Practice Log

Practicing country blues over a backing track (A-major and B-minor)

Lesson #195

Video lesson

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Editor’s notes

In this entry of my practice log, I’m super excited to share with you some of the exercises I’ve put together while continuing my practice of Tennessee Whiskey - all while using a backing track. Backing tracks are something I haven’t really ever messed with before, but for whatever reason I overcame some hurdle this past week. Made a track on my phone, using garage band. And oh, the fun! Practicing my strumming, grooving on a bassline, working out those lead licks of the song, and best of all - combining all of these into exercises that stretch my skill level, but also sound great. So with that, I offer you these 6 exercises, in addition to a separate video lesson for the backing track (which you can put on and use in the background as you play). Have at it, and enjoy!

Video timestamps:

Backing track

The audio file for this backing track is available in MP3 format on this Patreon post (look at the very bottom of the post, as an attachment).

Note, this track begins with:

  1. 2 measures of drums only, to help you get in sync with the rhythm, which leads to…
  2. 1 full sequence of 8 measures, with the lead guitar track playing, and then…
  3. 5+ minutes of the 8 measure sequence repeating over and over, without the lead guitar

Before we start, let’s understand the boundaries

Most backing tracks are going to have a repetitive structure of some sort - which is super important that we understand while playing, so we always know what’s coming next. For this exercise / track / song, we’ll be playing within a repeating sequence of 8 measures. Each measure has 6 counts.

A           A           Bm          Bm          Bm          Bm          A           A
1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

And of course, the chord shapes needed for these two chords are as follows:

E ––––0–––––2–––––  
B ––––2–––––3–––––  
G ––––2–––––4–––––  
D ––––2–––––4–––––  
A ––––0–––––2–––––  
E ––––––––––––––––  
      A     Bm      

Given this foundation, we can know approach all of the exercises I’ll outline in the rest of this document.

Exercise 1: Muted strumming

This first exercise simply involves strumming over all the strings with a muted left hand - i.e., don’t worry about playing the chords. Just worry about the strumming motion, and play along w/ the backing track so that you’re playing muted strumming on all the strings but staying in perfect sync with the rhythm.

D = down strum (muted)       > = accented strum (extra emphasis)

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
D   D   D   D   D   D
>           >

Exercise 2: Full strumming

Here, we want to strum the actual chords (A-major and B-minor) and use a strumming pattern. Any pattern will do, but I show this one because it is what you can hear being played in the Chris Stapleton version of Tennessee Whiskey. Focus on keeping a consistent volume and staying perfect in sync with the rhythm.

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 +
D     U D U D     U D U
>           >

Exercise 3: Bassline riff

Sometimes, I like to take the bassline from the song and practice that on top of the backing track. This gives your left hand a break, as it isn’t too demanding to fret these notes - but it still gives you practice in staying on the beat and playing with feeling.

E ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
B ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
G ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
D ––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
A ––0–––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––2–––––––––––––––––––––––0–––––––––––––––––––––––
E ––––––––––––2–0–––2–0–––2–––––––––––2–0–––2–0–––2–––––––––––2–0–––2–0–––2–––––––––––2–0–––2–0–––2–
    A           A           Bm          Bm          Bm          Bm          A           A            
    1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Exercise 4: Bass note w/ strum

A way to combine the bass notes with strumming in a simple way, is to play this along with the backing track. We’re going to pluck the bass note of each chord on the “1” count, and then the full chord on the “4” count. For extra credit, mute/silence the full chord immediately after its played. Also, you can walk up to the bass note played on the “1” count by following this tab:

E ––––––––0–x–––––––––0–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––0–x–––––––––0–x–––
B ––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––3–x–––––––––3–x–––––––––3–x–––––––––3–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––
G ––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––
D ––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––4–x–––––––––2–x–––––––––2–x–––
A ––0–––––––x–––0–––––––x–––2–––––––x–––2–––––––x–––2–––––––x–––2–––––––x–––0–––––––x–––0–––––––x–––
E ––––––––––x–0–––––––––x–2–––––––––x–2–––––––––x–2–––––––––x–2–––––––––x–0–––––––––x–0–––––––––x–0–
    A           A           Bm          Bm          Bm          Bm          A           A            
    1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6 1 2 3 4 5 6

Exercise 5: Lead intro licks

This may be what you came for: imitating the lead guitar riffs heard in the opening 30 seconds of the Chris Stapleton version of the song. Here’s the tab. Play this along with the backing track:

E –––––––––––––––(0)–  –––––––––––––––––––(2)–  ––––––––––––––––––(2)–  E –––––––––––––––(0)–
B –––––––––––––––(2)–  –––––––––––––––––––(3)–  ––––––––––––––––––(3)–  B –––––––––––––––(2)–
G –––––––––––––––(2)–  –––––––––––––––––––(4)–  ––––––––––––––––––(4)–  G –––––––––––––––(2)–
D –––––––––––––––(2)–  –––––––––––––––––––(4)–  ––––––––––––––––––(4)–  D –––––––––––––––(2)–
A ––––––––0––/4––(0)–  ––/4––2––0––/4––2––(2)–  ––/4––4––4––2–––––(2)–  A ––/4––2––0––0––(0)–
E ––0––2–––––––––––––  –––––––––––––––––––––––  ––––––––––––––––––––––  E –––––––––––––––––––
                  A                       Bm                      Bm                      A

Exercise 6: Combining the lead licks with bassline & strumming

Finally, there’s a bit of a hybrid approach I love to practice along with the backing track. This involves playing the lead licks, but where possible adding in the bassline filler as well as chord strums (usually on the “4” count). Here’s the tab:

E ––––––––|–––––––0–x–––––––––––––––––|–––––––2–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––2–x––––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––––––––|–
B ––––––––|–––––––2–x–––––––––––––––––|–––––––3–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––3–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––2h3––––2–––––––––––|–
G ––––––––|–––––––2–x–––––––––––––––––|–––––––4–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––4–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––2––––––2–––––––––––|–
D ––––––––|–––––––2–x–––––––––––––––––|–––––––4–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––4–x––––––––––––––––|–––––––2h4––––2–––––––––––|–
A ––––––0–|–4–––––0–x–––––0–––0–4–2–0–|–4–2–––2–x––––2–––––––4–4–|–4–2–––2–x––––2–––0–4–2–0–|–0–––––0––––––0–––––––––0–|–
E ––0–2–––|–––––––––x–0–––––––––––––––|–––––––––x–2––––––––––––––|–––––––––x–2––––––––––––––|––––––––––––––––––––0–2–––|–
                  A                           Bm                         Bm                         A
    4 5 6   1 2 3 4 5 6   1 2 3 4 5 6   1 2 3 4 5 6  1 2 3 4 5 6   1 2 3 4 5 6  1 2 3 4 5 6   1 2 3 4 5 6  1 2 3 4 5 6  

Take this and run with it!

Best of luck. I hope this is helpful to you! The main point here - is there’s no limit to the kinds of things you can practice, even with the constraints of a single backing track that uses a simple chord progression.

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