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Jam School Activities

Play A Duet With Yourself

Starting Point #5 in the Series


Necessary Skills:


Here We Go!

A great first step towards jamming with others is to play duets. Ultimately, this is an activity that you want to do with another person, but sometimes there's no on else available. At other times you may want to conduct some experiments that require you to have more control over the situation. For each of these instances, the solution is to record yourself playing one part, and then play along with that recording on the other part.

It's also fun. When I was a kid, I found recording duets to be a great way to play around with music and give me some relief from working on scales and exercises. It also gave me something to jam with when my Mom was at work and couldn't play piano with me.

Does this sound lame? Hardly! Most pop music is produced in the studios using this same method. If you have multiple sax parts, for example, one person may be hired to come in and lay down each part on a separate track. Give yourself a headstart on one of modern music's most unique skills.

Step 1 - Pick the piece. For younger players, I recommend a duet where both players are playing the same rhythm, but using different pitches to create harmony. Good books for this are Yamaha Duets, and Belwin Master Duets.

Step 2 - Practice the parts. Any studio musician will tell you that it's important to get the piece right in as few tries as possible. Learn your piece to prevent making mistakes when the tape is rolling.

Step 3 - Record the Melody First. While duets are an equal enterprise between the parts, the top part is generally the melody and its characteristics must set the flavor of the whole piece. This is why in pop bands melodies are often called leads, and the person with the melody is normally designated the lead player of the section.

Step 4 - Play the Harmony Part Along With the Recorded Melody.   Once the actual melody (or lead) is laid down, you are ready to add the supporting part. Wind back your tape, and start it rolling. Play along with the lead, and hear the harmony and/or counterpoint that's created. Make sure that the tape is loud enough--and you are soft enough--to acheive a good balance between the two parts. How does it sound?

Step 5 - Address Any Problems that Came Up. The most common problems (and their solutions) are as follows:

Step 6 - Listen to what you're doing and feel free to experiment. Since you're intimately familiar with the parts you've been playing, feel free to try some things. Here are a few to consider:

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