Put away dem backing tracks…
Last week I was editing together the recent interview I conducted with jazz guitar superstar Howard Alden, when something he said really stuck out at me:
“Spend some time playing without backing tracks, without even a metronome. Do this even if you’re just doing some single line soloing or playing a melody. This will build your internal sense of rhythm.”
I think this is one of the best pieces of advice you are ever going to hear to improve your jazz playing.
Too often, players get into the trap of using some sort of backing track any time they go to practice.
In a way, logically it makes sense. Unless you’re trying to play jazz guitar solo, having some sort of backing track to play along with would help prepare you for playing with other musicians at a gig.
Here’s the thing though:
There’s a problem with this approach.
You see, backing tracks are kind of like a ‘crutch’. It’s the same kind of thing as driving a couple of blocks down to your local store to pick up a few things, instead of walking. Sure, you’ll get the thing you were looking for, but in terms of your fitness? Not that good.
Similarly, if you use backing tracks to practice along with all the time, your ears will always subtly be responding to the cues of the chord changes on the track, rather than hearing them internally.
Likewise, your rhythm feel will be propped up by the backing track as well, and your internal sense of rhythm will never develop.
So, put away dem backing tracks for a little while.
If you’ve used backing tracks a lot up till now, it can feel strange and kind of… ‘naked’ to do this.
But naked is good.
Practicing single line soloing or melodies by yourself, and on your own, can do wonders for developing your inner sense of the music.
Once you have a strong internal feel for the changes, you can then start to be much more creative with both your phrasing and rhythm. You’ll no longer be responding to cues from backing tracks – your own creative impulses will be the driving force.
If you haven’t already, check out my interview with Howard Alden at the link below as today’s tip was just one of a truckload of practice techniques he talks about that every jazz guitarist should be aware of:
And while you’re at it, leave a comment below to let me know what you thought about this simple, but incredibly important practice tip I’ve shared with you today.