Digital Accompaniments 3: Rehearsing and recording with digital accompaniments. This presentation by Terry B. Ewell addresses the placement playback and recording equipment. Also it demonstrates how to use a digital audio workstation to record with an audio file. BDP #281,

[Music: Hummel Bassoon Concerto]

Hello, I am Terry Ewell. If you have been watching the prior two videos you now have the knowledge to create or find MIDI accompaniments, to adjust those accompaniments to desired tempos and instrumentation, and to convert the MIDI files to audio files. That is a lot! But now you are ready to practice with the files and even to create a recording with your performance added to the accompaniment.

Playing MIDI and mp3 files

MIDI and mp3 files can be played on a computer with VLC Media Player (for PC and Mac), Windows Media Player (for PC), and QuickTime (for Mac). Downloads for these programs are easily available and probably your computer already has one installed.

Smart Phones work best with mp3 files. Video 2 in this series presented a number of ways to easily convert MIDI files to mp3 files.
Practicing with Audio Files

Smart Phones and computers usually cannot generate as much sound as a musical instrument so either external speakers need to be used or earbuds or earphones. Most find it easiest to practice leaving one ear open and one with the earbud inserted or earphone covering. This allows for the musician to hear the accompaniment in one ear and an authentic sound of their instrument or voice in the other.

Configuring the Sound Levels

First let’s start with an introduction I provided to one of my online courses. This demonstration uses Audacity, but the principles here will work well with other digital audio workstations. If you are already comfortable with setting sound levels and recording, please skip the next four minutes of this video.
The first thing to always do is to save your project. Start out by saving it. “Save Project” yes. Notice this warning. This is an Audacity project not an audio file. I know that and that is what I want to do. OK. I will save this in a place that I am reserving for all of my videos. Create a new folder. Let’s call this Audacity composition 4. So, I know that all of my Audacity files for composition 4 will be saved in this area. I will be able to go back to that. I will call this Comp4. Very good!

Before you start recording you should monitor your microphone settings. Mine is pretty good. This is working out well. If it is not good then you may want to adjust the microphone settings. If I go up higher, right around this area, it is pretty good. However, there may be some of you that changing this microphone here has no effect or help at all.

I am not sure how you make the change on Mac, but you will need to make the setting change and increase the volume for your microphone. On PC, however, you need to go to control panel. In your control panel you will go to a setting called “Hardware and Sound.” Select that and you want to “manage your audio devices.”

Double click on that and you will get something that comes up with your sound. Select your microphone. The microphone that I am using for this recording is a Samson external microphone. You may be using a microphone in your computer. Double click on this. Go to levels. This is where you change your microphone level.

You can see up above that the microphone level is very good. However, if I start moving it down the volume gets quieter. For me I have to have it around 80. Then I can have a pretty good microphone level. Press OK or apply. That should take care of it for you.

OK, good so our microphone levels are fine. I am monitoring that. We have that setting here that gives me a microphone level I like. So, let’s start now recording.

“This is a test of my recording, 1, 2, 3, this is a test.”

Alright, so it looks like the maximum sound level was above -12. That should be OK. Let’s listen here to the recording.

“This is a test of my recording, 1, 2, 3, this is a test.”

OK, you can see that the high points are right in this area. OK, I may want it a little louder in which case I can boost this a bit. You do not want to have a soundtrack that is too quiet because then you will have to boost it and that adds extra sound, background noise. So, it is better to have more volume in the beginning and then back off a little bit if you need to. Of course, we do not want it to go over zero because that will create distortion.

Now at this point I would encourage you to save what you have already created in case you want to come back to it later. Let’s export the audio. We can go ahead and just export it as a wave file. I will call that Comp4_voice1. Go ahead and just save that. I am not going to worry about all of this stuff (labels) here. OK, that is wonderful. Now I have that saved in case I liked it. As I am starting to work on things, I can come back to it.

Recording with an Existing Sound File

Before you record with your instrument or voice, give some consideration to the set up of your equipment. If you have an external microphone, place it 2-3 meters or 6-9 feet away from you. It is best to point the microphone upward so that it will get some of the reverberation of the room. This picture shows where I placed it for the recording that you are about to hear. If you are using the built-in microphone in your laptop computer, place it off to the side so that you are not directly playing into the microphone. This picture shows a suggested placement.

Now you are ready to record your playing or singing over an existing audio file. First bring in the audio track. Next you need to create a new track for your recording. Let’s reduce this track a little bit. Then add a new stereo track. Now we can see both tracks on the screen. Put the cursor to the beginning. Put on the earphones and get ready to perform. Then when you are ready to perform—we have the track selected--press record.

[Music: Pierné ConcertPiece Opus 35]

Now you can adjust the balance between the two tracks if needed.

The rhythmic errors in the piano part at the chord with the arrow, point out that these are only practice arrangements, not arrangements for performance. Most of the recordings were made quickly by me and a few even under duress!
Of course, this is just a rough recording and there are many other things that could be done to enhance the recording. I highly recommend the software Reaper, if you wish to work with a more professional digital audio workstation.


In conclusion, these three videos have provided important information about creating digital accompaniments, modifying the tempos and instrumentation, and using the accompaniments for practice or to make non-professional recordings. Be sure to see all of the great materials on These materials can help you continue to advance as a musician.

I wish you all the best in your music making! Bye.

[Music: Hummel Bassoon Concerto]