Chord Backup Workshop 3
In this workshop you’ll learn how to play chord backup. I worked hard to make this super clear and straightforward. In a nutshell, you’ll learn how to do it, then later on you’ll learn why it works (the theory behind it).
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Prepare for the journey
Simple approach to learning chord backup
- Learn and practice double stops (two notes at once)
- Learn three chords
- Practice single chords with simple rhythms
- Practice transitions between chords
- Practice chord backup on 20 songs
After you do that you can deepen your skills and knowledge by learning more chords, more rhythms and theory. Until then, don’t get bogged down by with complexity and theory.
Warm-up with simple rhythms
- Half notes
- Quarter notes
Get a good sound with Double stops
Remember that playing double stops takes no extra effort or pressure. There’s a core exercise you can practice to get the pressure right:
Single Stop/Double Stop Alternation
D0-A0-D0A0-D0A0, two bows
Apply that to the other string pairs. Then do the same exercise with fingerings added. See these lessons for more exercises:
Chords on D and A strings
If you’re serious about learning chords, then memorize these three chords:
- D Major: 0|0
- A Major: 1|0
- G Major: 0|1
Oh Susannah on D string
Start with half notes. Then add rhythms.
Chords on G and D strings
Next we’ll play the same song using G and D strings. Not that though the chords are the same (it’s still in D Major) the fingerings are different.
If you’re serious about learning chords, then also memorize these three chords:
- D Major: 1|0
- A Major: 1|1
- G Major: 0|0
Oh Susannah on G string
Start with half notes. Then add rhythms.
- It’s possible to play two-note chords on the fiddle.
- Add a little pause
- Learn a handful of simple chords.
- Don’t worry much about theory at first. (not today anyway)
- Practice backup on twenty songs.
- Start with songs that you can already play the melody.
- Alternate between the fiddling the melody and playing chords. Eventually they’ll come together.
- Alternate between singing the melody and playing chords.
- Chords sound good on G and D strings or D and A strings.
- Vera: I think it’s like learning a language: better to learn to speak before you learn grammar.
Questions and Challenges
Do you decide which chord to play based on proximity to the previous chord?
Yes. If you’re playing a chord on G and D strings, try to play the other chords there too.
I have difficulty choosing what two notes to play fast enough.
Simply memorize the basic chords on G and D, D and A. Learn to play chord backup on twenty songs. Then see if it’s less difficult.
How do you know what chords to play for a song?
Simply look it up on the internet. There are some guitar sites like Ultimate Guitar. You can use the “transpose” feature to set the key.
I’m a little intimidated to play chords (double stops) throughout a tune, because it’s very loud/overwhelming and it sounds bad. How much of a tune should I be playing double-stops/chords? Is there a good percentage or rule of thumb to keep in mind.
I'll Fly Away
Easy Chord Progression Builder
Use this tool to figure out chord progressions for most fiddle tunes and folk songs!
Learn these songs next
You can play all of these songs from the FiddleHed course with D, A and G Major chords. Start with super simple rhythms (half notes and quarter notes). Slowly work your way through the list. Take note of questions as well as your rate of learning.
- Angeline The Baker
- Arkansas Traveller
- Bile ’em Cabbage Down – Variation 1
- Boys of Bluehill
- Carry Me Back to Old Virginia
- Fais Do Do
- Fisher’s Hornpipe
- Harvest Home
- Haste to The Wedding
- I’ll Fly Away
- John Ryan’s Polka
- Joy To The World
- Kerfunken Jig
- La Valse Des Jonglements
- Little Liza Jane
- Ode To Joy
- Oh Susannah
- Soldier’s Joy – Intermediate
- Tobin’s Jig
- Whiskey Before Breakfast
- Wildwood Flower
50 More Three-Chord Songs!
I realize I may be running the risk of giving you option anxiety here! Instead, I hope you realize how powerful it is to master just three simple chords.
Remember that you can use online tools like Ultimate Guitar ao set the key to D Major. You just have to suffer through all the ads and pop-ups on the page 🤯
- This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie
- Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
- House of the Rising Sun – Traditional
- Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten
- The Midnight Special – Traditional
- I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – Traditional
- Wayfaring Stranger – Traditional
- Michael Row the Boat Ashore – Traditional
- Amazing Grace – Traditional
- The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot
- The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
- Louie Louie – The Kingsmen
- Twist and Shout – The Beatles
- La Bamba – Ritchie Valens
- That’ll Be the Day – Buddy Holly
- John Henry – Traditional
- Frankie and Johnny – Traditional
- Shenandoah – Traditional
- Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
- You Really Got Me – The Kinks
- Gloria – Them
- Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
- Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Born on the Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Susie Q – Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
- Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
- Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
- Cotton Eyed Joe – Traditional
- Casey Jones – Traditional
- Tom Dooley – Traditional
- Red River Valley – Traditional
- Turkey in the Straw – Traditional
- The Riddle Song – Traditional
- Polly Wolly Doodle – Traditional
- Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill – Traditional
- Froggie Went A-Courtin’ – Traditional
- Down in the Valley – Traditional
- Oh, My Darling Clementine – Traditional
- The Erie Canal – Traditional
- The Girl I Left Behind Me – Traditional
- Sweet Betsy from Pike – Traditional
- Goodnight, Irene – Lead Belly
- Jesse James – Traditional
- St. James Infirmary – Traditional
- Frankie’s Man, Johnny – Johnny Cash
- Going Down the Road Feeling Bad – Traditional
- The Cuckoo – Traditional
- Sloop John B – Traditional
- The Streets of Laredo – Traditional
- The Battle of New Orleans – Johnny Horton
- Auld Lang Syne – Traditional
- The Water is Wide – Traditional
- Banks of the Ohio – Traditional
- The Foggy Dew – Traditional
- The Wild Rover – Traditional
- Gypsy Rover – Traditional
- The Black Velvet Band – Traditional
- The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond – Traditional
- The Rising of the Moon – Traditional
- The Rose of Tralee – Traditional
- The Parting Glass – Traditional
- Wild Mountain Thyme – Traditional
- Molly Malone – Traditional
- Banks of the Ohio – Olivia Newton-John
- The Streets of Laredo – Marty Robbins
- Molly Malone – The Dubliners
- The Wild Rover – The Dubliners
- The Water is Wide – Eva Cassidy
- Worried Man Blues
Beginner goals: Memorize and practice these shapes in order of priority: 0|0, 1|0, 0|1
Intermediate goals: Memorize and practice these shapes: 1|1, 1|L2
Advanced goals: Memorize and practice these shapes: 3|1, 2|1, L2|L1, 1|2
Let’s meet for another workshop next month to assess 🤓
- We’ll talk about theory a bit then.
- We’ll play with some other shapes and voicing
Take the principles of this workshop and do it on your own. You’ll get the most out of this workshop if you do that. Try it on other songs and skills. Experiment and personalize it. Share what you discover in a comment below.
Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below.