How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box?

Posted by: Jim Fogle

How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/12/19 07:15 PM

The Band-in-a-Box program and its accessories can be used many different ways to accomplish widely divergent musical tasks. The program is a musical Swiss knife type of tool that lets a user practice playing, compose instrumentals, produce instrument tracks, learn song arrangement, print lead, chord and karaoke sheets, record audio and use midi. That is a short list of things one can do with it but I'm sure there are more.

But, I'm more interested in how users use it, not what can the program do. I'm most interested in how people that work in the music business use it as a tool in their business.

To give an unrelated example. When I worked (for a living) I used Microsoft Office all the time. I used Word to prepare class outlines, product service bulletins and trip reports. I used Excel to prepare trip expense reports, department expenses and the department budget. I used Access to maintain class and student records. Finally, I used PowerPoint for class, sales and department presentations. I considered the program to be an essential tool; just as important as the hand tools, data loggers and electronic equipment I used daily. I paid good money to learn how to use Microsoft Office efficiently. The money for the program, program updates and training was an investment that helped me to make the best use of the tool and department resources.
Posted by: JoanneCooper

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/12/19 11:20 PM

Interesting question Jim. I will be following along with the responses for sure.

I use Band-in-a-Box to

1. Provide inspiration for my songwriting
2. Provide inspiration for my own unique versions of cover songs
3. Provide the backing for the recordings of the above
4. Practice my guitar (soloing)
5. Practice my sight-reading
6. Provide backing tracks for live performance
7. Inspire other people

Keeps me busy smile
Posted by: sslechta

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 07:23 AM

I use it to take song ideas and hash them into specific BPM, key, chord structure, and instruments before I port it over to a DAW.
Posted by: 2bSolo

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 07:25 AM

That is a good question, Jim.

Like most people, I use it as a starting point for covers and originals.

I also like the notation editing for midi. I wouldn't have piano on my tracks without BB generating them but they wouldn't be good enough without editing.

And like most people, I go to my DAW after that.

Posted by: chulaivet1966

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 08:08 AM

Originally Posted By: Jim Fogle
But, I'm more interested in how users use it,

I've had BIAB since 2012 and am far from any power user.
The depths of the program far exceed my quite pragmatic needs which is only recording originals.

Add the chords
Confirm arrangement is accurate
Try a couple of regenerations to decide on the one I like
Open in RaalBand for further instrument regenerations/selections
Export to .wav and continue on in Sonar X3

Carry on....

Posted by: jazzmammal

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 09:23 AM

It's a hobby for me. I'm still doing as many live gigs as I want as a keyboardist in several bands, no need for solo backing tracks. Ok, a list:

1. I use it to create fakebook charts for band members. Just last month the girl singer decided to change keys on several of her songs so I did that in Biab and printed new charts.

2. Personal practice and fun. My piano is in the living room in such a position that I can see my 60" screen for the chords. I really like taking a classic cover song and messing with it with a totally different style than the original. Great fun.

3. I love trying out all the new Real Tracks when they come out. Lots of good stuff there and they've grown so much now it's hard to keep up with them all.

4. When folks report certain problems I try to duplicate them and report back. Because of that I do familiarize myself with most of the functions even though I personally don't use a lot of them.

5. I will use it for specific recording of songs with vocals like me doing up an album of 7 classic cover songs for my sister to sing to. No experimenting there, she wanted them like the record. That was mostly with Real Band.

6. One thing I've been wanting to do is to see if I can create some organ User Tracks in certain styles that are missing from the official RT's. My stage setup is a Hammond SK1 with a Ventilator leslie pedal. Very close to a real B3 sound.

That's about it. I've not seen a need to use the plugin with another DAW, RB is fine. I don't even get into really fine tuning a song using all the many Song and Bar controls because all I usually do is jam along with my piano. I can't hear all that kind of detail anyway because I'm concentrating on my playing and working certain things out. A grand piano in a living room is very loud and I have to turn up my sound system in order to also hear the Biab tracks. Combined, I approach the sound levels I hear on a gig. Luckily I don't live in an apartment...

Posted by: Matt Finley

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 09:26 AM

Jim, I am happy to provide a few thoughts. Thanks for an interesting post.

BIAB is my go-to software for composing, arranging and transcribing, and has been since the early 1990s. The ability to change key, tempo and feel at will is simply amazing.

I've released a CD called Brazilian Wish of all originals that were written in BIAB and then recorded by studio players, and I'm on many other CDs where I did arranging by entering the song into BIAB and working on horn parts, background lines, etc. before going into the studio.

I do a lot of transcription work, both for my own band and for clients (including PG Music!). I enter songs into BIAB because I have found no better software (and I have tried almost all of the music notation programs) for mouse-based data entry.

I play in many big-band jazz ensembles, often as a guest artist on the 2nd trumpet part (the jazz soloist chair). I often key the chord changes of a song into BIAB so I can woodshed a solo. It only takes a few minutes. Doing this helps me learn and practice the song, which gives me more confidence in performance.

As I play most horns but not piano or guitar, BIAB has been a life-changer for me to play the chords. I was always able to hear songs in my head but now, instead of going to a keyboard player or guitarist, I can almost immediately hear played by a band whatever I can imagine. BIAB is simply a phenomenal tool and I owe PG Music all the gratitude I can give for improving my life as a professional musician. If I had only had this tool 60 years ago when I was starting out...
Posted by: DSM

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 09:32 AM

When I started I had terrible timing issues. Unlike a real band, I can slow down the music to my speed. Plus, the band doesn't complain when I am off time.

Timing is much better now.

Posted by: Roger Brown

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 12:10 PM

I use BIAB in two basic ways, as a songwriting tool, and as what I refer to as "Demo In A Box" - I'll touch on these in reverse order.

So for years & years, when I would write new songs I would get 5 or 6 of them that I felt strongly about and go into one of the studios here in Nashville, hire a bunch of session musicians, and cut demo tracks. (For the sake of clarity, when I refer to a "demo", it's a full-band recording of a song to show an artist, producer, A&R person, etc. how the song could sound if they chose to record it themselves - a guitar/vocal, keyboard/vocal is what we always referred to in Nashville as a "work tape", dating back to the days when we would write them and immediately put them down on cassette so we wouldn't forget the melody or chord progressions).

That was back in the days when money was good and publishers could afford to do that, and would. I was in the studio every two months or so in the 90s. Then the bottom fell out and now the ROI on recording a full band demo just isn't there anymore. BIAB allows me to present a full-band demo of my songs at minimal cost. This is imperative for me, as I'm not a good enough guitar player to record guitar/vocals that are quality enough to use for pitching purposes. This was my reason for buying BIAB in the first place, and me being a born skeptic, I figured if I was able to get at least one usable demo out of it, it would've paid for itself. It has far exceeded my modest expectations, to say the least.

A very welcome and unexpected bonus was the positive effect it has had on my writing. In scrolling through realtrack demos, I've found myself inspired enough by a track to want to write something with that "feel", and have done so on quite a few occasions. In addition, it has helped me greatly in my co-writing settings. Again, I'm an adequate guitar player at best - I was finding that I would sit down to co-write, tell my cowriter that I had an idea for a really rocking song, and then play my idea for them......and it sounded like John Denver playing swing. "Hey, here's a Jason Aldean kind of idea" <I play & sing>, my cowriters hear ... you guessed it, John Denver playing swing.

But now, I can say "here's my idea....and here's the way I hear it being written", push the play button on a BIAB track, and boom. Now they get it.

I'm a huge fan of this program and have come to rely on it heavily. (Note to PG Music....please get the '19 Mac version out soon, my PayPal is dying to be in touch with you :-) )
Posted by: MarioD

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 12:40 PM

I use BiaB to:

A-the MIDI side
1-input different chord progressions to see how they sound in original songs
2-play with styles for original songs
3-drag and drop the above 1+2 into my DAW
4-practicing soloing my guitar or wind controller
5-practice my sight-reading. I will randomly pick a song from a fake book, load the appropriate Norton fake disc, then sight read with either my guitar or wind controller. BiaB, a fake book, and the companion Norton fake disc are a natural combination.
6-try to duplicate problems to help others
7-to make backing tracks to help my students
8-to print out either chord or lead sheets
9-when in a writers block I will use the melodist or soloist for inspiration

B-the RealTrack side
1-to create backing tracks for some of my jams and/or songs
2-to create backing tracks for others, including students
3-to add a track or two for my MIDI songs

I do not use the VSTi version of BiaB.
Posted by: Notes Norton

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/13/19 01:28 PM

Here is my contribution.
  1. I bought BiaB back in the Atari/ST computer days to use it to practice improvisation with my saxophone. I was in a jazz band then and the guitar player taught at the University of Miami and played with Ira Sullivan. Real jazz heavyweights would come and jam with us. Without a background band and playing a monophonic instrument, improv is difficult. It's hard to know when you are creating and resolving tensions when there is no background music.
  2. When PG Music gave us the opportunity to write our own user styles, I wrote about 20 for myself. I gave copies to my friends (U of M guitar teacher included). They all told me they like my styles better than the 24 that came with the original BiaB app (aren't friends great?!?) and encouraged me to sell them. I took out ads in Keyboard and Electronic Musician magazine and before long I started a business selling aftermarket styles. Peter Gannon called one day and offered his support which to this day I am grateful for, and I'm still writing and selling style disks at
  3. After I decided to leave the one day a week jazz gig, quit the 5 piece band I was gigging the other days with, and go duo with the woman who is now my wife I started using BiaB to help me write backing tracks for that duo. Details on how I do that can be found here

  • I'm still using it for practice with my sax, flute and wind synthesizer. It's the best practice tool I've ever found. Virtually any song, any key, any tempo, and any style are a click away, and I can be daring and try new ideas out without other band members hearing the ideas that don't work out well
  • I'm still writing style "disks" for BiaB (although they aren't on disk anymore but direct download), plus I'm writing fake "disks" and selling BiaB aftermarket products from Roy Hawkesford, Sherry Mayrent and David Bailey too.
  • I'm still married to that gal I met when we were in different bands and then later in the same band together. We started our duo in 1985 when the 5 piece we were in had personnel problems, and we've been working steadily since then. I still use BiaB to help me write backing tracks for new songs.

Personally I think every computer musician should have three basic tools. Other tools can be added per your needs but IMO everybody needs (1) BiaB (2) A DAW with MIDI and Audio capabilities (3) A full-fleged notation app.

Insights and incites by Notes
Posted by: Danny C.

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/14/19 02:40 PM

I think it was in 2004 when I 1st purchased BIAB, and since then every upgrade.

I remember like it was yesterday when "Mac" answered this question I had placed on the forum: I am looking for software that will assist me with arranging tunes and then help with a fuller sound as I pursue my quest of being a solo performer? His answer was something to the affect of, "well you just found it". Of course he was correct.

Since then via eConcerts and live gigs, I am happy to have sold 5-10 other musicians on purchasing BIAB. It is a product and a company, PG Music I endorse without a shadow of a doubt.

Posted by: Pat Marr

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/14/19 04:45 PM

I use it (Realband) for making backing tracks, and playing the finished product with embedded MIDI automation

I start by loading the studio version of a song I want to recreate.
Then I run that through the ACW, mostly to tempo map it.
When the song comes back to RB, I fine-tune the chords.

At that point I may go one of 4 different routes:
1) load a MIDI file of the song and replace the guitar parts with my own playing or real tracks
2) play all the parts myself, if the song is within my ability
3) generate all the parts from real tracks and real drums
4) load a purchased karaoke track and mix it to my liking

in all cases after getting a mix that includes all the parts I'm not playing/singing, next step is to add MIDI codes to the sequence in order to drive my gear. These are used to load the right patch, turn effects off and on, increase the gain when a guitar solo begins, etc. It is a very cool way to make a lot of interesting stuff happen without getting distracted by remembering to stomp on a pedal at exactly the right moment.

Speaking of MIDI controllable gear: I just added a cool new piece of kit: The Digitech Whammy DT is a programmable whammy, harmony and detuning pedal. All of its features can be controlled by MIDI. One of the features I like is its ability to transpose the guitar part... all 6 strings, chords and everything. Its like a virtual capo that lets me play the song the way I learned it, even if I have to transpose the key in order to sing it. And unlike a physical capo, it doesn't make light gauge strings go out of tune. Being able to get the key where I can sing it without having to relearn the chords and solo really helps me fine tune a song a lot faster. I had also been looking for a harmony pedal that was MIDI controllable.

Anyway, that is pretty much exactly how I use RB. I rarely use BIAB except to explore all the new styles.
Posted by: Charlie Fogle

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/17/19 05:02 AM

My primary use of BIAB/RB as a hobby is to use BIAB as a multi track recorder and create as complex arrangements and as accurate a cover of a commercial release as I can solely within BIAB without using RB or another DAW. I use a mixture of live recording of audio, pre recorded audio, midi recorded live, pre recorded or commercial midi files or individual tracks from a midi file, loops and samples.

On occasion, I'm called to create soundtracks for school or church videos. I use the BIAB Soundtrack feature to accurately get the length correct.

On occasion, I provide specific instruments to someone's demo, recording or live recording as requested. These fall into three categories.
1. Provide an instrument someone cannot play themselves.
2. Provide and instrument someone can play but a BIAB track can play it better.
3. Provide an instrument someone can play proficiently or expertly but finds it more convenient at the moment for me to provide a BIAB instrument track that may be overdubbed at a later date.

As an song analysis tool. I run several songs per day through the ACW getting accurate tempo, key signature and chord information.

To create covers, both my arrangement or creating high quality, accurate versions.

To create demos of my originals.

To take old recordings and remix them adding BIAB tracks that are tempo matched to the original tape.
Posted by: HearToLearn

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/25/19 10:13 AM

I use it for both song and jingle production. It's so effective in getting a great sound fast. Add to that the ability to EASILY change key's for different singers and it's hard to beat.
Posted by: Dzjang

Re: How Do You Use Band-in-a-Box? - 08/25/19 12:01 PM

Using Biab
Practice comes first
*comping, scales, arpeggios, triads, hexatonics...
*learning new material (songs, lead sheets)
*practice for gigs (doesn’t sound cool, but hey...)
Experimenting and arranging
*trying different reharmonizations
*using shots, holds and pedal points
*using different styles to find new ways of making the old sound new
Playing out
When not playing with a full band, I occasionally gig on my own w band-in-a-box