Do you ever get bored playing your guitar to an electronic beep? Although playing to a metronome is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your playing (in more ways than you can imagine) it can sometimes feel a little unreal and more often than not, uninspiring. When learning how to play guitar solos you usually have something to play to, maybe playing over a CD or jamming your favorite song with a friend, but what happens if you’re just practicing techniques, improvisation or composing something new? There is a solution that I have used for years and it has helped me in so many ways, creatively as well as with timing and technique. It is the use of backing tracks and real instruments to play along to.
Backing Tracks are just what Karaoke is to the singing world; a real band track with one instrument taken out so you can play along as if playing with a full band. You can approach these in two ways – buy pre existing backing tracks or what I did, make your own. It’s easy to make your own but I will warn you now, it can cost a little to set yourself up to be able to record these. Here are some things to consider when choosing either way:
Buying Existing Tracks
Does the music inspire you? There are so many tracks available and not all are created equal. Choose ones that are in your genre and that make you want to pick up the guitar and play along!
Can they be used in multiple ways? Some songs are easier to solo to than others and you want to make your money stretch as far as possible. Try to choose tracks that give you multiple ideas and that allow you to open up notes all over the neck.
How’s the quality of the sound? It’s no use playing to something that sounds like it was recorded in a cave during a hail storm! Choose something that sounds well produced and professional after all, the better it sounds the better you will play to it.
Making your own Backing Tracks
What do you really need in order to do this? Drum Machine and some form of recording device – that’s it! You can always get a lot more stuff than this to make professional recordings but that all depends on your budget, so work out what you really need before going to the guitar shop and you won’t get swept up in the moment (speaking from experience here, going in for picks and coming out with a new guitar!).
Drum Machine – There are some free ones online that will give you a decent sound to play along with and depending on what you want to achieve these may be good enough for you. Next step up is the cheap paid versions such as Quickbeats, these are a good alternative and certainly cheap enough. I personally use a program called Fruityloops and add my own sampled drum sounds in which gives the result I’m after, and that’s what it’s about.
Guitar Recording – There are also a lot of ways to record guitar, starting from cheap programs you can download to physical recording devices, but it all depends on what you want to spend. There are programs that you can buy that have a basic plug-and-play guitar recording unit, and that come with a built in drum machine, which are great for the guitarist wanting it easy, and you can get some great sounds that will inspire you for years to come.
At the end of the day you can spend unlimited amounts on recording equipment that you don’t necessarily need, but choose what suits your needs. And if you’re just learning how to play guitar solos from your favourite band and you don’t want to pay anything, find a free drum program (even a trial version) and create a few beats you can play along with and this will enhance your creativity which in turn will improve all aspects of your playing.