Last week we introduced the play-a-long series with some general information about various kinds of play-a-longs; today, we hope to go into some more detailed information about play-a-longs and their sound quality. Make sure you understand the first post in the series before reading this one.
When you're improvising over a play-a-long, you want the sound quality to be good in a couple ways:
1) You want a good balance between the various instruments playing behind you, but also set to a volume at which you can hear yourself well. While this isn't quite like playing live, when you may not be able to hear yourself well, for obvious reasons being able to hear yourself well is a good thing when you're practicing in your own home or in a studio.
2) You don't want a particular instrument on the play-a-long recording to be too loud. For example, if the drums are too loud, you'll lose one of the biggest benefits of accompaniment: having chords behind you that give your improvisation a direction in which to go, produced by a bass, piano, or whatever's in your play-a-long.
If one of these things is missing in a playalong (or play-a-long; they mean the same thing) that you use during practice, it will not have a terrible effect on your improvisational abilities in general, but to make your experience of using playalongs more enjoyable, you want the best accompaniment possible.
In some cases, there's not much you can do. However, if you're trying to practice with a playalong, using your laptop or cell phone to play the music probably isn't the best option. Instead, get either headphones or a bluetooth speaker so you can hear yourself.
If you have an Apple iPhone or iPad, your device should (emphasis on should - sometimes these things can be temperamental) be able to connect to a bluetooth speaker, and therefore you will be able to play your iReal Pro playalongs (see our last post in the series for details about iRealPro) through a quality speaker. Options for connecting your device to a bluetooth speaker can be found in an Apple device's settings. Bluetooth speakers can be bought at Best Buy or online.
If you're using playalongs that come in CD form, like Aebersold playalongs, of course: use a CD player. Some bluetooth speakers also work as CD players.
This will be continued in a future post.