How to Automate Lighting With Backing Tracks (Pt. 1)

band lighting lighting basics midi triggering Jun 07, 2023

Let’s discover how to run lights via backing tracks through MIDI or OSC commands. What programs do you need, and how do they work together?

This month we are discussing everything you need to know about automation. Let’s talk about automating your lighting with backing tracks!

Lighting Automation

What is the purpose of lighting automation? How do we do it and what means do we use to go about getting your show to run as smoothly and as simply as possible?

The truth is, when you are running any smaller venue show such as a band, theater group, church or other small venue you might not have the amount of volunteers or budget to help you run your lighting. In such a case anything you can automate is going to help you make a much better show.

Backing Tracks

Backing tracks is one avenue of automation that can assist you in making the lighting during your show much easier, but if you have not used them before you may feel rather hesitant to give it a try.

Common Misconceptions

If you haven’t used backing tracks before you might have the preconceived notion that they will stick you into a very rigid type of structure. Good news is that this is really not the case with modern systems.

Another concern may be that you wonder if you want to pause, or go off beat that you may not be able to do that. But not to worry! This method is not as rigid as you may think.

How To Synchronize

Synchronizing your lighting using backing tracks is actually much easier than you would imagine. One way you can use your backing tracks very simply is to play through a whole song. This is a very popular way to use them and allows you to play video or lyrics along with it and have everything run smoothly.

Live Tracker

Live tracker allows you to play videos, songs, and even files all the way through along with your lighting. In Live Tracker currently you still can’t generate files which can be frustrating but it can still work really well for running backing tracks.

It allows a super simple arrangement on a time line where you can organize your show the way you want it and just hit play and let it go.

If you choose to use a program like Live Tracker you will likely set up a MIDI signal to cue you when the lighting changes. Different programs look for a different type of signal and the way you lay out your lighting is going to change what signals you send.


Ableton allows you to have to consecutive views of your project to allow you to combine different types of content. You are able to bring in multiple clips or files and fire through different clips at different parts of songs, as well as repeat different parts of songs which gives you quite a bit more flexibility with your show.

Applying Lighting to Backing Tracks

There is a couple different things you are going to need to make this method work. The first, of course, is your backing track program of choice. The lighting console that you choose to use will also make a big difference on the type of MIDI signals or files you can use along with it.


At the end of the day, it’s true that it can be a lot to look at and consider when organizing your perfect show, but it is really important to consider exactly how you want to automate your show. When choosing, consider how your lighting console will accept commands and then from there look at your backing track programs and decide whether a simple model will work for you or if you need a little more flexibility with you show and then find a program that suits your specific needs.


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