One of the best things that you can do to further yourself as a guitar player is to play along with the recordings of the songs that you are working on as well as to use backing tracks to jam along to.
Actual recordings are pretty self-explanatory, after you learn the song you just hit play on the cd player and play along to the tune. Backing tracks, also known as jam tracks, are a little different in that they will usually have one element of the song missing, usually the lead or rhythm guitar part. This makes it easier to hear yourself playing the part and gives you the feeling of playing in an actual band.
In either case, it’s very important for you to start working with these methods of practice because it will greatly enhance your rhythm playing and your overall confidence as a guitar player.
Along with being a great way to practice and learn the exact parts of a song, backing tracks give you a great opportunity to practice your lead and improvising technique. If you have been playing guitar for any decent amount of time, you most likely have learned the minor pentatonic scale, the king of all guitar soloing scales. This is all you need to know to start having fun with improvising and coming up with your own melodies.
One of the best resources that I have found recently for free guitar backing tracks is the ITUNES radio channels.
Although the music that you will find here is not made to be jam tracks, with certain parts left out, there is a huge variety of music that you can just let play while you jam to it and come up with solos and melodies.
My favorite channel is Groove Salad under the Ambient category. It is non-stop, commercial free instrumental music that will give you an endless amount of fresh tracks to practice and jam to. Most of it is in minor key signatures so all you have to do is use the minor pentatonic scale to figure out the key and then jam away. This is also a great way to practice your full major and minor scales as well. Most of the chord progressions that make up these tunes use major and minor chords (instead of just power chords), which sound great against major and minor scales.
After you get the hang of it, you will find yourself jamming away for hours on end and coming up with some great ideas. Along with building your soloing and improvising skills, this is also a great way to improve the ability to use your ear to figure out music.
As always, have fun, practice hard and keep those fingers moving!
This article was written by Mike Deiure. The creator of the Rock Guitar Power series of Instructional Videos.