Our touring group has five members; a stage manager (Dana), 3 actors (Dakota, Tim and Myself), and an onstage musician, Alex.
At one of our Toronto performances there was a question of why we even had a live musician when the music could have easily been prerecorded. (I’m curious if the questionee will become an accountant). Although from a fiscal perspective I can understand that this may seem like a good idea, however from a theatrical experience point of view, I want to keep my musician.
We are bringing a live theatre experience to our audiences. Alex plays the drum, fiddle, accordion, jaw harp, the tin whistle and he also used a foot board to make the galloping sounds of the spirit horse. We open with the pounding of the drum, melting away to the beating of a heart. Not only is Alex able to change his volume with the acoustics of the room, but he is also able to intuitively catch the timing of our words (which do change with our energy each day; if we are tired, energized or otherwise).
At one point in a performance the looping peddle decided to play the drum beat at nearly four times the regular speed. Not only was Alex able to keep with with fiddle, he was also able keep up with his feet tapping away. Although the loop peddle mishap made Dana, Dakota and I smile, it showed that nothing could throw off the game of our musician.
There are no words that can describe the feeling that a live instrument provides to a performer. It can bring you the extra energy when you need it most, or boost whatever emotional journey your character is on.
In summation: you can could use prerecorded music- but you can’t record the soul.