It’s a good plan to listen to the tunes you want to play using the slow down and loop options on this site. Listen to them without your instrument until you can lilt (or hum) them before working out what chords are appropriate. Imagine trying to accompany a song if you didn’t know the melody. If you find chord options written out, try them but be willing to be sceptical and try other things. Also, work on your right-hand technique.
Listen to recordings. If you listen to tunes with accompaniment you will often find that the backing will change between repetitions of the tune. When you listen to tunes with backing, pay particular attention to what the backing player is doing.
Some Do’s and Don’ts
- Do learn each tune before you attempt to provide backing. Playing along with a tune using the wrong chords is distracting to the other players.
- Do look around the session as you are playing to ensure you are aware of how your backing is being received.
- Don’t play loud. When in doubt, play more softly.
- Do take turns if there are multiple backing instruments in a session. Only one at a time.
- Don’t play loud enough to be heard by others if you aren’t sure of the chords.
- Don’t use a rhythm that forces the melody players into following your accompaniment. You are following them, but not dragging them back either.
- Don’t feel obliged to play with every tune. Solo pieces, and in particular slow airs, should not be accompanied (unless requested).
Remember, good backing is difficult to learn. It is at least as difficult as learning the tunes for the melody players.