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Jul 24, 2022 - 9:44:27 AM
4 posts since 9/11/2020

Hi all!

Wondered if anyone knew of any material/courses/videos that can help with backup licks and fills? I'm fine with fiddle tunes and playing chords etc but sometimes struggle to add convincing sounding fill licks.

I listen a lot to jerry D's playing on the Alison Krauss albums which is sublime and exactly the kind of playing i need to improve, but then struggle to relate the licks to other songs, hope that makes sense!

Many thanks

Jul 24, 2022 - 10:27:23 AM

2386 posts since 8/3/2008
Online Now

How To Play Backup, CLICK HERE!

This is a fun DVD that I reviewed years ago! The sign that said "Play NOW!"
Jul 24, 2022 - 10:50:23 AM



449 posts since 11/27/2014

One basic exercise: Know your scale patterns in any key. They're not too difficult. Practice playing notes of the scale (in various order...even random) over the chord in the song and you might be surprised at all the "sublime" licks you come up with. Keep it simple...try one note and see how sometimes that's all you need.

Jul 25, 2022 - 10:16:53 AM

4240 posts since 7/27/2008

In addition to Howard's recommendation of Jimmy Heffernan's DVD, this book by Canadian Doug Cox is a good one to have, CD included. Alluding to what Eric wrote above regarding using scales, Doug teaches  a fair amount of the concept in the book.


Edited by - MarkinSonoma on 07/25/2022 10:18:40

Jul 25, 2022 - 6:52:41 PM



37 posts since 11/27/2019

The Doug Cox book has a lot about fretboard patterns but, oddly, nothing explicitly about back up.

Jul 25, 2022 - 8:45:18 PM
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4240 posts since 7/27/2008

The patterns can be useful - just don't play them when the lead vocalist is singing! 

This is really the bottom line. I come across players who are doing leads and "stepping on" the singer.  It's like dragging fingernails across a chalkboard to me. If you can avoid that it's half the battle. 

Jul 26, 2022 - 9:46:53 AM
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503 posts since 11/28/2012

Building foundational components (moveable scale patterns, licks, rolls, chucks, arpeggios, harmonics, etc.) are all necessary for developing an arsenal of tricks and tools for accompaniment.

When and how to deploy those tools is the art. Depends on the song and the other instruments. Licks between vocal phrases can be very important, but may not be what serves the song best, at least not all the time.

You may find some nuggets in these YouTube tutorials from Dan Miller.  (Is he a member here?)  I find his theoretical approach on accompaniment to be simple, yet well explained.  You won't find spoon-fed licks, but worth watching IMO.  Headsup, it's bluegrass centric.

Edited by - JC Dobro on 07/26/2022 09:54:48

Jul 26, 2022 - 11:32:51 AM
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1726 posts since 4/27/2009

Listening to the greats like Jerry Douglas, Greg Booth, Rob Ickes and others can really help when working this out. I really like JD's backup work in the Alison Krauss and Union Station recordings

Aug 15, 2022 - 6:19:05 AM



3 posts since 7/5/2021

Definitely agree with everyone above. Will also say that Jerry Douglas in the background of most of the songs on Tony Rice's "Plays and Sings Bluegrass" is a great example of not stepping on vocals while filling. A lot of the most refined playing to me that really makes a good lick stand out is when it compliments the melody well without stepping on it.

The album I mention:

Aug 30, 2022 - 10:36:30 AM



46 posts since 2/10/2018

I have the Doug Cox book and find it very useful, especially the triad arpeggios. Just a couple of well placed notes between vocals is all a song needs sometimes. I also like the way he tabs out playing the scales using open strings for various notes mixed in with higher frets.

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