Backing Tracks, Play-a-Longs, Practicing, Jam Tracks

  • Anyone uses Scaler 2 in the process of creating backing tracks?

For a long time, now, I’ve been on a kind of quest for “The Ideal Practice Tracks”. Maybe Scaler can help.

In Jazz improv, it’s quite common to practice using “backing tracks”, à la Jamey Aebersold. You improvise over the chord progression with the accompaniment of piano comping (or similar), bassline, and drums.
Traditionally (since 1967 for Aebersold), they were recordings made by studio musicians. The problem there is that each recording was made at a given tempo, in a given key. And though the parts were separated by channels so you could practice your comping or bass playing, you were limited in what you could do with those recordings.

For a long time, now, there have been software options like Band-in-a-Box (BiaB) which allow for a lot more flexibility. You can change tempo, transpose, change instruments, switch playing styles, modify some parts of the chord progression, etc.

Apart from BiaB, there’s iReal Pro, Mapping Tonal Harmony Pro, Genius Jamtracks, the Sessionband series, the iimprov series…

Of course, these things have limitations. Still, they serve a purpose.

I haven’t used BiaB itself in quite a long time. Part of the reason is that I find the UI really offputting, especially on Mac. There’s a very limited app for iPad which didn’t receive an update in 5 years. And it’s relatively pricey.
I prefer iReal Pro in terms of overall User Experience and the iPadOS version gets regular updates. It’s also quite inexpensive and users share in pretty much the same way as people do here. One thing I like is that it can export tracks to MIDI and MusicXML. However, it’s quite limited in the patterns it uses for each playing style. So things sound very repetitive, very quickly. Not as inspiring as it could be. It’s a bit as though we were using Scaler 2 with the same Playback Performance on every chord.

I often jam with tracks created in Scaler 2. While I enjoy that, I haven’t found a way to produce something satisfying in either basslines or comping.

Maybe some people here have found a way to leverage Scaler 2 for this?

Some of the noodling I enjoy doing.

The chord progression is quite simple.

In Scaler 2, I originally picked “Ukrainian Dorian” (hence the name) and I started picking chords based on Suggest (minimizing movement). Tried different options for bass Performance in Scaler 2… Not satisfied with the results, I played the simple bassline using the Launchpad X, tweaked a few notes. Chose a simple drum track in Logic Pro. Jammed a few times with this. Chose a take to upload.

Wish I were able to create the backing tracks more easily, with better results.

Seems pretty easy to me. I spend much more time but I like rolling up the sleeves and getting in there. That’s why I do music. Scaler does give me lots of options.

I love jamming, so I do only that everyday

but I don’t use any of the Scaler instruments, bass included, because I prefer dedicated plugins

I use EZBass (also hands-on recently) and EZDrummer 3 to do a quick base to jam on

If I want to jam quickly, I use Broomstick Bass (no more on sale) because it follows Scaler immediately and its metronome is a simple but efficient drummer

With EZDrummer you can also have an automatic keyboard, but I prefer using another synced Scaler instance to drive my Hammond, or the Minimonsta, etc. to have some texture

My problem is that I am a bungler at playing anything, so I need some help

Scaler Keys-Lock feature rarely works, so I use more often one of the various Bitwig tools for solos

If you’re looking for quick and dirty, high quality backing tracks of existing tunes, I’ve found Band in a Box does that very very well. Either you can use its existing “Real Tracks,” which are pretty high quality, or you can route the individual tracks (bass, drums, keys, guitars) through your preferred VST instruments. The great advantage of BIAB is (a) there are tens of thousands of pre-existing song arrangements people have done that are freely available on the Web; and (b) it comes packaged with hundreds of arrangement styles, so you can try different things.

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Yes, I know that BiaB is great, but when I tested this tool, it wasn’t a plugin, but a separate ecosystem, and I preferred (and I still prefer today) going to an open system like a DAW

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Yeah, my post was about using Scaler as part of an alternative to BiaB. (Haven’t used any version of PG Music’s flagship product in decades, for several reasons. I do use iReal Pro, Genius Jam Tracks, SessionBand, Piano Motifs, JJazzLab, Impro-Visor, Progressions, Riffer, iBassist, etc.)

Like @ClaudioPorcellana , I prefer something of an open system. And I realize that PG Music has eventually added a VST plugin to their offerings… which still relies on the whole setup.

Then, there’s a matter of playflow. With BiaB, the overall expectation is that you will do everything in that same setup, even if you send the MIDI messages to other VSTs. What Scaler encourages is a very different process, much more modular.

Related to playflow is overall experience. (I work in User Research (UX) and I care quite a bit about the way things work together.) Screenshots from recent versions of BiaB give me the impression that it’d be as dissatisfying to use as it was when I last tried it. And, AFAICT, they don’t have a trial version. So I don’t feel that attracted to BiaB.

Then, there’s the fact that the Mac version trails behind the Windows one. I’m really not clear on what improvements there might be, each year. It’s also not obvious when they do sales. The impact on my “customer experience” is that I don’t know what’s the best time to buy the software… so I end up not buying it.

Besides, I’m really not sure BiaB would satisfy my needs, which tend to change over time.
Because I’m not just trying to get backing tracks. Those are rather easy to get, even on YouTube.
What I’m trying to do is develop a set of skills which has to do with jam tracks. So, part of it is about creating new types of backing tracks… and learning what makes them work, for me.
Much of that becomes really geeky. The music I enjoy playing is something which doesn’t really exist. So I end up exploring all sorts of crazy things. Scaler does help me with that, on occasion.
An even geekier aspect is that I enjoy playing in Just Intonation, which isn’t something BiaB supports (nor is it supported in Scaler…). So, in the end, I’d convert those tracks to something else, anyway.

All this to say… Yes, we do know about BiaB. :wink:

This forum software consistently dumps me into the latest posting in a sub, not the original post. So alas, I missed the initial reference to BIAB.

That said, I went through a similar trajectory: Discovered BIAB circa 2000, used it for a few years, stopped for about 18, but rediscovered it as I was learning my DAW (Studio One). I’ve found my library of several thousand BIAB arrangements gathered in the early Oughts, combined with the VST, to be an invaluable musical resource.

In fact, you’ve inspired me to fantasize a Scaler function by which Scaler could read BIAB arrangements.

BIAB is good in a way, BUT it doesn’t give you any of the joy and joy of composing that you can do in other ways and with many other programs or not to mention real instruments.