One of the most fun things you can do as a guitar player is play along with a friend. But a friend is not always available when inspiration strikes. But Alexa is. And she does not cringe when you hit a wrong note, or drink your beer.

What it does

Using just voice commands Backing Buddy lets you select a backing track to play along with. No more fiddling with a computer to bring up the track you want. (With a guitar rested on your lap it is actually a lot more inconvenient than you might think).

When you are ready to fiddle with a computer though, you can go to and enable additional tracks you would like Alexa to be able to play for you, or upload one of your own.

How I built it

I found the Alexa tutorials on the Amazon Developer website really useful and was able to find everything I needed there. From the tutorials I learned to use AWS Lambda, AWS DynamoDB, Node.js, and Javascript to build the Backing Buddy skill. For the companion website I used LAMP.

Challenges I ran into

Apart from the normal learning curve of doing something that was new to me, setting up the account linking was probably the most challenging part. I suspect it may have been a breeze for someone with previous OAuth experience, but it took a bit of work to get it working. In the end I found everything I needed in the Alexa documentation.

Accomplishments that I'm proud of

What I am most proud of is that there are other people out there who have enabled Backing Buddy and are (hopefully) enjoying having Alexa for their backing band as much as I do. Initially I was concerned that requiring account linking to enable Backing Buddy would discourage anyone from trying it out, but that has not been the case.

What I learned

I learned a whole lot about about developing Alexa skills and got a great introduction to how fun it can be. Obviously there is much more to learn, but I am looking forward to doing more, and am excited to see how the technology will continue to evolve.

What's next for Backing Buddy

I definitely plan to keep improving Backing Buddy. Next up is adding more tracks to select from and selections for piano players to jam with. Also based on feedback I have received from users I am working on some tweaks the interaction with Alexa. Basically any suggestion I receive from users will get on the What's next list. Kind of like when my Boss asks me to do something, except I will enjoy doing it :)

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