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

Mel Bay’s Fiddle Sessions 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.

What Do I Do With These Chords Besides Droning?

Here’s an excerpt from the new article (I’d include the whole thing, but Mel Bay 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?