The music business ebbs and flows. In times when there’s a slump in playing opportunities, backing tracks for drums are a lifeline for drumming practice. They’re a powerful way to continue improving our drumming to prepare for future drumming opportunities.
Music minus drums (as they were called it in the old days) are also great way to learn new drumming skills anytime. In this article I’m going to share 3 great Jazz backing tracks for drums that will inspire you to improve your Jazz drumming.
“Drumless songs” or “drumless tracks” are other terms you might see to describe backing tracks for drums. They’re the same thing. Most drumless songs are for famous Rock, Pop or Gospel tunes. Jazz drumming practice tracks are not so plentiful.
When searching for drumless practice tracks, steer clear of the tracks that don’t have real musicians playing on them or are produced with loops and perfectly timed (quantized) parts. These will be of little use to you for your Jazz drumming practice.
One of the hallmarks of Jazz is that it is a human music. Tempos fluctuate and the timing of kicks is not always precise. You need that human element in your drumless tracks to truly prepare you for playing Jazz with other musicians.
The great thing about technology is that we can now use apps to erase the drum parts from Pop and Rock tunes that we want to play. We can create some fun drumming tracks for sure. There is one glitch with this technology. It doesn’t work for Jazz drums.
Rock and Pop beats generally are predictable and repeated sounds that a music minus one app can easily find and mute. Jazz drumming is much less predictable with a wider range of frequencies.
With Jazz tracks, the app ends up muting much more of the music along with the drums. This makes it a less than enjoyable listening and practicing experience.
Essentially, we have two options if we want to be the drummer in a Jazz song. We can play along with great drummers on our favorite recordings or find Jazz tunes recorded without drums.
There aren’t a whole lot of drumless Jazz recordings out there. I do however, want to highlight two great albums and 2 tracks from these albums that are excellent for drum practice.
Songs without drums
These tracks are the first two tracks in my list of three great backing tracks for drums. They are from superb swinging albums that are loads of fun to play with. I’ve practiced many times over the years with all of the tracks on both of these albums.
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Backing track for drums #1
Straight Ahead is as swinging as it gets. Monty Alexander, Ray Brown and Herb Ellis are three of the giants of Jazz. We’re all so lucky that they recorded this and some other albums without drums. Drummers everywhere have the chance to play with these Jazz legends.
“Captain Bill” is my favorite track on this album. It’s a song written for Count Basie with an easy tempo and deep swinging feel. Years ago, I recorded a video of me playing drum brushes with this track. You can check it out below.
Want to learn to drum with brushes? Look into my Brushes Mastery Course. It’s a complete drum brushes course.
Backing track for drums #2
The next drum practice track I love is from the Ahmad Jamal Legendary OKeh and Epic Recordings album. Ahmad Jamal is one of the most swinging and understated pianists in Jazz. On this album, he is accompanied by Ray Crawford on guitar and Israel Crosby and Eddie Calhoun on bass.
The first track, “Surrey With A Fringe On Top” from the musical Oklahoma, is an up tempo groover. Great for practice with sticks or brushes.
Songs without the drums
While the two albums I shared are super for your drum practice, there just aren’t a ton of Jazz recordings without drums that are out there. I recognized this problem a few years ago and began trying to fill this void.
When I started producing tracks, I wanted to create drum practice tracks that would get drummers excited to practice. The tracks also needed to give drummers an opportunity to practice essential Jazz drumming skills and prepare for the bandstand.
One collection I produced with help of two incredible musicians here in Japan. Pianist Phillip Strange and bassist Tetsuro Aratama really take drummers through the paces with a wide range of music styles that we often play in Jazz music.
It’s called the Almost Jazz Standards Drumless Tracks Collection and there are 3 volumes. Each volume also has drum charts which take your practice to an even more realistic level. We often encounter drum charts on Jazz gigs. This collection will prepare you for that.
If you’re unfamiliar with drum charts, check out my article about drummer sheet music and how to read it. I also share about drum charts in this article.
Backing track for drums #3
The third track I want to share in this article is from Volume 1 of this collection. The track “Contemplation,” will deepen your swing feel and help you work on drum kicks (coordinated musical hits). It’s based on the chord changes of Confirmation by saxophonist Charlie Parker with a reimagined melody by Phillip Strange.
Backing tracks for drums are super way to improve your Jazz drumming. They’re not so expensive and some, like mine, even come with drum charts to take your practice to another level.
I think it’s a good idea to mix your backing tracks for drums. Get some famous Jazz recordings where the drums were intentionally left out. The two albums I shared above would be a great starting point.
Also get some tracks like the Almost Jazz Standards that are created for drummers to improve their Jazz drumming skill. Having both types of tracks will undoubtedly strengthen your Jazz drumming prowess.
Have fun groovin’ in your practice room and keep swinging my friend!
What backing tracks for drums do you use in your drum practice?
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