Here’s a practice technique called “Chaining”. The basic idea is to incrementally add to what you are practicing. You can slowly piece together notes to create scales and tune phrases. Then you can piece together tune phrases to build out tunes. You can even chain tunes to create sets and medleys.
Here’s why this practice tool is a good idea:
Let’s go more into it…
Let’s start simply by chaining single notes into a scale.
Play the first note of a scale, then play the first two notes, etc., until you have the whole scale.
For D Major scale, the sequence would be:
D0, D0-1, D0-1-2, D0-1-2-3, D0-1-2-3-A0, D0-1-2-3-A0-1, D0-1-2-3-A0-1-2, D0-1-2-3-A01-2-3
That’s an example of Forwards Chaining. We can also practice Backwards Chaining:
A3, A3-2, A3-2-1, A3-2-1-0, etc.
We can practice Forwards and Backwards Chaining with each repetition. I learned this on my trip to India. For example:
D0, D0-1-0, D0-1-2-0, D0-1-2-3-2-1-0, etc.
Or Backwards and Forwards Chaining:
A3, A3-2-3, A3-2-1-2-3, A3-2-1-0-1-2-3
You can practice this with any scale, exercise or piece of a tune.
Chaining larger chunks
If you’ve already learned a tune, then you can chain together bigger chunks to help you practice it more deeply and remember it.
For example, with the tune Arkansas Traveller, we can play the first quarter, then the first two quarters. Etc. This is Forwards Chaining.
To practice Backwards Chaining on a tune, start with the fourth quarter, then play the third and fourth quarters, etc. Play around with different ways you can chain things. For example, you could start on bar 3, add bar 4, then add bar 2, then add bar 5, then bar 1 etc.
Use Chaining to learn longer pieces
You can use combination of backwards chaining to learn longer pieces which are not as repetitive as fiddle tunes. Let’s use the A part of Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy as an example:
Learn the first bar well. Then learn the second bar. Then, backwards chain the first and second bars. Then learn the third bar. Then backwards chain the third and second bar. If you can do that, then backwards chain the first three bars.
Continue to learn the tune in this way. If you find that you have trouble playing everything you’ve learned, simply reduce the length of the chain.
Integrate new pieces with chaining
What’s great about Chaining is that you learn to integrate smaller practice bits into a larger whole.
This helps you to learn longer pieces of music. The smaller chains build your confidence. They help you to play the music with flow.
If you can play a small piece and build a larger piece from that, then you’ll know the tune more deeply.
The goal is to play larger chains with the same sense of ease and flow that you play smaller chains.
Hear a piece of music in a new way
The length of the chain changes your perception of the music. This makes practice more interesting. It also stimulates the creative process.
Create chains of different links to create new melodies from tunes you’ve learned. This can be helpful when you’re searching for improvisation ideas.💡