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I am cellist playing a piece for my brother's wedding. He wants me to play a quartet, and suggested I could record 3 of the parts and play the Cello 1 line (melody of the song) live. I am planning on recording next Monday.

Does anyone know if this is a good idea, or if I will simply overpower the sound of the recording? Any tips on how to record all 3 parts well? Also, what sort of sound system would be necessary to achieve this? Is there any distortion, delay, or pitch change that I would need to expect from a sound system?

Thank you all for your help, I am no sound technician and my brother is not a musician, so we are just trying to figure this out.

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Soloing over a backing track is a perfectly normal and legitimate approach. It's also a pretty big undertaking in terms of preparation time.

The most difficult part of the whole project is going to be recording the backing tracks yourself. Things to consider (prepare to be overwhelmed):

Recording itself: You'll need a recording device (or someone providing a service) that allows independently activated multi-track recording.

Recording Synchronization: In order to put the first three parts together, you will need to

  • record the first part;
  • listen to the first part (in headphones or ear buds) while recording the second part;
  • listen to a mix of the two while recording the third part.

Recording Mixing: Now, you have to work out dynamics for each of the three recorded parts, to make sure they are balanced

Performance: Now that you have your mixed-down backing track, assuming it is in an "mp3" or "wav" format on a computer or on a jump drive, you have one more task: play the backing track into a speaker with enough loudness to more or less balance with your 'cello. If there is someone running sound at the ceremony, you'll at least want to tell him "I have a backing track in MP3 format on a Jump Drive, which needs to play behind my 'cello at such-and-such a time in the service.

By the way, if you have someone else who will be providing the recording service, that should help greatly.

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    For someone doing this for the first time it's probably going to be much easirr to start with a click track.
    – PiedPiper
    Commented Mar 26 at 16:58
  • @PiedPiper I went back and forth on that. I would use a click track, but that adds another step, and more unfamiliarity for a novice. I figured I had already been discouraging enough for one posting. :-) Commented Mar 26 at 17:03
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    If the cello part is steady and sturdy, another option might be to record a ‘guide’ cello track first, then record the other three parts while listening to it, before creating a mixdown which excludes the guide part.  (That would give more practice with the part which is to be performed live, as well as ensuring a realistic tempo.)
    – gidds
    Commented Mar 26 at 18:25
  • @joelkilgore Just to point out, while all that is possible, if your brother could be happy with a solo cello number, it will be much easier. (And possibly more pleasing anyway!) I would argue that it would be very hard, in the final performance, to balance recorded sound with unamplified live sound, so you have a mic to worry about, and need someone to run the sound board. (Now, if the venue is very large, you might need amplification anyway.) But without the recording, you can play unamplified if the venue allows; nothing needed but a stand and chair. Commented Mar 27 at 13:58

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