A power practice habit for practicing chord backup

Here’s a practice strategy which will help you to play chord backup on the fiddle.


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Video loops 🔁

Note: if you want to turn the video looper on or off, click the button in the lower left corner. Also, you can adjust the speed of the video by clicking the gear icon ⚙

Kerry Polka Practice Loop


The basic steps

The basic practice is to alternate between playing the melody and the chords on small 1-2 bar phrases from a tune. Here are the steps I recommend.

  1. Learn, practice and memorize the tune
  2. Learn, practice and memorize the chords
  3. Alternate between chords and melody on small 1-2 bar chunks

So for Kerry Polka, the A Part Second Quarter melody is:

D3-A0-1-0-D3-1-0

 

In step two, you learn (or review) the chords for the tune. In this case, G, C and D Major.

  • G (G0D0)
  • C (G0D1)
  • D (G1D0)

And then you alternate between melody and chords on a small chunk:

Melody: D3-A0-1-0-D3-1-0

Chords: C Major (G0D1) / D Major (G1D0)


If you do this for each chord change, you’ll be able to play chord backup on the entire song. You’ll also develop a deeper understanding of the relationship between chords and melody. You’ll more easily be able to add double stops to melodies.

One thing’s for certain: you’ll learn a lot more by doing this then to listening to me yammer on. So take out your fiddle and try it right now on Kerry Polka and the Learning Chunks™ below.

By the way, if you’re new to chord backup, I recommend simple rhythms: quarter and half notes. More advanced players can try hoedown, offbeat bouncing, the chop and other rhythms.


Learning Chunks™

Kerry Polka, A Part, Second Quarter

Melody: D3-A0-1-0-D3-1-0

Chords: C Major (G0D1) / D Major (G1D0)

Arkansas Traveller, A Part, First Quarter

This Learning Chunk (tab, sheet music and mp3 snippets) is available to All-access users.But you can learn this NOW with a free trial subscription. Sign up here. 🎻

Swallowtail Jig, A Part, Fourth Quarter

This Learning Chunk (tab, sheet music and mp3 snippets) is available to All-access users.But you can learn this NOW with a free trial subscription. Sign up here. 🎻

I’ll Fly Away

 

Further learning

This process of micro-practice helps you to overcome The Physical Challenge of Fiddling.

This lesson is part of a series called “Power Practice Habits” 💪🏽. I’ve started to take notes on all the little unconscious things I do when I practice. I’m trying to translate these strategies so that you and other fiddlers can also use them too.

Many of these strategies are based on the idea of a practice loop; alternating between something basic and something more challenging (or at least different).

For example, practice loops can be used to learn and practice note-reading.

Learn more about this in the Note-reading for Fiddlers course. And you can find more Power Practice Tips in the How To Practice Fiddling course. Here are a few related lessons to check out:

 

Want to know more about chord backup? I’m actively creating lessons on this right now (September 2021). Here are some to get you started:


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