Guitar vs backing track volume levels

I’m interested to see how different people approach the problem I’m facing when I play my acoustic guitar over some sort of backing track (could be Justin’s songs app, an original recording or other source).

I typically use my iPad for the backing track but find it’s often not really loud enough to hear the beat over the sound of my guitar. If I use headphones then I don’t hear my guitar clearly. If I connect my iPad to external speakers then that’s still a hard balance to find. My acoustic does have a pickup which might provide an answer but typically I play unplugged.

Am I missing an obvious solution? How do you balance the levels when you play to a backing track? Or is it just difficult?


Yeah, I play both the acoustic/electric guitar and the laptop (iPad in your case) through the amp (Fender Acoustisonic 40) and use headphones. Then I’ve got the separate volume controls on the laptop and the guitar to get the balance I want.

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This hard to explain but you have to learn to play with the backing track/band/other musician. What I mean is you need to listen to the backing track not yourself and play along to the music.
It takes practice just like other skills. If you can’t hear the track, play softer or turn the track up. The biggest mistake beginners do when playing is they either play to loud(even on unplugged acoustics) or to quiet. You need to play at a volume so you can hear the music/singer/other musicians and fit in. This is where recording yourself help as a learning tool.


I had the same problem
my speakers are weak so i couldn’t hear the backing track …

Had to go back and play via my daw ( scarlett solo ) using headphones

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Fair point. I suppose I’m at that awkward stage as a beginner (but not complete beginner) where I still need to hear myself to ensure my playing is good otherwise I’m practicing bad habits. You’re probably right that I need to record myself more and hear what it all sounds like together

I don’t play so much to back track or along w/whatever song.
That said.
I surly have played to back tracks.

1st I use a pc.
2nd, my sound card is my 2i2. The outputs of my 2i2 were adapted from 1/4 input plugs to rca plugs. one left, one right. They go out to my aux inputs into my stereo.
For the most part I get hifi from my computer for sound.

So I turn up my back track to however loud I wanna play my guitar. I can play soft or I can turn it up. I can do acoustic vol. or elec. volume.

It works well for me.
Short of I got a lot of vol. controls.
pc vol., 2i2 vol., stereo vol. I just mix and match.

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I have been looking at the Scarlett devices this last week. I was thinking more in terms of setting up a mic to record the sound but perhaps it would solve this other issue at the same time. I was struggling to justify the cost just to record my beginner strumming but maybe this is a more solid reason for spending the money

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You’ll be surprised how well you can play when you listen to whats going on around you and trust in yourself to fit in. There’s an old saying.“When you think you stink”
You can also fall into the cycle of turn up the track to hear it, play louder to hear myself, can’t hear the track so turn it up, can’t hear myself so play loader.
It’s just easier to learn to fit in at any volume.


This is just what I needed to read in this right moment, thanks Rick…you’re an experienced guitar player (or guitarist…choose the one that fits best) and you’re always very helpful.


When I am playing my acoustic, I will play the backing track with headphones, but I will leave the right headphone off of my ear so I can hear the guitar more clearly while getting the backing track in my left ear.

With my electric, both the backing track and the guitar come through the headphones.

Either way, the key thing is what @stitch mentioned. You have to listen closely and work on your attack and dynamics to get your guitar to sound good along with the backing track.

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This is what I do: connect my phone to a bluetooth speaker (this is my “home stereo system”). It’s not at all hard to set the volume such that I can hear the music and the guitar. Then I just play along with the music. Works fine.

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that’s his problem … he can t hear the music …

@mattswain the scarlett solo is really worth it :slight_smile:
if your volume is as weak as my speakers ( who are not made for this kind of use ) trying to fit in is impossible … worse , you won t be able to work on the lesson : Dynamic Improvements
( if you ve not already learnt it )
Justin tells to exagerate the music ( quite or loud ) so you really shouldn t try to follow the volume of you tablet … the tablet should follow you asa beginner who’s learning

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Thanks everyone for the advice. There’s something that I can take from each of the replies. Some are things that I can do today, others are things I need to work towards. I think my answer is going to be a bit of all of the above as they aren’t mutually exclusive.

One other option would be a headphone amp that allows you to stream the backing track. You plug it into your guitar and then you can hear the track and guitar through your headphones.

I have a Fender Mustang Micro, but if I were buying one today I would look at the new Boss Katana Go that was just released yesterday. Either one of these is available for 120 USD.

These units will help you hear your guitar and backing track, plus you can even add some reverb (or any other effect) so that your guitar sound better matches the recording you’re playing with. Plus, there is a USB out so you can plug into your computer or iPad if you want to record.

I also have a Scarlett 2i2. I got it last summer and used it for a few weeks and it’s been sitting in a drawer ever since. I just found that I don’t like being tied to my computer all the time. I know that there are a lot of people that like them, but unless you want to do high quality recording of two inputs at the same time (guitar + vocal) I feel that it is very limited as a practice tool.

Whichever way you go, it sounds like you have a great attitude about learning. Keep practicing, go slow, and really listen to the sound you are making with your guitar and you will continue to improve. Have fun!


Thanks for the input. A mini-amp that has an output definitely makes them worth considering for me. I would have to factor in the price of some decent wired headphones (I only have wireless) but I could probably do with some anyway.

The Scarlett 2i2 studio bundle (inc headphones) is what I’ve been looking at. This would give me the flexibility of being able to record with or without the electronics from the guitar. Your point about connections to the computer is a fair one. I do have a laptop and iPad so have some flexibility but would have mic stand to consider and my house is already untidy! I don’t live in a mansion with unlimited rooms :joy:

My only real ambition with guitar is to be able to play along to songs I love. I want to get to a position where I’m able to sing and play but no one needs high quality recordings of my singing!

I shall give this more thought in the coming days. I see the Scarlett option as being the most future proofed covering all of the scenarios that I see for me in the short/medium future. The micro-amps would work for what I want right now (only via the guitar’s electronics), uses less equipment and is cheaper. Both options are valid and both are better options than I have today

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Matthew, fwiw.
If you got a headphone out jack on your ipad?

Prior to getting my 2i2, I used a mini stereo plug>L and R rca adapter. Plugged the mini jack into the computer, then took them rca’s off to aux on my stereo too. Same idea I use for the 2i2, just getting the output from the computer instead of the 2i2.
This also worked well for getting audio off my computer into something more substantial for listening pleasure. Like in louder and better fidelity.

Sadly not, I have an iPad Pro which has a single USB-C port - pro’s apparently don’t use cables (I’m been snarky here towards Apple in case it isn’t clear!)

I do have access to a Windows Laptop that does have a headphone port.

My preference for the iPad because it’s just always on and smoother experience. My laptop is newer but it’s always doing “Windows things” in the background, however the iPad does come with its own limitations and they’re often harder to work around. (This isn’t an Apple vs Windows thread!!!) I know the latest gen Scarlett units are compatible with both.

The hifi option won’t work for me at present. I have one of those Bose all-in-one things. It’s nice for listening to music but I know from trying to use it as a speaker for Rocksmith in the past that there’s a latency to its input which is no good for guitar playback.

Thanks for the suggestion anyway, it may help someone else looking at this thread with a less quirky hifi setup

I bought the gen 3 version of this bundle. I do use the headphones every day and I’ve been very pleased with them. I occasionally use the microphone to record my acoustic guitar which doesn’t have a pickup, but there’s always some kind of noise around my house and it’s really tough to get a good recording without a lot of background noise. Then I found myself spending a bunch of time trying to use a DAW to remove background hum and noise before I realized that the last thing I wanted to be doing was trying to edit music on my computer. That definitely wasn’t helping me improve my guitar playing.

So, when I want to record my electric, I plug my amp into my computer or iPhone and record direct. When I want to record my acoustic I just use my phone.

But, I know that there are many people that enjoy getting into recording, mixing, DAWs, etc and that is a huge part of their enjoyment of playing guitar. So you should definitely follow your own interests.

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But you don t need a mic to record on your daw … you can just use OBS … direct recording

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Definitely true. I go even one step easier: amp → iPhone (or PC) via USB → native camera app.

I only mentioned the microphone in the context of evaluating the Scarlett bundle. I find that I don’t use the microphone very often because it takes a lot of work to remove unwanted noise in my recording environment.

I did consider getting a dynamic mic that would pick up less ambient noise, but based on what I read, I would have needed a mic preamp to get desired levels. The new gen4 version of the scarlet has an improved built in mic preamp, so maybe a dynamic mic would work great.

I do love the sound of a well recorded acoustic guitar, so maybe I’ll dig back into this some day. But, as you mentioned, going direct avoids all of this.

Regardless, we live in an amazing time to be guitarists. We have available to us an amazing array of near pro quality gear at very attainable prices.

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