What To Play When You Don’t Know What To Play

Mel Bay’s Fiddle Sessions blog has published the third and final installment of my article “Chords: What To Play When You Don’t Know What To Play.” In this series I lay out how to figure out which chords to play, how to play them, and what to do for different types of music.

Here’s an excerpt from the new article (I’d include the whole thing, but the publisher might get mad at me):

Off beat chucks are a common pattern for bluegrass, polka and other songs in 2/4 or 4/4 time. This is how to do it:

– Place the bow close to the frog.

– On beats two and four (the offbeats), play a short stroke, aiming for maximum crispness and punchiness. Most people do down bows; I prefer up bows because I find I can play more precisely that way. Try both and see which you prefer, or whether you like them both but in different contexts.

– If you’re confused about which beats are the offbeats, and there’s a bass player, see if s/he’s playing beats 1 and 3 and leaving the others empty. (Usually, the answer is yes, unless s/he’s getting really fancy and non-folky.) Your notes will happen between the bass notes. You are essentially providing two halves of the same rhythm part; the bass does the “boom” and you play the “chuck”. There’s no shame in watching her/his rhythm hand!

You can read the rest of the article here: What Do I Do With These Chords Besides Droning?

This is the final installment of a three-part series on chordal accompaniment that I wrote for Fiddle Sessions. If you missed the first two parts, here are the links:

Chords: What to Play When You Don’t Know What To Play
How Do I Know Which Chord To Play?



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