Backing Tracks for Blues Harmonica

In recent years blues backing tracks have become a key practice tool. Combined with an iPod and a harmonica, you have a portable studio, with a world of practice opportunities in your pocket.

Blues has many styles, familiar to all good players. Below are twenty (mostly) blues styles. They will keep you occupied. Some styles are slow, some medium, some quick. It is good to be across all of them.

Common blues keys are G, A, C, D, E and F, each (usually) needing a different harmonica key. It is worth practising with a variety of harmonica keys, as each one requires different techniques. Each of the 20 backing track styles is provided in the 6 keys listed here. Become familiar with these keys, the experience will help your live performances.

Each track lasts about 4 minutes, or around 8 to 10 choruses. A blues solo is usually 2 choruses only. So rather than playing continuously, try two choruses then rest for one, and think about what to play next time you come in. This matches a live performance, and reduces the risk of playing the same solo over and over.

The tracks are particularly good for recording. You will improve rapidly if you record youself. The results most probably won't sound how you want them at first, but not to worry. Harmonica Academy is a place for learning, hearing yourself will help a lot. A free computer based recording package and tip for using it are here.

The backing tracks have been made with Band in a Box, which now uses real music tracks with excellent results. Listen to these tracks and judge for yourself. Above all, enjoy.

Blues backing track styles

Here are the 20 different styles.

  1. Medium Shuffle: Chicago Blues style shuffle
  2. Fast Shuffle: A faster Chicago Blues style shuffle
  3. Slow Medium Shuffle: Slower shuffle with a heavier guitar sound
  4. Slow Blues: Stormy Monday type chord structure. Commonly used
  5. Slow Minor Blues: A beautiful feel. Try it with 3rd position harmonica
  6. Steady Two Beat: A steady two beat acoustic rhythm
  7. Fast Two Beat: A fast two beat acoustic rhythm. Hard to keep still with this one
  8. Slow Rock: A slow rock beat
  9. Steady Blues Rock: A steady rock beat, with a heavier guitar sound
  10. Blues Rock: A faster rock beat
  11. Fast Blues Rock: Faster again, with a twin guitar sound
  12. Rockin: Standard 8 bar rock and roll, with twin guitars
  13. Slow Jazz Swing: Piano, acoustic bass, brushes. Chords are more complex
  14. Steady Jazz Blues: Slightly faster. Jazz guitar, acoustic bass, brushes.
  15. Jazz Swing: Faster again. Jazz guitar, acoustic bass, brushes.
  16. Bossa Nova: Brazilian rhythm. Jazz chord changes
  17. Steady Country Swing: Country style acoustic swing
  18. Steady Country: Straight ahead acoustic country
  19. Bluegrass: Medium tempo bluegrass
  20. Fast Bluegrass: Faster style with banjo