After all, if you had the budget and talent to staff a full pit, this discussion of tracks would be moot, no?

All my best,

Rick Ashworth
www.bway2.com/tracks


Sat Jun 13, 2009 5:48 am
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*sigh*

When I did Oliver! last year, we used backing tracks.
It does sound cheap and was sometimes difficult to keep in time with the music. Blah!

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Sat Jun 13, 2009 7:15 am
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I use Philharmonik and some of the tracks that result sound better than a live orchestra. Imagine Scarlet Pimpernel (done with 23 instruments on broadway) with a 50 piece orchestra. Or Les Mis with 100 musicians? No mistakes, no off pitch violins (there's always one) or brass players who don't cut off on time (I'm referring to a concert I was just in)

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Sat Jun 13, 2009 10:06 am
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in genral i prefer small pits to overly huge ones. 6 instruments is a much more intimate and fullfilling sound than a huge assed 80 piece pit.

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Sat Jun 13, 2009 10:14 am
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Salome wrote:
in genral i prefer small pits to overly huge ones. 6 instruments is a much more intimate and fullfilling sound than a huge assed 80 piece pit.


For The Music Man, we had a very small orchestra.

1 Piano
1 Synthesizer
1 Saxophone
1 Flute
1 Bass Guitar
2 Percussion

It worked well and sounded really good.

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Sat Jun 13, 2009 1:54 pm
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Salome wrote:
in genral i prefer small pits to overly huge ones. 6 instruments is a much more intimate and fullfilling sound than a huge assed 80 piece pit.


For shows like JC Superstar, Hair, Rocky Horror, Little Shop, I like it small (Keyboard, Bass, Guitar, Drums).

Shows like Secret Garden, Company, Fiddler on the Roof I like it around 8 to 10.

Shows like Les Mis, Sweeney Todd, Scarlet Pimpernel, Phantom of the Opera, deserve the big treatment (the best thing about the POTO movie was hearing that overture with a huge orchestra)

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Sat Jun 13, 2009 4:38 pm
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There's been a very interesting case in the UK recently regarding the use of backing tracks. I still maintain that if you don't have the room for a pit orchestra, as we don't, then well-recorded, well-mixed, well-balanced backing tracks which the cast have rehearsed with from day 1 are an acceptable alternative, provided you don't try and pass it off as a live orchestra - and that's where this case in the UK has sprung from:

http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/25014/theatregoer-wins-refund-over-musical-without

I think this quote from the secretary general of the Musicians' Union sums it up:

Quote:
Smith added: “We understand in certain circumstances, recorded music is going to be used - in which case, you let the audience know on the posters or the programme. We think that is how the venue should deal with it, by being honest with the public.

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Tue Jul 14, 2009 6:16 pm
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Fresh Face
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Post RE: Suing for a refund
I read the article, and the refund was (including legal fees) 186GBP (sorry, don't have a "pound" key here!).

Why the theatre didn't simply refund the dude is an enigma. What are they going to do when they get sued for not using live animals, and using girls in boys parts, and "fake candles" in Pippin, and on and on and on..

I can't imagine that there was much expense on the theatre's part for a lawsuit that grossed about 50% of a single hour's barrister fee.

You have to wonder at what part theatre ISN'T permitted to be "illusion." After you refund for tracks, the next logical step is the synthesizer that is playing like a full stand of 12 string players without notifying the audience. Using a KatDrum instead of timpani? The audience has a RIGHT to know! (carrying on toward the ridiculous..) That WASN'T real water in the river?

I'm trying to imagine what the UK "honesty policy" will look like in the future.. but it would be fun thinking some up! :)

RE: Regarding the synth/strings

When I played a synth to cover strings and such back in 1974, the AFM (US musician's union) actually picketed the theater alleging live players were being put out of work.. Never mind that the dinner theatre had never employed more than 3 players in the pit since its inception..

TRUE HORROR STORY: This same entity did Fiddler with a Piano and drums.. The "fiddler" would draw his bow across the stringless violin, while the piano player played the part ("dink dink dink dink dink dink.."). It made it a bit more of a comedy than originally conceptualized. :)


Tue Jul 14, 2009 8:41 pm
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About the Wizard of Oz backing track production. If the singers were not lip syncing, there was still live music. I'm just sayin.

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Sat Jul 18, 2009 10:37 pm
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Post 
Salome wrote:
I am 100% against pre recorded

it sounds terrible plus the orchestra needs to follow the actor not vice versa.


But there are some pre-recorded tracks that sound absolutely phenomenal. You may roll your eyes, but have you heard the backing tracks for the Broadway Jr. series? They are fantastic. It doesn't sound cheap at all. I love performing in Jr. productions for the sole fact that the orchestrations are amazing. Yes, live orchestras are much more fulfilling and real, but if you can find really great backing tracks, then all is well.


Sun Jul 19, 2009 4:24 pm
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