Did you know that there are tons of backing tracks--in every key and every style imaginable--available on YouTube? In today's post, we will be exploring some of these awesome (and free!) backing tracks and how you can use them right now with students at every level!
Keep reading to learn more....
There are a ton of YouTube channels devoted to creating backing tracks for musicians to improvise with. Most of these are aimed at guitarists, but there is no reason they can't work equally well for us pianists!
Today I am sharing 5 awesome backing tracks that are easy enough to use with beginners, but interesting enough that your more advanced students will want to get in on the improv fun too.
Each of these backing tracks can be used for melodic improv--just have students play the pentascale or one-octave scale for the given key. Or, use these to have students to practice improv hands together with both melody and harmony. Since the chord progressions are shown on the screen, it is easy for students to follow along.
Each backing track shown below is in 4/4 time. If your students are new to improv, help them choose a couple of rhythmic patterns in 4/4 time that they can alternate throughout the course of their improv to create their melody. As they become comfortable improvising and keeping a steady beat, they can add more rhythmic variety.
Ready? Let's improv!
1. 12 Bar Blues on the black keys
One of my favorite improv activities for brand-new beginners is to have them play a melody on the black keys while I play a 12 bar blues teacher duet (like in this activity sheet HERE).
This backing track works the same way--have your beginners groove along with this track by creating a melody using just the black keys! Start with only quarter notes, then add more rhythmic patterns as your student is able.
2. Easy 2 Chord Improv
This backing track is a great one to use with beginners just getting comfortable improvising with both melody and harmony, since it only uses 2 chords: C major and A minor.
It also works great to accompany students improvising with the C major pentascale or one-octave scale.
3. 3 Chord Groove in A minor
This cool rock backing track uses a four measure progression containing just the chords A minor, G, and F.
These are easy chords for beginners and late beginners to improv with since they are only a step apart on the keyboard.
4. Spanish-style Improv in A minor
This is the first minor chord progression I use with my students, and it is always a favorite!
This track has a moderate tempo and each chord is played for 2 measures (8 beats) which gives students plenty of room to create a pleasing melody. Great practice for students learning to play the A natural and harmonic minor scales!
5. Pop-style Improv in C major
Finally, there are hundreds of tracks available using just the famous I, IV, V, and vi chords that are so common in pop music.
Here is a great starter track in the key of C major, using the progression that your students will recognize from the beloved tune "Heart and Soul."
These work great for scale practice, too! Have your students improvise a melody using the major or minor scale they are currently learning.
What do you think? Have you ever used backing tracks from YouTube with your students? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!