Making music practice fun; Finding good backing tracks

For musicians of all levels, playing with backing tracks can elevate a practice session from a feeling of “work” to a feeling of the “high” that comes from performing with others.

Backing tracks essentially are the chord (and depending upon the style of music, rhythm section) accompaniment to a piece or tune.

Let’s face it, it’s really fun to perform with others whether it’s live or with a recording. And if you live in an area where there aren’t many performing opportunities, backing tracks can make you feel like you are performing in a church setting, concert band, jazz band, small ensemble or Rock band.

Besides making your practicing more fun and engaging, backing tracks are also great tools for improving our ear training, listening skills, timing, chord recognition and understanding of the music we are playing. 

When I was younger, there wasn’t an easy way to access backing tracks; in fact, there were only Music Minus One albums. So I used to play along with the full recordings I had (especially for classical music) to learn the pieces and to imagine myself performing with a great orchestra behind me. Many jazz musicians would learn their craft from attending live shows and/or listening to albums and playing along.

Nowadays, there’s backing tracks for almost every genre of music, and they are more widely available than in the past. This can motivate you to practice even more as you get more opportunities to perform all types of songs in the comfort of your own home.

How to Find Good Backing Tracks

Watch the video below for my suggestions for finding backing tracks to enjoy practicing along with.

 

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Where to find backing tracks

The following are a list of resources to help you find good backing tracks for whatever style of music you are into playing.

Since more and more resources pop up every day, please post any resources you have found in the Comments section below.

www.YouTube.com Type in the name of the tune+karaoke and you may be able to find backing tracks for your favorite songs.

www.jwpepper.com – If you are playing a concert band, small ensemble, jazz band or church-related music, type in the composer, arranger and publisher and search for your piece. There will likely be an audio button where you can hear part of the recording.

www.karaokeversion.com  You can generate customized backing tracks, meaning you can take out the vocals, the horns, guitar, etc.

http://smoothjazzbackingtracks.com/  This site has high quality backing tracks for smooth jazz, classic rock, holiday, international, movie hits, etc., in addition to sheet music.   

https://jazzbacks.com/  This site has many backing tracks to jazz tunes, and even has lead sheets in C, Bb and Eb.

Coffebreakgrooves.com  This site has 15 minute backing tracks recorded by real musicians in these styles: Jazz, Blues, Smooth Jazz, Reggae, Fusion, Soul, Funk. 

Bobby’s Backing Tracks This site also has numerous backing tracks in many styles.

http://www.jazzbooks.com/mm5/merchant.mvc? Jamey Aebersold’s site (jazzbooks.com) has a ton of his own play-alongs for jazz standards, as well as the new Real Book Volumes 1 and 2 backing tracks on thumb drives and mp3 downloads.

Band-in-a-Box – For Mac and Windows by PG Music. This is more for folks who know what the accompanying chords are because you have to type in the chords into their interface. The software generates the backing tracks for you. You can choose whatever style, key, tempo you want for your track.

iReal Pro This is an app for the desktop, phone and for the tablet. (You have to buy each one separately). This resource, which is not free but cheaper than Band-in-a-Box generates the chord charts (no lead sheets) and backing tracks. The forums have tons of music to download (for free), ranging from jazz standards to Steely Dan and the Beatles.

If you want to play popular themes, there are many songbooks available at your local music store (or on Amazon) that have backing tracks in addition to the sheet music.

Sheet music resources – these sites will have audio links of their sheet music for sale. Usually it is Midi-generated audio for a portion of your selected sheet music.

MusicNotes

Sheet Music Plus

Online Sheet Music

Don’t forget, leave a Comment below if these resources helped you, and also if you found more resources than the ones I listed above.

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