Backing Tracks


A guitar backing track is usually an audio or video file (in the form of a video clip) whose main purpose is to help guitar players practice their playing. The backing track itself can be created in many different ways, but the goal of every good or properly done backing track is to facilitate guitar-playing practice.

How does a guitar backing track work?

When you want to practice guitar playing, you simply start the backing track and play along. Guitar backing tracks can be done in such a way to simulate the whole band, or just a couple of instruments, with or without lead or backing vocals. Basically, guitar backing tracks are like karaoke, only for instruments, and they have proven to be very helpful.

When did they originate?

Guitar backing tracks have been around for a long time, in forms of audio cassettes (remember them?) or CDs, but the advent of global internet redefined the whole purpose of backing tracks, and they have been going strong now for over a decade and a half. On numerous websites and video-streaming services, such as You Tube, there are literally thousands of guitar backing tracks; there are also a lot of musicians who create brand new, play-along tracks, or even record themselves performing, to simulate a working environment of a studio session or an album in progress. If you want to practice, you can easily find many fantastic resources and improve your guitar-playing skills.

What are the main types

If we focus solely on guitar playing, the two main types of guitar backing tracks are melodic and rhythmic. In melodic backing tracks, all a guitar player can hear are rhythm instruments: the drums, bass, percussion and/or synthesizer (piano), depending on the song i.e. the genre of music in question. These tracks are used when a player’s objective is to practice instrumental parts, or soloing.

On the other hand, there are rhythmic guitar backing tracks, for those players who are not that experienced when it comes to soloing, or who want to practice chord playing. In these backing tracks, there are no guitar chords, only bass, drums and/or synth, and they are ideal for rhythm guitarists who want to practice their skills. Of course, a guitar backing tracks can be created without guitar parts altogether, which leaves more room for the player to decide where to practice soloing and where to work on rhythm playing.

The most important thing to bear in mind is to know that backing tracks are not designed to teach you how to play the guitar. If you want to learn the guitar, find a course, or video/audio lesson. The main purpose of guitar backing tracks is to enable you to work on your craft and perfect your style, so that you become more comfortable with playing in a band, or performing in front of an audience. Guitar backing tracks are a great simulation environment to up and find your unique musical voice. If you approach them properly, you find them highly engaging and extremely helpful.

Advice on picking out guitar tracks?

Before you play a guitar backing track, be sure to know what exactly you’re after. Are you a soloist? Are you an aspiring rhythm guitar? Do you have an understanding of guitar scales? There are also backing tracks for the bass guitar, so you can practice your bass playing, if that’s your thing. But you have to be realistic and practical – the last thing you want to do is play a wrong type of backing track, because it will only make you feel lost and insecure.

Furthermore, you should decide upon a certain style of music you want to play on a given day. If you’re a blues fan, find a blues guitar backing part. If that’s too broad of a definition, find something more specific: melodic blues, Delta blues, Chicago blues, minor blues, blues rock, funky blues…the list just goes on and on. The more specific you are, the better your chances are of finding a good match.

Finally, be fully aware of your guitar-playing abilities and find a backing track within your league. If you’re a beginner, be sure to look for “guitar backing tracks for beginners”. If you’re a more experienced guitarist and you want to work on your speed, look for “backing tracks for speed practice”. Again, it all depends on your abilities, and on your plans for developing your skills.