Last updated on July 5, 2019
With the advent of the internet, and especially YouTube, there are now a plethora of backing tracks available for pretty much any tune, scale, chord progression or solo. While this is all well and good, especially for trying things out, there’s a kind of backing track that I think has a far more useful real-world application than 10 minutes of going at it with A minor pentatonic. See what you think.
As I mentioned, backing tracks are great for trying stuff out, or hearing modes and scales in context, but in the real world you probably won’t be required to solo in A minor pentatonic for 10 minutes. In my humble opinion, a far more useful skill to develop is serving the song, or in improvisational terms, coming up with a solo that lasts anything from 15 seconds to a minute or so, and which complements the tune.
Real World Skills
If there’s a local music scene in your town or city, you’ll probably be aware of the handful of guys (or gals) that get all the session gigs precisely because they have this skill. Laying down the perfect solo is not something that’s difficult to develop, as long as you incorporate it into your practice routine. The truth is that it’s not something that guitarists generally practice, so if you want to be a step ahead of the rest, you know what to do.
I’ll admit, it’s hard to find this kind of backing track, so here’s one I made earlier by throwing a couple of samples together using the Music Maker Jam app.
What I did was arrange a tune that includes a section for you to solo over. The solo section runs from 1:15 up to the drum solo at about 2:00. It’s only 45 seconds but the challenge is to make them count! The tune is in D minor, so you don’t have to think about scales or changes too much, just concentrate on playing something that a) serves the tune, and b) fits with the style of the track.
Here’s the tune entitled, ‘My Kind of Jazz’, which was a bonus track that didn’t make it into our latest book, ‘Let Go of What You Know – How to Improvise Freely on Guitar‘.
I like this kind of exercise because it makes you think about things you wouldn’t normaly consider when you go to wail over a backing track. It makes you dial in a tone that fits the song, stick to a certain style, and channels your energy into creating something specific. It also puts you in that frame of mind for coming up with parts for a tune which, if you’re thinking about getting into session work, is an essential skill to have.