MIDI Files vs MP3 Backing Tracks
by John Ialuna
The 2 most popular forms of backing tracks are MIDI Files and MP3 backing tracks.
A MIDI File sends data messages to a MIDI synthesizer that recreates the musical piece. The musical piece can be one or two instruments, or a full band backing track. MIDI Files are a powerful and flexible format for backing tracks, particularly to customize song files to suit a vocal range, add or remove instruments, alter song arrangement, change ending and so on. MIDI Files are a useful composing tool to create multi track musical pieces (like backing tracks) and even your own original songs. You can even embed lyrics that scroll on a screen like karaoke and print sheet music from one or more musical parts created in a MIDI File.
MIDI Files will playback on a computer device however the song files may sound cheesy due to cheap sound cards found in most computers, smart phones and tablets. You will need to invest in a dedicated and professional quality MIDI File player or MIDI File app to get the best out of this format. Devices like those made by M-Live, Roland, Yamaha and other respected names give you the high sound quality required for live performance.
MP3 Backing Tracks
Hit Trax MP3 Backing Tracks are in Audio (MP3) format. This is a stereo (2 channel. left and right) audio file much like a CD or album file you'd get from iTunes. Editing is limited in this format to small scale pitch (key) changes, time stretching and general EQ'ing. Audio format can include backing vocals, live instruments and a wider range of sounds than a MIDI File. That said, most Audio backing tracks are created using a mix of MIDI Files and live instruments. Audio format backing tracks play back on a computer, smart phone or tablet without the need for additional gear. Printing sheet music from an audio file is not possible.
Editing and using MIDI Files as backing tracks
You will need some knowledge to do in depth editing and song customization through popular sequencing programs and apps. Hit Trax has an easy to use MIDI File editor that you can download for free. Use 'MIDI Notate for Hit Trax' to change the pitch (key), song tempo, mute instruments and even print the sheet music in a MIDI File - all for free.
Backing Track Players
Entertainers need a powerful and flexible device to edit and playback their backing tracks. We recommend the MERISH MIDI File and Audio backing track player available through Hit Trax.