I’ll Fly Away – Adding Chord Backup
Learn how to play chord back up for this classic country and folk song featured in the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou? (performed by Gillian Welch and Allison Krauss).
Why do you need to learn how to play chords?
If you can play chord backup, then you can support other musicians while they play the melody or solo. You can also backup singers (including yourself). I’ll talk a bit about that later.
If you’re comfortable playing chords, then you can jump in on songs and tunes even when you don’t know the melody.
Finally, if you can play both the chords and the melody, you’ll find ways to combine the two. You can add double stops to the tune or you can make the chord progression more interesting with fills. More generally, know the melody and chords of a tune gives you a deeper understanding and feeling for the music.
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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 ⚙
Essential steps for playing chord backup
Learn and practice individual chords
Memorize these chords
- If you’re interested in learning theory, this is the first step
Practice each two-chord transition
- Spend a lot of time with each transition
Play chord backup for the whole song
- Once you’re comfortable with each transition
This basic practice flow will help you to learn any song. I actually figured this out when I learned guitar, and then translated it to fiddle. Once you know one instrument, you can leverage your knowledge to learn something new. 🧠
Practice playing chords with each section of the tune
A part, first quarter
A part, second quarter
A part, third quarter
Same as first quarter
A part, fourth quarter
B part, first quarter
B part, second quarter
Same as A second quarter
B part, third quarter
Same as A first quarter
B part, fourth quarter
Same as A fourth quarter
Here’s a basic lesson on how to play the melody: I’ll Fly Away
Alternate between playing chords and the melody
A great practice game is to [[Alternate between playing chords and the melody]]. Play a small chunk of the melody (2-4 bars), then play the chords for that chunk. Continue to alternate. Use a play-along track.
In a similar way, you can learn to play backup for yourself.
Alternate between singing and playing chords on small chunks
Singing helps you to remember the melody. It also helps you to hear the big picture when playing backup.
Sing one line of the verse. Then play the chords. Keep alternating.
Eventually try to do both at the same time. If it’s difficult, then you may want to start with a very small piece. For example, play the first chord (G) and sing the first word of the song “Some” in a loop. Then play the G chord and sing, “Some bright morning”. Keep building, keep learning.
Struggle with it a bit and then return to alternation practice. Work through each line of the tune in this way.
These strategies are based practice loops. You alternate between something basic and something more challenging.
Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on God’s celestial shore
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
Play Along Track – Full Tune