On occasion I pretend to be a guitarist. Honing my solo improvisational skills is a difficult task, especially given that half the time I’m practicing on my own without the benefit of a band to provide the backing track. Practicing scales or jamming over top of CDs is one approach, but there’s only so much you can do. Sometimes I use Transcribe! to loop sections of CDs without lead guitar, but that can get really repetitive and limit the usefulness of the exercise.

Recently, it occurred to me that what I really want is the equivalent of karaoke tracks, but for guitar. Imagine if you could buy electronic versions of a song with one of the instruments removed from the track. Guitarists could mute the guitar track; drummers could mute the drum track; bass players could mute the bass track. Musicians could go to a web site, pick which instrument they wanted removed from the master recording, and purchase and download the result in GarageBand format.

Sounds like a nice way for the record industry to pick up another bunch of cash from its massive back catalog. Add in performance rights and high-end versions of the tracks that allow the performer to tweak the mix themselves to create a “professional” version for working solo musicians. Of course, longer term, I expect artists will shortcut this whole process and release their source tracks for free directly to the public as a way of encouraging remixes (just like Trent Reznor did with his recent album).

Take it one step further, and you could totally transform the idea of karaoke clubs. Instead of just having karaoke where people get up and sing, you could have karaoke nights where individual musicians could play without needing to assemble a whole band.