First Look: ShowOne iOS App for Live Backing Tracks

Simply route click tracks and backing tracks onstage with an iPhone or iPad.
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A new iOS app called ShowOne takes care of a problem that we've had for around a decade: how to handle monitoring backing tracks with click tracks onstage. Most performing electronic musicians do not have 12-piece live bands for playing back every part of a track, so they use a certain amount of pre-recorded and triggered backing tracks that go to house over the PA. The problem for bands using live drums, keyboards, etc. was always supplying a click track to the musicians that the audience doesn't hear.

We used to use a Roland SPD-S sampling drumpad with the mono backing tracks on one channel sent to the audience, and a mono click track on the other channel in the drummer's earphones, and many people use Ableton Live or other DAW software to handing running backing tracks and click tracks on stage. Some bands have struggled with backing tracks onstage as far back as the 70s, bringing reel-to-reel tape machines onstage. Of course, all those options either introduce complications because they weren't designed for the purpose (SPD-S) or because they introduce another layer of volatility and complexity to the stage rig (DAW software).

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That's why a small company of music professionals called One Zero One Audio created ShowOne—an app for simply managing click and backing tracks with a small device many musicians already have anyway: an iPhone or iPad. We have tried the free version, which lets you import two of your own audio tracks over Dropbox or iCloud or practice with the pre-loaded tracks, and it's definitely worth the $8.99 it costs to unlock the full version and import unlimited tracks. On a basic level, it plays audio backing tracks along with a click track and splits the audio output with the click on one channel and the backing tracks on the other.

If you connect certain iOS-compatible audio interfaces, including some from Native Instruments, Apogee, Focusrite/Novation, M-Audio and Presonus, you can route the audio with different multi-channel configurations, so you could send stereo backing tracks to the house, for example.

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Tony Fagenson co-created ShowOne along with veteran stage manager/live tech Jerry Fitzgerald. Fagenson drums for Eve 6 and spent all summer testing ShowOne on tour. He reported 31 shows of flawless operation for ShowOne, without a glitch, skip or crash. "iOS devices can be actually more solid in performances than a laptop due to fewer moving parts and a smaller footprint," he told us. "ShowOne should run smoothly on any of the supported devices, and there are plenty of mounts and holders for all of the iOS devices that you can clamp to a mic or keyboard stand, or simply rest your device on a case." They more set-up tips and advice on the ShowOne support page.

Fagenson also uses ShowOne with an external audio interface, so he can use the app in 4-Channel output mode, which lets you, for example, "send your audio full stereo to the audience, and use the other two outputs for ShowOne’s click track and voice count-offs for the musicians," he said. "The click and count-offs can even be sent to their own outputs, if the band is on in-ear monitors and everyone wants the voice counts but only the drummer wants the click. In the future we plan on expanding to allow submixing of “stems” and further routing options."

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There are also options you can set for the audio track, including setting its gain, pitching it up or down to allow the band to play it in different keys, and trimming its beginning and end. The click itself has its own volume control; it can be one of four sounds, and for each track, the click can count off beforehand and you can set a delay time for it to begin. Currently, you have to input the tempo for each audio track, but an auto-tempo detection feature is on the list of features to add in the next 12-18 months, as well as MIDI connectivity, a loop function, track markers and more.

If you work with backing tracks onstage, ShowOne elegantly works around problems stemming from other setups. Try the free version before buying, and check out Fagenson on one of his test gigs in the video below.