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When I was in high school I played piano in the jazz band. I was going through my stuff and found my realbook and it occurred to me that it would be awesome if I could play from it again. However, although my sightreading skills have improved since high school, I find it difficult to play songs like that without actually hearing them since I don't always know how the song really goes.

My question: I've found practice tracks (i.e. songs without a certain instrument meant for practice purposes) consisting of only rhythm sections for the real books, but I am having a hard time finding pratice tracks that are only guitar and bass for the purpose of practicing piano. Could anyone here point me in the right direction to find these tracks for the realbook that don't have the piano?

I have considered manually entering the melody into MuseScore or something like that and adding some drums and bass in the appropriate keys, but I don't have enough musical expertise to avoid getting frustrated when figuring out the correct rhythm for the drum part or getting impatient with entering notes using the computer keyboard.

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3 Answers 3

The Aebersold practice tracks are pretty good, though they fall into the category of those with rhythm sections. The nice thing, though, is that they're in stereo—if you pan to the left or the right, the bass or piano track will drop out. As a guitar player, I used this a lot when working on my trio-style chops, panning to the side that had only bass and drums. There are some sets out there too that have guitar instead of piano, or other instrumentation (a couple of the bossa ones come to mind, off the top of my head).

Another thing you might check out is Band in a Box, which is a really great software for practicing. It'll take any chords you enter and automatically generate accompaniments in a whole host of styles (from which you can choose, of course—want to try a Klezmer rendition of Autumn Leaves?). You can lay a melody on top or have it generate one for you. You can even do solos with different instruments, tradin' 8s, all kinds of other things. And being MIDI, you can speed it up or slow it down, and add or remove tracks individually for whatever kind of practice you desire.

As a free alternative to Band in a Box, I've heard some people recommend Impro-Visor, which is open source. I personally haven't used it, as I've already got Band in a Box handy, and it's pretty darn easy and powerful. Also, if you're one of them Apple users, there's iReal Pro, which has generated some buzz and is quite a lot more affordable than Band in a Box. Again, I can't vouch for it personally.

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+1 for iReal Pro and Band-in-a-Box. The former is inexpensive and very simple to use; the latter is expensive and hard to use but produces rewarding results. –  Wheat Williams Jan 31 at 14:13

Music Minus One sells an extensive set of Real Book Play-Along recordings of jazz standards. They are not "minus piano" but they have other offerings that are.

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I believe the real book recording series is done by abersold as well. Its done in a similar manner, so that rhythm players should be able to take off one headphone to remove their instrument from the track (piano and bass at least). The great thing about those recordings is theyre real short and sweet. A chorus for the head and then one or two solo choruses. Youre not left feeling overwhelmed from how long its letting you solo. –  Gizmo Feb 14 at 15:20

If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can use iRealB for practice tracks. You should be able to download virtually every tune in the Real Book from their forums.

http://irealpro.com/

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