You are currently viewing How to Choose The Right Blues Backing Tracks and Use Them Like a Pro

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Teemu Suomala

Here’s how this goes: on this spot, I reveal how you can choose the right blues backing track track every time and how to use them like should. Plus I throw 3 best blues backing tracks on earth to your way. What I ask in return? If you find this article valuable, share it so that more and more people can play the blues. If you don’t like this article, don’t share. Fair deal.

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I love guitars and have played dozens and dozens of different guitars through different amps and pedals over the years, and also, building a website interested me, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website.

I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have also been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as SongsterrMusicnotesGuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar.

I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog (I guess that went the right way…).

No strap in, because this is not jsut about getting better at blues. This is also about impressing yourself with rapid progress you can make with the right tools and plan (maybe even impress your better half, too…let’s aim for “that sounds better than amazing honey”, style of comments). First, here’s the 3 best blues backing tracks that will get you RESULTS.

3 Best Blues Backing Tracks of All time

#1. Slow Blues Guitar Backing Track – C Minor

This helps you start slow baby.

#2 Guitar BAcking Track (Blues in A)

This is groundbreaking since you can see what frets you could potentially hit.

#3 Fast Blues Backing Track in B

And if you feel upbeat and are ready for a challenge, this if for you.

With only these 3 backing tracks, you can learn more in a week than most do in a year. But only if you use them, and use them right. Now, let’s learn how to use these like a pro and cut the practice time in half….(and how to chose other backing tracks that fit you, your style, and your mood).

Jamming with Backing Tracks

According to the gurus over at Blues Guitar Insider, backing tracks are the secret sauce to sprucing up your skills.

So what backing tracks actually do for you?

With a variety of keys, tempos, and styles to choose from, you can slide into the groove faster than you can say “finger-lickin’ good”. And let’s not forget the full band experience – drums, bass, piano – giving you the full taste of playing with a crew, minus the arguments with band members over “artistic preferences”.

But the next thin is the key…

Choosing the Right Key

Choosing the right key is like picking the right tie for job interview – it’s gotta match, or you’ll look like a clown. If you’re just dipping your toes into the bluesy waters, stick to the tried-and-true keys of A, C, D, E, and G. These are your golden tickets to blues heaven and extremely easy to get along with.

Here’s a table l have never seen before. And it will save you a boatload of time:

KeyMoodScale Buddy
AClassic BluesyA Blues Major Pentatonic
CLaid BackC Blues Major Pentatonic
DDown and DirtyD Blues Major Pentatonic
EEnergeticE Blues Major Pentatonic
GGroovyG Blues Major Pentatonic

If you want more emotonial sound so that you can make your audeicne tear-up, just replace Major with Minor Pentatonics, and voala! Learn all that you need about blues guitar scales here.

You want to play it smooth, so make sure that key fits your vocal range (if you’re the singing type) and complements the story you’re telling with those strings. And remember, blues is all about the feels, so pick a key that resonates with your mood. Whether you’re feeling high as a kite on a sunny day or low as your squat PR, there’s a key for every shade of the blues.

Armed with these golden nugget, you can really supercharge your blues learning progress. But there’s 1 another thing you need to nail if you want to leverage backing tracks to the fullest…(do not skip this)

Mastering the Groove

Tempo and You

When it comes to grooving with blues guitar backing tracks, tempo is your dance partner. You wouldn’t try to waltz to a polka beat, right? So, finding the right pace for your bluesy story is crucial. Blues backing tracks come in a range of tempos from the ‘my grandma walks faster than this’ slow blues at 60 beats per minute (bpm) to ‘I just drank five espressos’ fast shuffles at over 120 bpm.

This table will work as bulletproof guidance for you my friend:

Track StyleTempo (bpm)
Traditional Slow Blues70
Heavy Shuffle Blues86
Slow Blues60
(Source: Christy Bannerman (you can find more in-depth analysis of tempo from Christy))

You’ve got to match your playing to the tempo of the track, or you’ll stick out more awkwardly than a cat at a dog show. Start slow to get the hang of it. There’s no shame in it. Even Clapton had to crawl before he could walk the blues. Plus, slower tracks are a superb way to nail down precision and soul — two must-haves for any self-respecting blues guitarist. So I strongly recommend you to start slow.

The 12-Bar Blueprint with backing tracks

Ah, the 12-bar blues. It’s the bread and butter of your blues diet, the “Happy Birthday” of the genre. This tried-and-true progression is the foundation on which many a blues legend built their empires.

BarChords
1 – 4I
5 – 6IV
7I
8IV
9I
10V
11IV
12Turnaround (I)
(Source: Christy Bannerman)

Get cozy with this progression. It’s your golden ticket to the blues chocolate factory. And don’t just play it — feel it, live it, maybe even grab a harmonica and play it some more. When you’re ready to shake things up, dive into variations to keep your practice fresh.

Here’s a plan that helps you save you hours of time and makes you master blues rhythm using backing tracks:


Using a 12-bar blues progression with backing tracks is a fundamental skill for any blues musician. Here’s a general guide on how to approach this:

  1. Understand the 12-Bar Blues Structure: The basic 12-bar blues progression is made up of three chords, typically the I, IV, and V chords of a key. In the key of A, for example, these chords would be A (I), D (IV), and E (V). The standard 12-bar blues has a specific structure:
    • 4 bars of the I chord (A)
    • 2 bars of the IV chord (D)
    • 2 bars of the I chord (A)
    • 1 bar of the V chord (E)
    • 1 bar of the IV chord (D)
    • 2 bars of the I chord (A)
  2. Listen to the Backing Track: Before playing, listen to the backing track a little to understand its tempo, groove, and any variations in the typical 12-bar blues progression it might have.
  3. Play the Rhythm: If you’re playing rhythm guitar, focus on strumming or plucking the chords in a way that complements the track. Pay attention to the feel of the music – whether it’s a shuffle, straight, or slow blues.
  4. Improvise and Experiment: Blues is about expression, so feel free to experiment and improvise. Try to respond to the nuances of the backing track and express yourself through your playing.
  5. Record Yourself: Recording your playing can be an invaluable tool for improvement. Listen back to identify areas of strength and aspects that might need more work.
  6. Play Along with Different Tracks: Don’t just stick to one backing track. Each track can bring out different aspects of your playing, so explore various keys, tempos, and feels.

Look, laying down the rhythm is like setting the stage for a good ol’ blues night – it’s essential, no doubt. But when you start soloing, my friend, that’s when the real magic happens…

Tip: Mix in some blues guitar licks or sprinkle in a few blues guitar riffs to taste. Before you know it, you’ll be cooking up grooves spicy enough to make a jalapeño sweat.

Soloing Over the Blues Backing tRacks

Ah, the art of soloing over the blues. It’s where your guitar gets to sing its heart out, and you get to pour a little bit of your soul into each bend and vibrato. But before you start thinking you’re the next B.B. King, let’s talk shop and make sure you’re hitting the right notes, literally.

Just before we start, check this live, B.B. King. If this doesn’t motivate you to spend the next night improvising over backing tracks, I don’t know what will:

Hitting the “Safe” Notes

This is what makes you play with confidence. The secret few talk about…

When you’re navigating the fretboard’s wild waters, it’s good to have some life preservers. These are your “safe” notes—those trusty little sound nuggets that you know will always have your back (and front, and sides). These notes are parts of the chords you’re soloing over, so they’re like your best buds at a party; they fit in perfectly.

Let’s break it down. Say you’re jamming over a typical I-IV-V blues progression. You’ll want to target the root, third, and fifth of each chord. You can find these safe havens all over your fretboard, and they’ll always sound sweet to the ear. But remember, it’s not just about landing on these notes; it’s how you land on them. Slide into them, bend up to them, give them a little vibrato—make them sing!

Now, if you’re still getting cozy with which notes are which, no sweat. You’ve got resources like blues guitar scales to help you map out the safe zones. And hey, there’s no shame in keeping it simple. Even the simplest licks can sound epic with the right feel and timing.

But when using these safe notes, do not fall into a trap that can make your playing sound more boring than an average high-school math teacher…

Escaping the Pattern Trap

It’s easy to fall into the comfort zone of playing the same patterns over and over again (has happened to me). You find a lick that sounds cool, and suddenly it’s like that one hit song on the radio that won’t stop playing—every solo you take, there it is.

But come on, you’re not a one-trick pony. You’ve got more to offer than that same old blues box pattern.

Here’s a thought: use blues guitar backing tracks as your personal playground? They’re the perfect backdrop for you to try out new ideas, step outside the usual patterns, and see what happens. Maybe you start by moving up or down the neck to different positions of the blues scale. Or perhaps you mix in some chromatic notes for flavor, or even venture into different modes to spice things up.

Experimenting is the key here.

Remember, the greats didn’t become great by playing it safe—they took risks and explored new territories. So don’t just play the blues scale; play with it. Dance around the fretboard, mix rhythms, change up your picking attack, and keep your playing as fresh as your gym socks after laundry day.

The Technical Side of Things

Alright, you blues-drenched guitar slinger, let’s get down to brass tacks. It’s time to hone those chops and train your ears to become the blues guitar hero you were destined to be. I’ll hold your hand and guide you through this whole process, so do not worry.

Techniques to Practice

First things first, you’re going to want to get cozy with some essential blues techniques. Don’t worry, we’re not talking about those scammy “become a guitar god overnight” schemes. These are time-tested, callus-forming, bona fide skills that’ll serve you well whether you’re serenading your significant other or just jamming out after a hard day’s work.

  1. Bending: The bread and butter of any blues guitarist. Get those notes wailing like a hound dog chasing the mailman. Create tension, release tension is a good place to start.
  2. Vibrato: Add some spice to those notes. Remember, it’s all in the wrist—like sprinkling a pinch of sea salt on your farm-to-table avocado toast.
  3. Hammer-ons and Pull-offs: These are your quick draw techniques. Smooth and slick, they’ll let you fire off notes faster than you can say “organic quinoa.”
  4. Slides: Whether you’re going up or down the neck, slides will get you there with that smoky, smooth transition.
  5. Double Stops: Play two strings at once for that rich, full-bodied flavor—like a well-aged bourbon that’s been sitting in your cellar.

Developing Your Ear

Now onto the ear—your secret weapon for blues player others pay attention to. Your ear’s going to be your trusty sidekick, telling you where to go on that fretboard as you navigate through the swampy rhythms and soulful grooves.

  • Listen and Mimic: Pop on some classic blues tracks and try to play along. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; even barbecue masters burn a rack of ribs now and then.
  • Call and Response: Play a phrase, then let the backing track “respond” to you. It’s like having a conversation, but instead of discussing the weather, you’re trading bluesy barbs.
  • Transcribe Solos: Pick out a solo you love and try to transcribe it by ear. It’s like doing a crossword puzzle, but instead of a pen, you’re using your axe.
  • Interval Training: Learn to identify intervals by ear. It’s like recognizing the difference between a porterhouse and a ribeye by taste—crucial for any connoisseur.

Remember, the path to blues greatness is both a marathon and a sprint (depending on how you look at it). Take your time, enjoy the ride, and keep those strings vibrating. Your dedication will pay off when you’re bending those strings with the finesse of a gourmet chef wielding a chef’s knife.

Variety Is the Spice of Life

Dive into a Delta blues feel or swing your way through a Chicago shuffle. Each style brings its own flair to the table, helping you develop a wide range of skills and improvisational chops. Plus, you’ll get to practice locking in with different beats and instrumentations, from the thumping bass to the soulful wails of a Hammond organ.

And here’s the catch, game-changing book, Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, that is based on latest research on learning has a secret in it. Here it comes.

More variety you add to your playing, the better you become in a long run. Sure, new things can feel hard first. But varied practice is better is better than only doing 1 thing for a long time.

This especially true when starting out. You can specialize after you have mastered the basic concepts first. So experiment and test a ton of new stuff. You or your listeners (wife) do not want to eat omelets your whole life after all.

Creating Your Own Style

Now, let’s get serious (but not too serious). You’re not here to be the next copycat blues cat. You’re here to strut your stuff with a style that’s as unique as that secret BBQ sauce recipe you won’t even share with your wife.

Using blues guitar backing tracks isn’t just about learning the lines others use, it’s about using what other do and use to create something of your own. This way your playing can have a soul. With each jam session, you’re not just practicing; you’re paving the road to your own blues style. Brick by brick.

Here’s a blueprint to help you carve out your signature sound:

  1. Experiment with Phrasing: Like adding hot sauce to a recipe, sprinkle in some unexpected pauses and bursts of speed to keep things spicy.
  2. Bend (and break) the Rules: And the strings. Play around with bends, vibrato, and slides to add a personal touch to your solos. There’s no place in your fretboard you can’t bend.
  3. Mix it Up: Combine scales and modes to create a flavor that’s all your own.
  4. Rhythm is King: Throw in some funky (or other kind of) rhythm guitar to complement your solos and show you’ve got groove.

Remember, the goal isn’t to become the next Stevie Ray Vaughan clone. It’s to become the first ‘you’. So, grab your guitar, hit play on those blues backing tracks, and start carving out a niche in the blues world that’s as fit and healthy as your lifestyle. And while you’re at it, why not write a blues song about how you can’t find your dog’s favorite chew toy? It’s relatable content, trust me.

Conclusion

This was a lesson experienced blues guitarist charge you big money to learn. And how to guarantee breath-taking results? Use what you learned. Every day. Share this if you found this valuable and have a good day. Until we meet again…

Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…). Expertise: guitar learning techniques, electric guitars, and guitar amplifiers. You can connect with me on LinkedIn or just email me.
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