Creating backing tracks for 90s pop music

Anyone who follows me on Facebook or twitter is probably wondering why someone who claims to spend most of his time recording choirs and classical musicians has spent the last few days talking about Take That, East 17, Coldplay, Snow Patrol and a plethora of other such bands.

Well I’m sorry to disappoint you but I haven’t actually recorded any of them.  A few weeks ago, 4 Part Music went to North Wales to record a Male Ensemble at Ysgol Dinas Bran High School in Llangollen.  Whilst there we recorded 11 songs for their forthcoming album, the majority of which were songs originally performed or indeed written by the groups mentioned above.

The recording was made in the school hall with a rather budget end electric piano (even the head of music admitted this!).   The choir, however, was really good and what with a few solos and some very good guitar playing in one of the songs, we got a more than satisfactory recording after a days work.

My task once the location recording of the choir had been mastered was to take the output of just the choir and the Piano DI and add some orchestration to this – i.e. create a backing track.  As I didn’t have any music to work from, it was essentially a case of having a listen to the original songs on you tube and then trying to recreate the feel of the backing track on the original.

Usually for work like this, most studios / producers would probably take at least 2 or 3 weeks given that the backings had to be created from scratch with no brief other than “make it sound nicer than just a piano”.  I had 48 hours before the CD had to be sent off for replication!  In those 48 hours I had to come up with an orchestrated backing, put it together and output as a balanced album. Not only that, the original recording was not done to a click track so it wasn’t just a question of doing something on a loop and quantising it.  Every single note had to be manually played in to exactly match the original recording.

Now, I will be the first to admit that some of the tracks are far from perfect and given more time I could do a lot more. But it certainly shows what can be done in a short space of time.  Now what I’d like is another similar job but with more time to do it in so I can show what can really be done!  I have included a short clip from one of the tracks below so you can make your own decisions!

[mp3j track="Viva La Vida@JWA_WebClip1.mp3"]