BACK­ING TRACKS – I NEED FO­CUS!

Guitar Techniques - - Talkback -

I love jam­ming over back­ing tracks and, as I’m not in a band at the mo­ment, it’s my only real way of try­ing to ex­tend my im­pro­vis­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. The trou­ble is, af­ter about a minute there I am again, noodling aim­lessly over the chords and not re­ally know­ing what I should be do­ing. Some sim­ple tips or tricks (short cuts even) to mak­ing my prac­tice ses­sions more re­ward­ing and ul­ti­mately ben­e­fi­cial to my play­ing (surely the whole point of the ex­er­cise) would be ap­pre­ci­ated. Thanks... James, Eal­ing, Lon­don

Ac­tu­ally a few people have asked us the same ques­tion re­cently, so mu­sic edi­tor Ja­son Sid­well has put to­gether a prac­tice road map that should help. Fol­low this and your back­ing track ses­sions should be much more worth­while… 1) De­velop a good un­der­stand­ing of the track - play the chords for a while to link in, but don’t do any solo­ing over them yet! 2) Next, pick out sin­gle notes from the chords - aim for just one note per bar (re­ally!); fo­cus on play­ing a chord tone (a note de­rived from the chord) so you’re al­ways choos­ing ‘cor­rect’ notes. 3) Milk the mi­nor pen­ta­tonic - a bluesy back­ing track in, say, A mi­nor (Am7, Dm7, Em7) will al­low you to use the A mi­nor pen­ta­tonic scale over it all, and you won’t sound wrong (cre­at­ing licks us­ing this scale al­lows you to ‘feel’ how they need to be phrased, too). 4) Pull out one or two good chord tones over each chord in turn - stick­ing with our Am, Dm, Em blues, most chord tones are to be found in A mi­nor pen­ta­tonic; do this and you’re bed­ding in a process that will serve you well in sit­u­a­tions that pre­sents you with more tricky, or thought pro­vok­ing, chord pro­gres­sions. 5) Find com­mon notes - in a pro­gres­sion such as Gmaj7-Emaj7, no sin­gle scale will serve you over both chords, but there are notes that are shared (B is the 3rd of Gmaj7 and the 5th of Emaj7 and so on). So when solo­ing over these two chords opt for com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor notes as ‘tar­get’ notes, and then when more con­fi­dent, add in notes unique to each chord. Start with one (or two) good notes for each chord then de­velop things from there. This is a very fruit­ful ap­proach for many play­ers. 6) Learn what the chord changes are and when they are oc­cur­ring – when solo­ing over a track that’s more com­pli­cated than a blues, know­ing where you are is vi­tal, so play­ing rhyth­mic chords along to it, is a log­i­cal first step. The more you de­velop the link and your un­der­stand­ing be­tween chords, chord tones and gen­eral scales, the bet­ter a mu­si­cian you will be.

If you too strug­gle with James’s prob­lem, make a point of ac­tu­ally try­ing this, to the let­ter. In fact, Ja­son’s points are so good that I think an en­tire les­son de­voted to this topic – with ex­panded ex­am­ples and fur­ther hints and tips – is a must for a fu­ture is­sue.

Try Ja­son’s ideas over the back­ing tracks

he cre­ated for this month’s is­sue.

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