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About the Jam Tracks

The Gear

Zoom HD8 Hard Disk Recording Studio. I like the zoom units cause they have touch sensitive pads along with it's internal drum machine. So I can 'play' the drums in on the pads if I want. I do play drums but I can't record a kit easily so I really like using the zoom unit, it's a great substitute.

I don't use the software packages that come with the Zoom. Just the zoom unit, the inbuilt drum machine and the instruments that I record into the recorder.

I am currently using a Zoom HD16 unit. It allows me to record the drums with touch sensitive drum pads. They give a pretty good feel. It would be nice to be able to record with a live kit but the logistics of that make it near impossible.

When I'm not being lazy I like to put a mic near the sound hole when recording the acoustic guitar as well as record the acoustic direct into the unit. Then I mix the acoustic guitar down to the master track along with the other instruments on the recording.

Zoom HD8 Hard Disck Multitrack Recorder

The acoustic is an old Valencia guitar. It's an axe from the 1980s. It plays great and sounds pretty cool too. The acoustic guitar is miked with 1-3 mics. The only effect I add to the acoustic is some reverb. I like reverb.

Velencia Acoustic Guitar

The electric is a Fender Tele copy body with Seymour Duncan pickups in it. It has a Fender Strat neck. I record the electric guitar into the zoom via a small Line6 amp and usually pick an effect from the zoom. I often pick a different effect for each track, just to mix up the sounds a little. Sometimes the tracks are born out of the electric guitar effects I'm playing around with.

Fender Telecaster Strat Neck

The bass is recorded straight into the zoom as well but with no effects added. The bass is a Fender Jazz Bass with S1 Switch (which is always pushed in). I also have a fretless Fender Jazz bass. I want to get a Fender P that I am will be my main bass. The bass below isn't being used any more on the recordings - I'm currently using a Fretless Jazz bass and about to go to a Fretless P. Goody.

Fender Jazz Bass S1 Switch

The Hammond is an XK1. The Hammond is recorded straight into the zoom as well. I only used it on the early jam tracks - I don't have the Hammond anymore. I am going to get a New Hammond XK -3C system with a couple of Leslies one day that I can run in stereo. That's the grand plan! For the moment, I have a cheap old organ that I've done one or two jam tracks with. It's not a great organ, but it's ok to add a few sounds to the jam tracks if I want something other than guitars.

The Recording Process

I'll record using any combination of the above instruments. I often start with bass with a drum backing track or guitar with a drum backing track. Basically I make up a basic track and build on that. I'm really into the blues so most of the progressions I come up with a based on that format - but so is music in general.

Usually, I have a good idea of what I'm basing the track on after I've recorded the guitar over the bass and drum track or the bass over the guitar and drum track. The tunes sometime take a whole new direction after adding a new instrument. There is a bit of magic involved there, it's one of the things that makes it fun to do. You never really know what will come out next. Adding a walking bass line might change the whole feel of a song and take it from what started out as a rock track and turn it into a jazz or blues number.

Once everything is recorded I mix it down to the master track. It's a pretty simply mix-down. I'm just looking for a reasonably balanced track from the mix. Nothing too serious.

For the bass backing tracks I simply take away the bass from the full mix and similarly for the drum backing tracks.

The whole process is all pretty simple and the playing is relatively straight forward. If I start recording parts that are complicated, the tunes might be good as songs but not for jamming with. When I am playing along with a track it's usually because I am working on a specific element of my playing. So I want a backing track that will allow me to focus on what I'm doing and not have too many changes in the progression. Otherwise you sit there having to learn the song and not spend the time working on what you want to learn.

I have been recording jam tracks for myself to play along with since the early 1800s.

In 1996 and 1997 my fingers hurt from recording chords onto a cassette tapes for hours on end so I had something to play along with. Funnily enough, I never played along with those jam tracks that I made. However it's what taught me how to play more chords than I ever new existed.

My friends like jam tracks - so I figured other people would too. Thus this website exists.

To date there have been well over 1,000,000 full downloads from the jam tracks website. More than 2,000 jam tracks are downloaded by the 1,000 to 10,000 unique visitors coming to the site daily. If there were charts for jam tracks, jam tracks would be on it. It'd be number 1 with a bullet baby!

Jam on!

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