I have always wondered how flute players play in sync with a background track. Is it more common to record the flute piece first and then add a background track to it later?

For example in this video there is a background music. But when I put on a background track and try to play the flute with it in sync, I'm often too quick or too slow to play a note. How can I practice this?

  • 1
    When recording separate tracks, you almost never start from the melody (no matter if it's a flute, a vocal track or anything else), which is usually recorded last, after accompaniment, and with rhythmical instruments recorded at the very beginning (drums, bass, etc) Feb 25, 2021 at 11:33

6 Answers 6


Seems like you have some troubles with the rhythm and/or keeping a steady tempo. This is pretty common with students.

What you can do is practice the piece with a metronome, without the background music. This way you will be able to see how the song is supposed to be played rhythm and tempo wise. Then you can slowly start adding the background recording and practice it like that.

Many people are having trouble figuring out these kind of mistakes when they practice on their own without a metronome, because at first, keeping a steady tempo can be pretty difficult (they tend to play slower at difficult parts and faster at easier ones, as well as speeding up some really long notes).

Keep in mind though, that it's pretty common for a piece to increase or decrease the tempo at various parts. There are many indications on sheet music for stuff like this (rit, rall, accell etc). You will have to practice that as well, if it happens on a piece you're trying to play


When recording, the backing track is almost always put down first. One reason is that it provides the tempo for the piece. If you can't keep time with a backing track, imagine what a disater it would be if you recorded just your part first !!

So, whether it's vocals, solo trumpet or flute, that usually is the last to be put down.

Given that the backing track has been recorded with a click track, which it often is - to keep everybody together in time - then your problem is that you're not internalising that tempo.

Using a metronome supposedly works - lots of players swear by them. Personally I swear at mine, as they're soul-less, and unforgiving. Much prefer a simple drum track , as it's more like playing with at least one other. Give it a try, bearing in mind that you, like many others, slow a little on the lesser known, more difficult sections, and do the opposite on the easier, better known ones.

To improve, try starting the metronome, getting the rhythm inside you, clapping, clicking, whatever, going out of earshot, and returning to check how your timing is. Same idea with any pop type song on the radio, lock into the beat, turn down the sound, keep it going, and check a few seconds later. As you get better, make those few seonds into longer periods.

For more practice, tap out the notes as you would play them, one tap at the beginning of each, while the backing is playing. Use your body - shrug shoulders, tap foot, nod head, to keep in time. Most people will stray at some points, so it's not incurable! Also, there are many tracks that don't keep exactly to the given tempo. You can check that with your metronome - set it exactly right at the beginning of a song, and see how the song tempo varies. Partly that's the music being portarayed, and sort of taking over, sometimes the drummer will push a piece to make it sound more exciting.


You answered the question in its final sentence. You PRACTICE it.

If the piece keeps a constant tempo this won't be too hard. You just need ears, plus sufficient flute technique to be ABLE to play without hesitation.

If the tempo varies, you'll have to practice more! But it's perfectly possible. In the early days of multi-track recording (when 'multi' meant just two, or four if you were lucky) we didn't have tempo maps and click tracks. We recorded one part then played the others with only our ears to guide the way. It could take several attempts!

There's a pop song which has about 20 seconds of solo vocal cadenza - you know, like 'I will always love you-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u' only even more indulgent. I've heard untrained girl singers perform it to backing track and be ABSOLUTELY on the nail when the music re-starts. They've practised with the recording so much that they COULDN'T sing it any other speed!


If you play the track with headphones on, whilst you record yourself, as long as you play in time you'll be in time with the track.


I think playing to a click track and a backing track feel different. A background track will normally provide rhythm, harmony, and dynamic cues that help you feel the beat. A click track is a meaningless click, there are no musical cues. I suppose you could say playing in sync is all about anticipating the beat, or you might call it predicting the beat. Basically you have a sense of when beats are coming up. That sense certainly is reinforced by the musical cues in background track. The click track provides none of that.

I would describe two things in how I got in sync with a click track. The first is more technical. Basically, I felt like I needed to play a little early. At the very least, if you are waiting to hear the click to confirm the beat, you are all ready too late. The second is a bit more psychological. I know the click track won't change. But if I play more confidently, I can sort of imagine the click is following me.

Depending on what track have have to work with you can try turning off the click track. If there is some kind of rhythm section or accompaniment track already set, you don't necessarily need to keep using a click track.

I think most software today will have click track features to play various dings to fit meters, like one bright ding and two soft dings for 3/4 meter. That can help a lot for the rhythmic feel. Trying using that if available.


The first step is being able to feel the pulse (tempo) of the song. This would be clapping your hands or tapping your foot in time with the backing track without speeding up or slowing down.

The next step is knowing note values and being able to play these in time. The most common note values are whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, 8th notes, 16th notes, 8th note triplets, and 16th note triplets. Knowing how to play these in time will allow you to play most of the songs you will come across. Try searching on YouTube for lessons on "note values", "counting rhythms", "music notation", etc. because it's easier to understand these values by hearing them demonstrated in a video as opposed to just reading it in text form. And of course there are more advanced topics (dotted notes, ties, rests) that will likely be covered in these types of tutorials as well. So the more you search the better understanding you will have.

Once you have a handle on these two steps, it'll be much easier to play your melody in time with other instruments. Music is a language and until you understand the basics of this language, it's going to be difficult to communicate with other musicians and all be on the same page.

The next step will be to try tapping your foot on the quarter note pulse (tempo) while you play the melody. Don't worry about playing to a metronome or backing track just yet. You need to be able to play in time with yourself and hear how the melody lines up with your foot tapping. Which notes are played at the same time as your foot tap? Which notes are played in between? When do you tap your foot while not playing anything? Paying close attention to how the notes line up with your foot tap will allow you to be able to play to a metronome and with a backing track since the drummer will be setting the tempo of the song (just like the metronome does).

The final step is to play your melody in time to an external time source like a metronome or a backing track. At this point, it should be much easier to play in time following along to an outside time source.

Developing solid timing is very difficult and it's something that takes a lot of time and practice, so don't get discouraged if it doesn't happen immediately. Just keep working on it and you'll continue to improve. My primary instrument is drums (I've been playing over 20 years) and timing/groove is still an area I work on improving because it's extremely important. Good luck!

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