6 simple steps to make cool backing tracks for popular cover songs using Band-in-a-Box

For more information on how to create your first song with Band-in-a-Box and RealBand, check out my online video course. First song with Band-in-a-Box video course

If you are anything like me, you like to use Band-in-a-Box to make your own backing tracks to popular cover songs. Using these backing tracks you can jam and sing along with your friends and liven up even the dullest family braai (barbeque for you non-South Africans).  Those of you who are really brave can legally perform those cover songs for a wider world-wide-web audience on a platform like www.streetjelly.com  

I think it is important to note here that I do not try and recreate an exact cover version of the song. I rather try and do my own thing and make my own unique version. Have a look at this version of Amazing Grace that I made a while back. 




So here is my work flow:  

1.Choose a simple song and listen 

If you are just starting out, choose a very simple song that you like. Folk songs are always a good because they generally use three chords and the truth! 

Listen to a few different versions of the song. Have a look on Youtube or Apple Music or Spotify for various versions and get a feel for the style you would like to use. While you are about it, count out and make note of the tempo of the version you would like to do.  

2. Get the chords and the key 

Hopefully you already have the chords for the song you want to use but if not then have a look at www.ultimate-guitar.com for the chords. I usually just pick one of the versions with the most “stars”. 

Determine the key that the song is in. Sometimes this is easier said than done! For "most" well known simple songs the key will be the first and last chord . For example, the chords for this version of Amazing Grace are in G. 
If you really battle to find the key then choose a different song! However, if you are really persistent you can have a look for the official sheet music (just google "sheet music Amazing Grace". Music Notes is a good site). Transpose the sheet music until the chords displayed on the sheet music sort of match the chords in Ultimate Guitar and use the key that Music Notes says the song is in. 

If you play the guitar or keyboard, you can work out the key and you can also work with the chords for a bit to make sure you know what key you would like to play the song in, how many bars each chord plays for and if you want to change up the chords. If you don’t play an instrument, don’t worry, you will still be able to do this inside Band-in-a-Box itself. 

3. Set up your Band-in-a-Box session 

Open up Band in a Box and select the correct key. 

 And change the number of choruses to 1 and the “end” bar to some arbitrary number, say 200.  

4. Choose a style 

Now open the “Style Picker” and you will see that in the 2016 version there is a very nifty new tool called “Style Filter”. Type in the name of the song you want to cover and if it is fairly well known it will come up with the suggested style, the meter and tempo. Press enter and then spend a few minutes auditioning the styles that Band-in-a-Box suggests to see which one you like. Here is a great video from PG Music on if how the Style picker works. Note: The demonstration on the new style picker starts at 13:36
 

 Press enter and you will be taken back to the main Band-in-a-Box screen with the style and the tempo pre-populated.  

5. Type in the chords 

Type in the chords as follows: Make an intro of 2 or 4 bars. Fill in the chords for one verse and chorus. Make sure you have the correct chords in the correct bars by playing and singing along a few times. This may be a little bit of a fiddle if the song has some unusual timing. When you have it down pat, you can copy and paste the chords for the verses and choruses to the rest of the song. 

It is a good idea to change the part marker to green for the choruses of the song (this will change the drum pattern when the chorus plays). If the song has a bridge, type this in the appropriate bars. Put the actual end bar in. (Remember Band-in-a-Box likes to have a four bar ending). If you did not already select a key that suits your voice in step 2 then now is a good time to mess about with the key until you find the perfect one for your voice.  

6. Press Play and voilà! 

You now have your completed song that you can impress all your friends with!

In a future blog I will be covering how I make a teleprompter file (like what I showed you on Amazing Grace above) so that you can take the track with you where ever you go. PS, even Bruce Springsteen uses a Teleprompter...... 

To get the first jump on future blog posts sign up by Email or RSS.

9 comments

  • Charlie Fogle

    Charlie Fogle

    Joanne, so many get Biab because of the Realtracks they overlook the benefits of midi. Many also haven't invested in a quality synth - either software or hardware. As I read your article outlining the steps for beginners to make a backing track with Realtracks and you mentioned that sometimes the hardest part is getting the chord chart and right key signature. Something else a beginner may not know early on, are more advanced chords such as miners, 7th's and 9th's. That's where midi comes in. midi versions of most every commercial song is available to download for free. Here in the US, most music stores will load your flash drive up with thousands of midi files if they think you are interested in buying a keyboard... Here is the connection between Biab and midi for the beginner. Get a midi file of a song you want to play in Biab, open the midi in Biab (F7) and instantly, the chords are loaded, the key signature and tempo are set and in many cases, the lyrics are available in the Big Lyrics Window. I mean instantly. Biab has a midi based Audio Chord Feature and it works automatically on midi files. A good midi file will normally be in the original key and will contain all of the chords, inversions, minors, 7th's etc. At this point, if you don't want to have anything to do with, or have the capability of a good midi synth to play the midi file, Mute the midi track (it will be the melody or soloist track); Open style picker, search for the name of the song, select a Real Style and generate your backing track. You can load a midi file, select a style and have a completed backing track with all real tracks in less than 20 seconds and it will include chords like an Ab#maj7 if it's supposed to be in the song. I have thousands of midi files and use them in the above manner on most of the cover songs I do simply because of the ease and quickness of compiling a song. For a beginner, it is the easiest method there is to enter a chord chart for a cover song. You can also edit the midi tracks to include some of the midi with your song. Charlie

    Joanne, so many get Biab because of the Realtracks they overlook the benefits of midi. Many also haven't invested in a quality synth - either software or hardware.

    As I read your article outlining the steps for beginners to make a backing track with Realtracks and you mentioned that sometimes the hardest part is getting the chord chart and right key signature. Something else a beginner may not know early on, are more advanced chords such as miners, 7th's and 9th's.

    That's where midi comes in.

    midi versions of most every commercial song is available to download for free. Here in the US, most music stores will load your flash drive up with thousands of midi files if they think you are interested in buying a keyboard...

    Here is the connection between Biab and midi for the beginner. Get a midi file of a song you want to play in Biab, open the midi in Biab (F7) and instantly, the chords are loaded, the key signature and tempo are set and in many cases, the lyrics are available in the Big Lyrics Window. I mean instantly. Biab has a midi based Audio Chord Feature and it works automatically on midi files.

    A good midi file will normally be in the original key and will contain all of the chords, inversions, minors, 7th's etc.

    At this point, if you don't want to have anything to do with, or have the capability of a good midi synth to play the midi file, Mute the midi track (it will be the melody or soloist track); Open style picker, search for the name of the song, select a Real Style and generate your backing track.

    You can load a midi file, select a style and have a completed backing track with all real tracks in less than 20 seconds and it will include chords like an Ab#maj7 if it's supposed to be in the song.

    I have thousands of midi files and use them in the above manner on most of the cover songs I do simply because of the ease and quickness of compiling a song. For a beginner, it is the easiest method there is to enter a chord chart for a cover song.

    You can also edit the midi tracks to include some of the midi with your song.

    Charlie

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper

    Wonderful Charlie. I never thought about doing that. Where does one get good quality midi files from these days? i would like to give it a go?

    Wonderful Charlie. I never thought about doing that. Where does one get good quality midi files from these days? i would like to give it a go?

  • Langley

    Langley Western Australia Wheatbelt

    I have have had BIAB since 2014 sadly found it difficult to use and understand. I am a musician trombone and Keyboard, but have no midi experience or knowledge. I was so excited to find your blog Joanne, (I'm not good with blogs either!) and excitedly read this beginner page. Definitely trying it. Oh right now after typing this. Recently upgraded to 2016 everything. I was also extremely excited to read Charlies Comment, which finally explains midi to me, I have it on my keyboard, my electric piano, and of course BIAB. None of its ever been used. So I will now try and google some midi files for a song or two and try your methods. What I have been trying to do is create backing track for written music charts that I already have. Trying to create pauses (fermata) and other music creativity. I have found I cant put in my own notes in real band. I guess I will go now and try small steps. Thanks so much for sharing

    I have have had BIAB since 2014 sadly found it difficult to use and understand. I am a musician trombone and Keyboard, but have no midi experience or knowledge. I was so excited to find your blog Joanne, (I'm not good with blogs either!) and excitedly read this beginner page. Definitely trying it. Oh right now after typing this. Recently upgraded to 2016 everything. I was also extremely excited to read Charlies Comment, which finally explains midi to me, I have it on my keyboard, my electric piano, and of course BIAB. None of its ever been used. So I will now try and google some midi files for a song or two and try your methods. What I have been trying to do is create backing track for written music charts that I already have. Trying to create pauses (fermata) and other music creativity. I have found I cant put in my own notes in real band. I guess I will go now and try small steps. Thanks so much for sharing

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper

    Wonderful Langley let me know how it goes and if you need any help shout. Did you read my blog post about making a backing track from a midi file?

    Wonderful Langley let me know how it goes and if you need any help shout. Did you read my blog post about making a backing track from a midi file?

  • Bernd

    Bernd Pretoria North South Africa

    Hi Joanne, You won't believe; I used one of the very first Biab's in 1992 on an old 286 PC, together with Voyetra Sequencer. I still have the program on Floppy disks. I don't have contact with the guy I bought it from however, so I was wondering if you could tell me where to buy the newest version (in hard copy- not only download).

    Hi Joanne,

    You won't believe; I used one of the very first Biab's in 1992 on an old 286 PC, together with Voyetra Sequencer. I still have the program on Floppy disks. I don't have contact with the guy I bought it from however, so I was wondering if you could tell me where to buy the newest version (in hard copy- not only download).

  • Joanne Cooper

    Joanne Cooper

    Bernd. You will find Band in a box HUGELY improved since 1991. Go to www.pgmusic.com and there are all the options. They will send you a hard disk. It will arrive at your door within a week in South Africa. You will need to pay the courier a small amount in customs duty. (I think it is about R200 and something). I strongly recommend going for the Everything pak since you will not be restricted to specific styles. which is a wonderful thing. let me know how it does.

    Bernd. You will find Band in a box HUGELY improved since 1991. Go to www.pgmusic.com and there are all the options. They will send you a hard disk. It will arrive at your door within a week in South Africa. You will need to pay the courier a small amount in customs duty. (I think it is about R200 and something). I strongly recommend going for the Everything pak since you will not be restricted to specific styles. which is a wonderful thing. let me know how it does.

  • Bernd

    Bernd Pretoria South Africa

    Thanx so much Joanne, Have a lovely day, and thank God every day that you do what you love - I got stuck in Labour Relations in the SAPS 20 years ago, and my music and songwriting all but died.

    Thanx so much Joanne,

    Have a lovely day, and thank God every day that you do what you love - I got stuck in Labour Relations in the SAPS 20 years ago, and my music and songwriting all but died.

  • Hank Martin

    Hank Martin Belgium

    Hi Joanne - Visit http://www.trax-n-tabs.com. We have well over 700 quality Backing Tracks off all genres, all made from MIDI files. I have more than half a million that I downloaded before the music industry tried to prevent MIDI altogether. I do all the arrangements and modify instruments and scores as needed. I'm a guitarist and originally the site started to provide Backings for Shadows music, but it's since developed into popular songs. We can change the key to suit your voice. We can remove other instruments as well or instead of. Presently the BT only has the melody removed, but we can remove Lead, Rhythm, bass, percussion or whatever. We sell the MP3 files for only 2 Euros each, with discounts on quantity. Every one of my tracks has also the Sheet music, either as Guitar Tablature or Notation or both. I play all the guitar parts myself. We have a YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdkkERMnkrEO4wy_FNBAjFA A UK country singer found my site a couple of weeks ago and has already done two recordings using my Backings : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SsamVtCvH8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVnY7KQPMXs I would be happy to work with you. A list of all my Backings and demos can be found at : http://networkingtechnology.org/pan-an/index.php/song-list

    Hi Joanne - Visit http://www.trax-n-tabs.com. We have well over 700 quality Backing Tracks off all genres, all made from MIDI files. I have more than half a million that I downloaded before the music industry tried to prevent MIDI altogether. I do all the arrangements and modify instruments and scores as needed. I'm a guitarist and originally the site started to provide Backings for Shadows music, but it's since developed into popular songs. We can change the key to suit your voice. We can remove other instruments as well or instead of. Presently the BT only has the melody removed, but we can remove Lead, Rhythm, bass, percussion or whatever. We sell the MP3 files for only 2 Euros each, with discounts on quantity. Every one of my tracks has also the Sheet music, either as Guitar Tablature or Notation or both. I play all the guitar parts myself.

    We have a YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdkkERMnkrEO4wy_FNBAjFA

    A UK country singer found my site a couple of weeks ago and has already done two recordings using my Backings : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2SsamVtCvH8
    and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVnY7KQPMXs

    I would be happy to work with you. A list of all my Backings and demos can be found at : http://networkingtechnology.org/pan-an/index.php/song-list

  • Anas khan

    Anas khan

    Samsung Galaxy buy in just 1977 step by step follow us https://www.gadgetsnow.tech/?m=1

    Samsung Galaxy buy in just 1977 step by step follow us https://www.gadgetsnow.tech/?m=1

Add comment