When first introduced to backing tracks, I am a bit ashamed to admit I responded like the older generation responds to loud music...
Plus, our drummer was the only one using in-ear monitoring at the time, and it seemed too risky. It'd be way too easy to get misaligned with the backing tracks, which would wreck havoc on the worship experience.
Time passed, I became more open to the idea, and decided to give them a shot for a Christmas service.
It was amazing.
We did Kim Walker's version of Silent Night and having all the strings, bells and other tidbits really made it feel like Christmas in the room. And the band sounded HUGE.
During the same Christmas Service, we introduced What a Beautiful Name by Hillsong Worship. We used backing tracks for it as well, and continued using them in the weeks following.
One-by-one we added backing tracks to other songs.
We loved the extra dimension backing tracks added to the sound. Plus, we had a little voice in our ears to tell us what part of the song was coming up, ensuring no one got lost.
We use Loop Community's PRIME iPad app to run backing tracks. It is probably the simplest way to use backing tracks, and we love it.
Except one Sunday, I forgot my iPad.
It's been a journey, but I have learned to be a go-with-the-flow type of person. So, in my mind, this wasn't a big deal. We'd just play without them, like we used to.
Sunday morning rehearsal was not going well, and I'll never forget what my drummer said, "We just need backing tracks."
It hit me like a rock. Backing tracks had become a crutch.
We had developed an attitude of, "Just let the backing tracks handle it", and used it as an excuse to be lazy with our playing.
My response that morning was, "If we don't sound good without backing tracks, it's because we need to fix the way we are playing."
No longer will I bring in backing tracks at the start of learning a new song. We will first get it sounding good without them, and possibly bring them in afterwards.
Backing tracks in worship should be icing on the cake, nothing more. [Tweet]
So, should you use them? I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. I'd just make sure they don't become a crutch or "something you can't live without".