Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Bluegrass Backing Tracks

I was wondering if any of you guys had found some good bluegrass backing tracks to practice over? Not necessarily popular fiddle tunes, but instead just general tracks to practice soloing over?

I know I have searched youtube and such and not have been able to find a lot of bluegrass type tracks to practice my improv over. So, I was thinking that I’d see what you guys have in the form of Youtube and other videos, mp3’s, etc in your resources to share? If you guys are like me and have a limited supply of backing tracks to jam over then I was thinking that maybe I’ll pull out the mic and record some guitar backing tracks, post them up here for folks to use. I was also thinking that if I do this maybe we could get the other instruments involved to set some rhythm down also, kind of like a Kompoz project but for backing tracks?

Over the past year I have really seen dramatic results in my improv, however I feel that I have a long way to go in getting that “bluegrass” sound when improvising, sometimes I fall flat on my face and I feel the only way out of falling flat on my face is to keep playing over and over and over and over lead ideas over backing tracks…call me anal but that has been my focus for the past 6 months. I have a pretty good understanding of scales, modes, etc but still get finger tied in my improv so soloing over backing tracks is what I am all about now.

Here is one I like to practice over and would appreciate you guys sharing any links or resources you ave for bluegrass backing tracks.


Good idea for a thread. I made the attached for a fiddle playing friend. I know you said not necessarily fiddle tunes, but it’s the only BG backing track I have previously recorded. It’s Red Haired Boy at 200 bpm. I play the melody through the A and B parts the first time through and then just play the rhythm 3 or 4 times. Now that I think about it, I think also have a few hymn type things that I did for some vocalists to practice over, but they would be pretty slow (not really BG).

If there are particular progressions/keys someone wants to jam to, put a request out on this thread. I or someone else could throw something together if it’s not already out there. Maybe we could even throw them out to the netgrass group to make some full blown backing tracks. With the magic of digital music editing, all one has to do is record the rhythm track one time through and then copy and paste to make a track of whatever length is desired.

If I’m working on improvising or just noodling around, I’ll put on any old track and just play over everything… other breaks, vocals… I treat the whole song like one big backing track.


When I do that I tend to want to follow the melody line of that song and it gets me perplexed as I am not good enough to follow the melody of that song on the fly. I have realized that I need a “blank sheet” (progression) that has no set-in-stone melody in it so I can make my own up on the fly.

Also with a “blank sheet” one can practice scales over it if they want.

It’s probably a short coming with my playing, but a melody line already in a song gets me perplexed. I like to hear known melody lines in my head then try and fit them in. To elaborate on this a bit and use for example with a “blank sheet” I can say fill in parts of 'Dueling banjos", This Little Light of Mine, or other tunes or “bits” from those songs, toss in some popular licks for fills and have fun with it. When there is a song that has a melody line already intact I get lost…I am just not that good yet! I do however strive to follow the melody line and go from there and that is part of my relentless practice. I feel that one should be able to hear for example “Red Haired Boy” like Mike posted for the first time and identify the melody and be able to play it on the fly and focus on the melody line and play around it, not just to simply fill it full of licks and fills. So with a “blank sheet” or progression that I have never heard I get to make my own melody line in my head and then fill in around it wit what I want verses simply jamming out over a progression I consciously pick a melody line that I can hear/conceive in my head and focus on it. Call it “singing with my guitar” if you will, or at least humming with my guitar!

I strive for being able to play a melody line and improvise over it, I despise the guys that simply jam out over a progression when they take a break and all they while they have missed or gotten completely off a melody line…I think these guys are good players and all, but I believe in attempting to stay true to the melody.

Sure I have taken the hard road in attempting to do this, but I figure I have a few good years left in me to hang out and play guitar and I’d personally not have it any other way.

Not taking any pot shots at you brother, just what i have in my head. Maybe it’s not possible? I have a firm grasp on music theory, scales, etc and now want to turn it into being able to stay on a melody line…how I get there I do not know, any advice of if ya think I am on the wrong path then by all means share some love!

I totally relate to your difficulties picking out melodies on the fly. I am really bad at it, and usually won’t try a break unless I have some of it worked out ahead of time. Otherwise, I wind up with something that is rhythmically similar to, but melodically way off, the lead line.

I guess I kind of like having a melody to try to copy when I’m practicing my improvising, though. If I started jamming over a backing track like the one you posted, I’d have a lot of fun, but I’d be drifting all over the place.

Yeah I drift all over the place myself with stuff like that, but it gives the time and practice in hearing other melodies inside of it then I could grab it. I totally get what you mean from “drifting” all over.

I guess another thing in “blank sheet” backing tracks is that you get to try and work in some popular licks to hear how they fit or better yet how you make them fit into a spot in a different progression verses what you are used to//could be faster and you are squeezing to get your lick in how you know it, or it could be a slower tempo and not sound as good as there would be room for other notes, etc.

Backing tracks to me are fun, mainly get to let you work between different positions of a scale or bounce out an in of different scales (say like playing par tin the major pentatonic then switching into the minor pentatonic) for different sounds.

Best practice I have ever done is to set a loop with a fast strum in G and nothing else, from there simply play scales, licks, etc over just the G chord and explore. Then one should do a track of G to C for say 8 measures each, back and forth it for awhile in just those to get the feeling of moving from one chord to another in your lead then once you get that down toss in a backing track with a 1-4-5 progression and actually make a song from it! I am a firm believer in being conscious of the chord change and the implication of grabbing a note from the major triad to help with tonal qualities and such.

Basically it’s a never ending practice routine that is about as fun as it gets with me, that is, outside of playing with other folks.

Just looking for some backing tracks and I wouldn’t mind making some if there are no resources and others want them.


Well, I can knock out some mando chords, if needed.

Ther are a few backing tracks here:

I don’t know if this the type of thing your looking for but I have just been working with “band in a box” software, which allows you to set up various backing tracks, but also you can insert a melody or you can get the bluegrass version which has some standards with melody ( which you can mute or have in the tune as you like) . A part from that i just record a guitar and rhythm mandolin in GarageBand and play along with that, fiddle tune or other.

I’m nearly through my Christmas/New Year holiday trading period at the cave (our summer break) and “her indoors” will be back working at school most weekdays from now on so I will have some time at home alone to do some recording. :smiley:
I’ll get onto the promised bass tracks for the netgrass collabs (at last) but also happy to lay stuff down if someone does a scratch guitar/ mando track.

Here’s one I did for the Old Home Place. New strings, so it’s kind of bright and sparkly. :slight_smile: … king-track

This is a great idea Oldhat. Do you guys think we should move this to the “give me a break” forum and maybe organize them all in the first post? I’m going to be doing a lot of them for my own practice anyway.

Cool! We’re getting us a library of backing tracks started.

— Begin quote from "TNTaylor414"

Do you guys think we should move this to the “give me a break” forum and maybe organize them all in the first post? I’m going to be doing a lot of them for my own practice anyway.

— End quote

That sounds good to me. We can move or copy the posts if desired. What would you think about having a thread for each backing track with the title in the topic… maybe for this one something like “Old Home Place, backing track at 190 BPM.”

Nice track. Nice playing and sound! I need to learn the break to that one. It’s a great song.

Sounds good to me. However you guys think it would be best to organize 'em. I didn’t even think to put how many bpm it was. That just seemed like a comfortable pace. I should have played it with a metronome, it may be a little uneven. :slight_smile: I’ve learned Ben’s Tony Rice break on that song, but never could get it to sound right at 250bpm. Slowing her down sure does help.

Been playing along to your Red Haired Boy track Mike. Good pickin’ on that one. I was trying to record one for that tune, before I saw yours, but couldn’t get the timing right on that F chord. I have been playing it wrong I guess. I go to the F chord at the start of that measure and Ben starts it just a hair after, and when I start that measure thumping a G chord, it doesn’t sound right. I don’t know. The way I have been playing it, the break doesn’t sound right. Does that make any sense?

We don’t have to include the BPM in the title… I was just thinking someone browsing might get a better idea of what was there before they go listen. I think it will be great to have a catalog of backing tracks.

I am glad you didn’t put Old Home Place up at 250 or I would be playing alot of half and quarter notes with it :slight_smile:

On the Red Haired Boy, please don’t take my version as right… it probably isn’t. I was just playing it as I heard it… and by “heard” it, I mean that’s my interpretation of what I was hearing in my head. I learned the melody from Ben’s tabs, but I don’t know that I really “learned” the progression as much as just started playing it. Going back and listening, and I am doing the first C and the first F in the A part on the & of 3. Not sure that’s regulation :slight_smile: Then in the B part at one point I play F on the & of 3 and then C on the & of 4. Not sure if I picked that up from Ben’s playing or some other version (or maybe I just pulled it out of the air).

No, the way you play it, the break Ben wrote goes along perfect with it. When I tried to record a rhythm track, the break sounded off on that F chord in the A part. I’m playing that F too quick.

I’ll try to record one right quick to show how I’ve been playing it. I start each one out with the ending so it’s easier to jump in on the lead.

This is how I have been playing it with youtube vids. The break does not go with this though, the F is not right. … -boy-wrong

This is what I figured out to sound right with the break. I need to figure out a smoother way to play it though. … -i-think-2

I see what you are saying. An mp3 is worth 1000 words. I was humming along with it and I think the break works for both. It does seem more natural to me on the second one. I think that you could do it both ways within the same song just to throw the listener’s ear off a bit.
I bet you are loving that mic. It sounds great.

Thanks for giving that a listen Mike.

Loving the new mic! I’m getting different sounds depending on how close I sit to it. If you guys hear anything I can improve on the sound, I’m all ears. Lots of settings I haven’t messed with.

I think the second Red Haired Boy is right.

Seems like the AT2020 is becoming the mic of choice around here -first fiddlewood,then tnt, and now oldhat.

Thanks for listening Larry. I can play the break to the second one, but I’m going to have to figure out a better way of strumming that, sounds a little cheesy to me. I know you can play that one Larry. I have heard you wear it out at about 240 bpm. I never could get that part with the bend right, but you nailed it!

Yeah, I am going to let Oldhat fiddle with the settings/placement on the AT2020 mic and then steal his ideas. :laughing: If he will let me in on his secrets. Or maybe when Fiddlewood gets back on the grid.