How to use guitar jam tracks effectively
When it comes to practice sessions, not much else trumps guitar jam tracks. They’re fun, allow you to learn new skills and come in all “shapes and sizes”.
You no doubt want to get the most out of anything in life, and we’re here to help you do that with jam tracks.
What are guitar jam tracks?
In short, a jam track is a form of backing music, for you to play over to your heart’s content. Jamming with other musicians can be super fun, but also quite hard to come by for many.
So instead of trying to find a few like-minded individuals and a large space for you all to stand in, you can have yourself some backing musicians in the form of an MP3. Best of all, you not only get to take the lead, but you also get to improve your playing.
Pressing play and having some fun is the easiest way to enjoy a jam track on guitar, but it’s always a good idea to have a little think before you use one.
Before you use a jam track…
After years of playing, you might be able to hear a song, find the key, and have a twiddle on your guitar straight away. If that isn’t the case, then no problem, but either way, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the details of the track, even if you don’t plan your “session” down to the last note.
The main aspects you’ll want to know, is the key, the tempo and the style. Playing to the key (and chords) will help to avoid any unwanted dissonance in your phrases, but this shouldn’t limit you. Many of the best 'colour tones' can often be found lurking outside the diatonic notes. The tempo and style are then there as a guide to the kind of feel you might want to go for.
By getting as much of the technical information in your pocket as possible, you can free yourself up to jam. You also avoid any pant-down moments if there is a tempo or time signature change mid track!
The best ways to use a guitar jam track
Once you know what’s what with your jam track of choice, it’s time to play. Here are a few different approaches that you might find useful.
Practice a technique
Guitar masterclasses might be the number one tool for developing and pinning down your skills, but jam tracks allow you to use them in context. It is a lot easier to play a set tapping exercise in isolation then it is while playing other stuff too. So pick a technique, such as alternate picking, and use the track as a setting to nail that skill.
Try something new
Everyone has favourites, and it can be easy to keep playing the same things. But if you step out of your comfort zone, even a little bit, you can really add a new level to your playing. Pick a mode to play in that you normally ignore, or perhaps go for a genre that is way out there in terms of your tastes. You don’t then have to become a fully fledged fan of that music, but each style brings with it it’s own challenges, and the more you can conquer the better. For something really out there, you could even see how one of your favourite licks works in a different setting. By adapting that lick to “fit” you’ll invariably uncover something new, and that’s what jamming is all about.
Of course, sometimes it is just as fun and useful to plug in and jam away. Doing this every session is fine, but we’d always say to try and structure your time playing at least a little bit. This way you can see where your strengths and weaknesses are. Maybe leave the full-on jamming time to the end of your session as a little treat!
One last thing…
Jam tracks are in many ways the antithesis of the metronome. Instead of that click, click, click to rigidly stick to, you get to have some fun and develop an internal sense of timing. That doesn’t mean that metronomes don’t have a place in practice, and are often quite good when used in conjunction with a jam track, but to really develop fluidity in your playing, it has to be a jam track.