Intermediate practice journey


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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  2. Sign up for the Free Two-week Trial. You’ll get full access to all courses and group lessons. Plus, I’ll send you some free lessons tailored to your current skill level.

Thanks for being here 🙏

Video replay


Prepare for the journey

Things to learn, review and practice:

What questions do you have about chord backup?


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
  • Hoedown
  • Tucka
  • Train
  • Chucks

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.

  1. Angeline The Baker
  2. Arkansas Traveller
  3. Bile ’em Cabbage Down – Variation 1
  4. Boys of Bluehill
  5. Carry Me Back to Old Virginia
  6. Fais Do Do
  7. Fisher’s Hornpipe
  8. Harvest Home
  9. Haste to The Wedding
  10. I’ll Fly Away
  11. John Ryan’s Polka
  12. Joy To The World
  13. Kerfunken Jig
  14. La Valse Des Jonglements
  15. Little Liza Jane
  16. Ode To Joy
  17. Oh Susannah
  18. Soldier’s Joy – Intermediate
  19. Tobin’s Jig
  20. Whiskey Before Breakfast
  21. 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 🤯

  1. This Land is Your Land – Woody Guthrie
  2. Blowin’ in the Wind – Bob Dylan
  3. House of the Rising Sun – Traditional
  4. Freight Train – Elizabeth Cotten
  5. The Midnight Special – Traditional
  6. I’ve Been Working on the Railroad – Traditional
  7. Wayfaring Stranger – Traditional
  8. Michael Row the Boat Ashore – Traditional
  9. Amazing Grace – Traditional
  10. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Gordon Lightfoot
  11. The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
  12. Louie Louie – The Kingsmen
  13. Twist and Shout – The Beatles
  14. La Bamba – Ritchie Valens
  15. That’ll Be the Day – Buddy Holly
  16. John Henry – Traditional
  17. Frankie and Johnny – Traditional
  18. Shenandoah – Traditional
  19. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison
  20. You Really Got Me – The Kinks
  21. Gloria – Them
  22. Satisfaction – The Rolling Stones
  23. Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  24. Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  25. Born on the Bayou – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  26. Susie Q – Creedence Clearwater Revival
  27. Folsom Prison Blues – Johnny Cash
  28. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
  29. Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty
  30. Cotton Eyed Joe – Traditional
  31. Casey Jones – Traditional
  32. Tom Dooley – Traditional
  33. Red River Valley – Traditional
  34. Turkey in the Straw – Traditional
  35. The Riddle Song – Traditional
  36. Polly Wolly Doodle – Traditional
  37. Drill, Ye Tarriers, Drill – Traditional
  38. Froggie Went A-Courtin’ – Traditional
  39. Down in the Valley – Traditional
  40. Oh, My Darling Clementine – Traditional
  41. The Erie Canal – Traditional
  42. The Girl I Left Behind Me – Traditional
  43. Sweet Betsy from Pike – Traditional
  44. Goodnight, Irene – Lead Belly
  45. Jesse James – Traditional
  46. St. James Infirmary – Traditional
  47. Frankie’s Man, Johnny – Johnny Cash
  48. Going Down the Road Feeling Bad – Traditional
  49. The Cuckoo – Traditional
  50. Sloop John B – Traditional
  51. The Streets of Laredo – Traditional
  52. The Battle of New Orleans – Johnny Horton
  53. Auld Lang Syne – Traditional
  54. The Water is Wide – Traditional
  55. Banks of the Ohio – Traditional
  56. The Foggy Dew – Traditional
  57. The Wild Rover – Traditional
  58. Gypsy Rover – Traditional
  59. The Black Velvet Band – Traditional
  60. The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond – Traditional
  61. The Rising of the Moon – Traditional
  62. The Rose of Tralee – Traditional
  63. The Parting Glass – Traditional
  64. Wild Mountain Thyme – Traditional
  65. Molly Malone – Traditional
  66. Banks of the Ohio – Olivia Newton-John
  67. The Streets of Laredo – Marty Robbins
  68. Molly Malone – The Dubliners
  69. The Wild Rover – The Dubliners
  70. The Water is Wide – Eva Cassidy
  71. Worried Man Blues


Further Practice

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.

Further Learning

Chord Backup Central

Chord Backup Workshop 1

Chord Backup Workshop 2

How To Play Back-up Chords On The Fiddle




Lesson Chat

Feel free to continue the discussion in the comments below.

Zoom chat

15:01:48 From Cheri : Love that background music
15:02:46 From David : Don’t see the poll
15:03:33 From Terri Marsico : came up in center of screen 🙂
15:03:40 From PeteHealy : The poll popped up immediately.
15:03:53 From mike : tried it with strum machine
15:04:17 From debbie : not sure how to create minor chords
15:04:21 From Beverly : determining what chord rhythm to play for a tune
15:04:22 From Terri Marsico : Struggle – in bluegrass I IV V seems to be in random pattern vs regular pattern in blues 🤣
15:04:26 From Cindy Rossi : Reacted to “Struggle – in bluegr…” with 👍
15:04:28 From Vera Algoet : Just knowing the name of a chord/double-stop. I guess you’ll cover that in the theory part.
15:04:42 From grace schutt  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : Didn’t hear last question adequately
15:05:12 From David : I try playing along with YouTube videos, but it doesn’t sound great
15:05:15 From Deborah Swanson : I have difficulty choosing what two notes to play fast enough
15:05:40 From grace schutt  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : I don’t rally have one at the moment
15:05:47 From iPad : Connecting chords in simple I IV V progressions. Also rhythm ideas for chords (thinking 2 step, waltz in Cajun)
15:05:55 From mike : usually a shuffle pattern, or just bow strokes
15:06:01 From Darcy’s iPad (2) : Chord rhythms
15:06:02 From Leanna : 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.
15:06:10 From Rick Pallister : Hitting the chord correctly and on time
15:06:24 From Erin Burns : I have very limited experience, and can play some easy chords (G, C and D).
15:07:18 From Theresa : fingering chords is difficult because I tend to finger both strings instead of just the one string
15:07:36 From Vera Algoet : Reacted to “fingering chords is …” with 👍
15:12:17 From Juli Pearson : Are you literally playing both at the same time with equal pressure in both strings
15:15:22 From Erin Burns : Why is it a G and not an E chord?
15:15:29 From Juli Pearson : Is it named after the open cord?
15:15:36 From Leanna : Another issue, I don’t know what chords to play when the tune is in anything other than the key of G. Do you follow the pentatonic scale and only play chords within that?
15:16:16 From Terri Marsico : Is playing 2 notes easier if you bow a little closer to the fingerboard?
15:16:16 From Vera Algoet : Do you decide which chord to play based on proximity to the previous chord?
15:16:43 From Vera Algoet : In other words, which G chord to play.
15:22:41 From Juli Pearson : I’m confused by what the name of the cord is and where I place the bow of my finger
15:23:15 From Rick Pallister : I have trouble with the right pressure across the two strings
15:23:23 From jason kleinberg :
15:23:47 From Vera Algoet : It hard to play the ones where the finger on the lower string is further up the string
15:23:55 From Ann Repka : I also have problems with the right pressre
15:24:04 From Vera Algoet : Like the A chord
15:24:08 From Erin Burns : Double stops are harder to play when the lower string finger is on the 1.  Any tips on getting the sound cleaner for the open string of that double stop?
15:24:18 From Vera Algoet : Reacted to “Double stops are har…” with 👍
15:25:26 From Ann Repka : yes thanks
15:25:44 From Vera Algoet : Even the A
15:26:29 From David : Which chords would you play on Jingle Bells?
15:26:31 From Vera Algoet : Short fingernails help
15:27:26 From jason kleinberg :
15:27:50 From Theresa : Reacted to “…” with 👍
15:28:19 From iPad : Can you sing the chord names as we play? Rather than lyrics!
15:28:47 From Erin Burns : Chord handout is great.  Thanks for the link.
15:28:59 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : Reacted to “Chord handout is gre…” with 👍
15:29:00 From Vera Algoet : Reacted to “Chord handout is gre…” with 👍
15:30:08 From Leanna : If the bow’s wood is touching the bow hairs when I’m pulling double stops, does that typically mean that my bow hairs need to be tightened? Or, am I pushing too hard?
15:34:32 From Juli Pearson  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : My d major sounds just like my a major- maybe I’m not actually doing the double stop?
15:35:27 From Deborah Swanson  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : this was very helpful thanks
15:36:07 From Erin Burns : Looking at this Oh Suzanna looks like the G major chord is D0 and A1?  I thought you said A1 and E0…before I saw this.  Must’ve heard you wrong.
15:37:03 From Jane’s iPad2  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : What if the chord is a 7 , like D7
15:37:25 From Rick Pallister : Are chords any easier based on the position on the bow?
15:39:35 From Anne Brookhyser : I changed my strings this week and it’s making it much easier to play double stops than with my old strings.
15:40:53 From Theresa : Is it ok to play long bows or quarter notes or should you follow the rhythm of the song
15:41:15 From mike : made it but need some woodshedding!!!!!!!
15:46:18 From jason kleinberg : Add a little pause
15:47:51 From Leanna : Thanks so much, Jason! Need to run.
15:50:39 From Vera Algoet : The D chord is harder
15:50:44 From Rick Pallister : hard enough
15:50:46 From Brooke : got it!
15:50:49 From Ann Repka : it will take lots of practice
15:50:50 From David : I need more practice
15:50:51 From Catherine Chastain : Got it
15:50:51 From cliff latimer : I’m good with it.
15:50:51 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : I got A major but the D is harder for me too!
15:50:51 From Tom Szalay : easier to play A than D
15:50:52 From joanne iles : ok yes got it
15:50:53 From Jane’s iPad2  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : It’s hard to reach the g string
15:50:56 From Christie’s Tab A : Got it
15:50:58 From Erin Burns : This notation for G and D strings shows D as 0 over 1.  The note on the top is the G string and bottom would be G0 and D1? D chord is G1 and DO, so is this numbered backwards?
15:50:59 From Stephanie : me too
15:51:04 From mike : got it
15:51:04 From Beverly : I got it.  I roll my wrist a little to bring the first finger down on both strings.
15:51:10 From Anne Brookhyser : Sounds crunchy, but improving
15:51:11 From debbie : got it
15:51:14 From iPhone  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : Got it
15:51:18 From Vera Algoet : The D chord hits my hand at a weird place.
15:51:20 From Darcy’s iPad (2) : No problem here. My arm get tired playing on the G string
15:51:30 From Tom Szalay : fat fingers cover two strings easier than reaching over the d to cover the G1
15:51:36 From iPad : All good! Starting to learn chord names!
15:56:45 From joanne iles : i found your chord progression chart invaluable for learning this
15:56:55 From Theresa : Reacted to “i found your chord p…” with 👍
15:57:37 From iPhone  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : Would love to have chords indicated on the songs’ lesson pages so we can learn to play all parts of the songs we have learned.  I’m participating in a beginner Bluegrass jam and I’d love to be able to confidently lead some of the simple songs I’ve learned, but I didn’t learn the chords, yet.
15:57:54 From Darcy’s iPad (2) : What do you think about the bluegrass chop rhythm?
15:57:56 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : VERY useful lesson!  Thanks, Jason!
15:58:40 From Catherine Chastain : This was a big help Jason. Thanks so much!
15:58:56 From debbie : I remembered chords by relating them to songs
15:59:56 From iPhone  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : Great lesson!!
16:00:15 From Cheri : I need practice with fiddle rhythm accents – ie. on 2 & 4 instead of 1&3 which comes more natural to me.
16:00:57 From jason kleinberg :
16:01:02 From Ann Repka : Thanks so much!
16:01:08 From Erin Burns : I answered my own question… btw
16:01:08 From Terri Marsico : Rhythm variation VERY helpful!
16:01:10 From Brooke : I like that sheet.  That’s a great tool!
16:01:15 From iPad : Very cool lesson! Thanks Jason! First time zooming in…gotta run.
16:01:18 From Vera Algoet : Reacted to “Very cool lesson! Th…” with 👍
16:01:26 From debbie : great lesson!
16:01:30 From Cindy Rossi : Great lesson, Jason!! Really helpful!
16:01:37 From Terri Marsico : Thank-you GOOD lesson 🙂🎻
16:01:43 From Theresa : This was so helpful!  Thank you!
16:01:46 From mike : ill be looking for follow up and replay, this is too good to miss!!!!!!
16:01:49 From Jane’s iPad2  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : Great lesson!
16:01:51 From Christie’s Tab A : Very helpful! Thanks!
16:02:01 From Erin Burns : This was great.  Thanks.  Your approach is great.  Gets us going….
16:02:08 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : If you know the key can you audiate chord progressions?
16:02:12 From David : 👍
16:02:14 From Vera Algoet : I think it’s like learning a language: better to learn to speak before you learn grammar.
16:02:19 From Theresa : After all of these lessons on chords, I would love to see a lesson on playing a break in a song you don’t know
16:02:19 From Mary Scott : It has been good fun learning chords this way, thanks!
16:02:19 From iPhone  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : I agree, I’m getting this without understanding theory or reading music.
16:02:24 From Catherine Chastain : Ciao!
16:02:27 From Brooke : Thank you so much!  I feel much more confident! Bye!
16:02:30 From Darcy’s iPad (2) : Great lesson! I look forward to them.
16:02:32 From Beverly : chords really started to click for me in lesson 2.5
16:02:36 From Terri Marsico : For playing 2 notes at one time, is it easier to bow towards the fingerboard?
16:02:37 From mike : thanks Jason, gotta run
16:02:39 From Jane’s iPad2 : Love the chord chart
16:02:52 From grace schutt  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : How do you know what chord to pick as you work through the music if it’s not lettered in above the music
16:02:54 From Kosgood : Thanks! Helpful lesson!
16:03:01 From Christie’s Tab A : Bye!
16:03:29 From iPad (2)belinda beccue : If I get scratching when doing a double stop is my pressure un even?
16:03:47 From Theresa : playing a solo when in a jam session if you don’t know the notes
16:03:49 From Vera Algoet : When my fiddle pals want to play fast, I’ll play chords!
16:04:32 From Terri Marsico : No just bow position center to bridge and fingerboard or a little towards figerboard
16:04:37 From joanne iles : thanks very much for this lesson. Yes better to listen and try playing something rather than get bogged down in theory
16:05:09 From Vera Algoet : Double stops use up a lot of rosin.
16:05:10 From David : I’m going to try playing chords on the play along rythem and some YouTube versions of oh Susanna
16:05:54 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : I think Grace
16:05:55 From Stephanie : thank you!  Great lesson and practice for me!
16:06:06 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : I think Grace
16:06:34 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : so sorry.  I think Grace
16:07:06 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : Grace’s question connects to my audiation question
16:07:46 From jason kleinberg :
16:07:55 From Vera Algoet : Are mandolin chords the same?
16:11:10 From Vera Algoet : Mando chords:
16:11:22 From Terri Marsico : Mandolin (and Fiddle) chords
16:11:45 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : Reacted to “Mandolin (and Fiddle…” with 👍
16:11:54 From Vera Algoet : Reacted to “Screenshot2023_04_17_161101.jpg” with ❤️
16:11:57 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : Reacted to “Mando chords: https:…” with 👍
16:12:43 From Vera Algoet : Great, Terri!
16:13:30 From Erin Burns : Is it true you can just play the root chord (key chord) through the whole song and it’ll sound ok?
16:15:37 From Erin Burns : it’ll get you started in a jam until you figure out the rest…
16:16:05 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : Im still curious about audiation and chords.  Can you hear the progression?
16:17:29 From grace schutt  To  jason kleinberg(privately) : I have wandered behind players to see the chords they’re using
16:18:10 From jason kleinberg : Audiation
16:18:17 From Terri Marsico : Good idea!
16:18:26 From Erin Burns : 👏
16:18:38 From Bridget Balthrop Morton : Thanks, Jason!  Just terrific!
16:18:46 From Vera Algoet : All you need is a group with a Mando player!
16:18:46 From David : Do you ever tune the strings from say a string to d to get a different double stop sound?  Someone did that for Cripple Creek?
16:18:55 From Terri Marsico : Thank-you 🙂
16:19:18 From Darcy’s iPad (2) : Thanks for the great lesson, got to go
16:19:28 From Vera Algoet : Thanks so much. I really look forward to your lessons!

Group Lessons Central >>

Chord Backup Central >>




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