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How To Keep Your Guitar Chops Up While In Isolation

by vaughn skow December 28, 2020 3 min read

Holy Cow, gang ... did 2020 take a hard left turn into the dumpster or what?  I mean, seriously? Who the heck would have thought that isolating yourself from other humans would EVER become a SUGGESTED practice, right?  Psychology has been telling us for a century or so how dangerous isolation is to our mental well-being, and that's for "normal" people.  But we musicians are far from normal.  We need, DESPERATELY NEED, each other.  A one-man jam session, well ... isn't!  So to get started, if you have not yer, please go back and read last weeks blog on how concerts can STILL HAPPEN even in this messed-up reality we find ourselves existing in as 2021 comes around.  Okay, so after reading that you, hopefully, see some light at the end of the tunnel for live music to be a thing again.  But how do we keep our chops up until then?  Let's jump in!

Now, most of what I'm going to do here is suggest products that'll help you "feel" like you are still playing with others, but ... if you CAN ... I implore you to please actually get with other musicians and play music together.  Suicide is killing waaaaaaay more people than this virus, and again, that's among the general population, we artistic types are being taken down by isolation even more than the average human.

So let's talk gizmos that make you feel like you're jamming with a band.  I'm keeping this list to products I actually own and use.  I'm not going to build up to my number one suggestion, I'll hit ya with it right off the bat, this ONE cool new gizmo is the BOMB for playing with yourself, playing GUITAR, that is...

Positive Grid Spark Amplifier System:

Best way to jam practice at home spark

Holy, moley, I just received mine, and I got to tell ya, these things really ARE all they claim to be.  Play along to a YouTube music video and it generates a chord chart for you.  Play a progression and it creates a backing track for you that's better than ANY other "band-in-a-box" type gizmo I've encountered thus far!  And, just simply as an amp, it has some very rewarding tones, with the ability to use headphones and not tick any housemates off.  These really ARE the high-water mark for home-jamming circa 2021!

Trio + Band Creator & Looper:

Trio best way to practice at home

I've had one of these for a couple of years now, and honestly ... I have a love/hate relationship with it.  On some jams, it does an excellent job of creating a reasonable backing track, and on some it just flat misses the mark by a mile.  Plus, compared to the Spark system, the Trio seams downright archaic, with cryptic little knobs and no cute phone or iPad interface.  That's the bad news, the good news is that they are readily available used for super cheap money. so if on a budget... go for it and jam on!

The Beat Buddy:

Beat Buddy for jamming at home

Okay, this is drums ONLY, but it's good, really very good.  I've had a Beat Buddy for several years now, and I still love jamming with it, mostly because the drum sounds are EXCELLENT, and because it effortlessly senses chord changes and throws in tasteful fills appropriately.  And again, they are getting easy to find used for low-cash!

Looper Pedals or looping software (any):

Okay, by comparison, old-fashioned looper pedals seam kinda boring, but man can some folks do a FANTASTIC one-man band performance armed with just a simple looper pedal, I've been a looping fan for a decade or more, it's fun, it's available at EVERY budget level, and YOU need a looper pedal.  Just check out some reviews and video demos to find one that works the way you think and meets your budget and needs.

Coolio, right?  So there ya have it, several viable options for making great music and keeping your chops up ... without the need for contact with other (potentially lethal) members of the human species.  Seriously, though ... do whatever ya have to to #KEEP PLAYING!  

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