3 ways to handle instrumentals in your choir’s backing tracks

If you regularly use backing tracks with your choir, you’ll already know that there are many benefits. There is a wide range to choose from, covering decades of contemporary music. They are easy to access online and are very cost effective.

A live band is great, but there are costs involved and you need to ensure your performance space is big enough for a band and a choir. Backing tracks are convenient, particularly if you are performing out and about at events and you still want a full sound.

That said, performing with backing tracks is by no means problem-free. One area that can prove tricky is the instrumental, that part of a rock or pop song where the band takes over for a while. If you have a band, you can let the musicians get on with it, but with a backing track you and your choir can be left standing there feeling a bit awkward! So how do you overcome the long instrumental? Here are three ideas that I’ve employed with my choir.

Get shaking

If you’re covering a nice upbeat song, then having some small shakers hidden away in your singers’ pockets can be a great instrumental solution. We use small ‘eggs’ in bright colours. Make sure you include plenty of practice at this in rehearsal and keep the rhythm straightforward. Be clear with your singers about when they can and cannot use the shakers – it’s very easy to get carried away!

Go solo

If you have a soloist in the song or a microphone handy then why not bring a singer forward to do some ad-libs during the instrumental? This could involve some ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ or repetition of the song lyrics. If you don’t have soloists, something similar from the whole choir can work too.

Get moving

If the song is upbeat, you don’t want to lose any energy as singers stand there for a 16 bar intrumental. Why not incorporate a ‘step-clap’ action at this point or some other movement? This could be as simple as clapping and enouraging the audience to join in. A couple of notes on this: make sure you don’t get carried away and forget to count the bars ready to bring the choir back in. Also, practise, practise, practise! If movement and clapping doesn’t come together for your choir in rehearsal then don’t use it. You can test the water by trying some movement in a warm-up exercise first.

Comments on 3 ways to handle instrumentals in your choir’s backing tracks

  1. Avatar Meta Fagerström says:

    I use all of the above – If I am short of time, I buy backtracks from “Singback” or “Karaoke World”, but mostly I make my own backtracks using Logic or Cubase. Since I make them in midi-format it’s easy for me if I later want to make some changes. Me and my husband also make customised backtracks for other choirs, musicals and swedish bands and I love working in midi. You have total control :-)

    A simple dance move can also be a good way to pass the instrumentals. I can recommend “Cowboy Hustle” – my choir loves “The Cowboy Hustle”

    Big hugs from Sweden – wishing you all a great weekend!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks for all this info Meta. I’m intrigued what a ‘cowboy hustle’ is and will be looking that one up to try with my choir!

  2. Avatar Pato says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I am in front of this type of vocal groups where we do mostly pop songs and I use a lot of backing tracks. Sometimes it brings a lot of fun to the group when we do some basic coreography during the instrumental bridges of the song. Also I give the chance to all or most of the members of a small vocal group to be a “soloist” for at least a phrase of the song. In this way, they have their moment of glory and work hard in rehearsals to deserve this.

  3. Many thanks for the info I have passed it onto the various people in the Ipswich Orpheus choir based in Ipswich Queensland.Which in early days when Welsh miners came to Ipswich to mine coal.

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      You’re welcome Ray.

  4. So glad to hear you acknowledge the 800 pound gorilla in the room – accompaniment tracks. They can be a wonderful gift for worship music, and over the years I’ve learned to produce my own custom tailored tracks using MIDI technology. With custom tailored tracks you can control the tempo, the key, the number of verses, and yes every note of each solo. It also makes for productive rehearsals that go really well. I have personally uploaded over 100 YouTube videos demonstrating the versatility of MIDI accompaniment tracks in worship and I offer my general MIDI files freely for others to use.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Chris, thanks for this info on midi tracks.

  5. Wonderful article as always Christine! I might also suggest arranging some choir oohs, aahs or other harmony over the instrumental section, adding a colourful and unexpected moment to the song. When you are singing a song with an extra long instrumental section, it might also be best to simply cut it out of the track too using some simple cut and splicing techniques in the relevant digital audio software.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Jamie, some fab ideas.

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