Wow! Amazing what taking a few days off can do! I spent last weekend in Las Vegas deflating from the rigors of everyday life, and when I came back, made a conscious effort to play as little guitar or writing as possible. Sometimes you just need to take a break. But I’m back now, refreshed, restored, and fully recovered.
So yesterday, not feeling like writing any music – actually not feeling very creative at all – I just picked up my guitar and started noodling. Within a few minutes, I wanted to play to something, so I did a search on “jam tracks” and the first search result was a link to a place called Jam Center. Intrigued, I clicked the link and was taken to the site.
There really wasn’t much there; just a navigation bar on the left that listed “Jam Machine Keys.” I clicked the Key of A, the page reloaded and the following “machine” appeared on the page:
Cool, I thought, this looks really promising. I clicked on “COOL” and was rewarded with a nicely produced jam track. I slung my guitar and started playing… Two hours later, I still hadn’t gone through all the keys and all the jam tracks, I was enjoying myself so much!
Yeah, there are lots of different sites offering jam tracks out there, but what I like about this particular site is that instead of just playing MP3s in another tab or window that eventually end, the jam tracks are arranged in a loop, and not only that, many of the jam tracks have two different “feels” to them. Usually, the first part of a track will have a mellower feel, then jumping into the second half of the track, the feel gets more intense. Having this type of variation makes you play differently. So not only can you practice your technique, you can practice changing your tones and attack. What I found very useful with having two different feels to a track was it allowed me to practice switching pedals and pickup selections. How cool is that!
One thing I forgot to mention was that when you click on a style on the machine, text appears on the machine suggesting the type of scale to play like “A Harmonic Minor” or “E Blues.” It’s a small thing yes, but it’s cool to have a starting place. For instance, in one of the tracks, the suggestion came up with “A Mixolydian.” I’ve never been that much into modes and such, even though I’ve studied them, but as an interesting and added value, the site has some great graphic examples of the different modes.
I looked up “A Mixolydian” and was greeted with the pattern, and started playing the pattern over the jam track. That was really cool; a way to immediately use a mode over a piece of music, as opposed to having to intellectualize. What that sparked was using different modes starting with different tonics or root notes over the different keys. Some didn’t work at all, but it sure helped me understand how modes can open up a whole different world when jamming.