Need Background Accompaniment? Try Playing Along to TV Shows and Movies

Welcome back to article No. 3 in "The Art of the Practice” series of articles, where we seek to interject your practice with some much-needed variety, novelty and fun. Which is exactly the way it should be.

This article is designed to save you a small fortune in backing tracks and beds to play over. The truth is, there’s a whole Wild West of background accompaniment out there. I’m talking about musically entering the sort of environment that’s going to make you a better player when you finally decide to leave. Every time.

Play along with the TV and movies. Find the right volume mix between the TV and your amp. Playing and practicing the guitar in front of your TV can be a source of serious musical stimulation. I’m talking ear training, learning the neck up and down, new non-pentatonic scales and the usual modes, how to capitalize and use such scales to full effect -- and new riffs, of course.

1. You’re sitting there anyway. I practice in front of the TV all the time, especially during more the more repetitive, muscle-memory type exercises. This is also how I practice “no-look” stuff. Just concentrating on finger movement and feel.

2. One of the other benefits of practicing this way is that you can mix styles of playing. Obviously you’re going to play differently to an action flick than you are to a comedy or a western or even a documentary. Mixing it up can keep you from getting bored and provide you with some inspiration.

3. Pay special attention to the mood and tone of whatever you have on. Try to match it with your own playing.

4. I’ve dramatically improved my ears by learning to play soundtracks, jingles and TV show intros.

5. In regard to soundtracks, I have a large collection of them on CD. Even when not in front of the TV, they serve as large, interrupted backing tracks. I like to think that all the time I’ve spent playing with them has made my songs and overall playing more dramatic and epic.

Brian is the guitar player in the rock band Captain Decibel, whose second independent release, The Dream Logic, is coming very soon. Spending 20 years learning the guitar has resulted in more than just unique riffing. For more information, check him out at or email him at

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