I’ve been playing acoustic guitar for about a year and a half. About 6 months ago, I was struggling a lot with strumming and so switched to Chordify and started playing along with music. My playing immediately improved dramatically and I can now play along quite well with many of my favourite songs, but now I can’t play without the app and its accompanying music. I am reliant on my ear and the rhythm from the song. When I try playing a song without it, it is quite bad. If I was to quit the app, it would be like starting over again (or at least it feels that way). Any suggestions on how to wean myself off the app and start to play without the accompaniment?
Start to play without the accompaniment.
For real. The only way to get better at the things that you are bad at is to practice them. Most of the time the hard part is recognizing those things. And this will get harder the better you get. After a certain point you'll probably need to record yourself playing and start analyzing and nitpicking to recognize such things.
But once you find a problem you'll want to isolate it and work on that specifically. It's not clear what the problem is other than it "sounds quite bad". You might want to edit your question to include those details.
For example, it sounds like it could be one of two problems:
- You're relying on the backing track to keep the rhythm.
- You're not actually playing the chords correctly or cleanly enough but the backing track is masking that by playing those notes for you.
The solution to either is to—and this may sound obvious—not use the backing track.
For the first problem, I'd try playing both with and without a metronome. It's good to play to a metronome because it teaches you to keep a steady pulse. And one thing to keep in mind is that you want to play both around and with the metronome. In other words, don't think that you have to play exactly on each metronome tick. Sometimes you'll want to play a little bit ahead or behind it to give it a certain feel. But you'll want that feel to be consistent. That is, you don't want to be speeding up and slowing down unintentionally. That's the skill the metronome helps you develop. And once you get better at it, try to playing without the metronome to see if you keep the time yourself.
By playing with a backing track you're using that as a crutch to provide both the pulse and the feel. Having to do it yourself will teach you quite a bit.
For the second problem, try slowing waaay down. Maybe even forget about time. Try playing one chord or melodic phrase by itself over and over very slowly until you can get each note to ring out clearly and in the way that you intend. Then combine it with the next chord or phrase. Try just switching between the two. Then do the same with the next chord(s). Get small chunks sounding good on their own and then combine them.
Again by playing it in isolation, you'll hear exactly what you're playing without somebody else's playing masking it. A common problem might be that a note in a chord is missing or sounds weak because it's being muted by another finger or isn't fretted completely. This will give you an opportunity to hear these problems and address them directly until they sound good.
Then try it in time and with a metronome.
But whatever the problem is, you'll want to isolate it and work specifically on that thing. And since the general problem is that "you can't play without this backing track", it's safe to say that a large part of the fix is going to be practicing without the backing track.
Any suggestions on how to wean myself off the app and start to play without the accompaniment?
In no particular order ...
- Try gradually lowering the volume of the Chordify playback. Let's say your speaker volume is currently at 10. Lower it to 9 for a week. If all goes well, lower it to 8 for a week. And so on.
- Play along, but watch without listening, and/or listen without watching. By learning to play with only one cue or the other, it might help you depend on yourself more while still leaving you some help to lean on.
- Change the playback tempo. This will disrupt how you're used to hearing and playing the song, forcing you to better develop the physical connection between your strumming, the rhythm, and the sound.
- If you're feeling particularly ambitious, try transposing the song. This too will require you to have greater awareness of your own playing.
- Practice small chunks. Play a few chords, or a few measures, along with the Chordify accompaniment. (Perhaps a few times.) Then play the same few chords or measures on your own. Go back and forth between accompanied and unaccompanied. This would mimic how a teacher might work with you: by demonstration and imitation.