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Fiddle Lessons: The Infamous Chop

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here we go, we're going to talk a little
bit about the infamous chop technique.
Technique that has sort of been, sweeping
the world of fiddle for the last five or
six years and it's a great new way of
playing different things.
Being a drummer, being the guitar player,
doing lots of different rhythmic things on
the fiddle.
Now this, technique is not an overnight
it was invented in the early sixties by a
great fiddle player Richard Greene.
One of the most original fiddle players in
blue grass ever.
And he invented it while he was playing in
Bill Monroe's group although he did not
use it, very much in that group at the
time, but he, Bill had,
advised Richard to just play rhythms, not
play melodies behind him for a while.
He wanted Richard to really get into the
And so Richard started out by playing the
standard back beat,
you can play back beats up here-
These usually happen when the mandolin is
not playing a back beat or the, because
the mandolin and the banjo can both do
that little back beat thing that happens.
But, sometimes, neither of them are doing
that and
then [SOUND] somebody should be doing it
and you start with that.
And then there's a little chunk.
[SOUND] You see a lot of people just,
chunking In bluegrass.
That's a great technique too.
But, the idea that you can actually get
notes, chords, and a much more complicated
rhythmic stew going on the instrument is
really great.
And I was able to learn that from Richard
in about 1976 and then use it,
to develop kind of a, pretty much
comprehensive rhythm style
that we used with the Turtle Island String
Quartet and a bunch of other groups.
And I think that it's gotten very popular.
Everybody wants to know, how do you do the
so, here's how to start with the chop.
Now, one of the things, that's really
important about this technique, is that we
go away, just for this technique, from the
good fiddle grip.
Now, most of you are either holding the
fiddle like this,
or, you're holding it like this.
If you're holding it like this, then don't
worry about it,
you'll be able to do this technique,
without changing much about your grip.
But if you're doing it in the grip that I
You going to actually change your grip,
we're going to roll the bow out into our
outer knuckles.
Now watch carefully.
I'm gonna do this by pushing your thumb.
See this, bend your thumb into the
hitchhiker thumb position, and
that rolls the bow out.
I'm gonna go back to, a good grip and do
this again, and
this is, this grip stays the same
throughout the entire chop process.
We don't go back and forth or anything
like that.
Just stay there while we're chopping and
then when we go back to playing
the beautiful melodies, we're back to our,
good grip.
And here we're using the bad grip for the
Now why?
Why do we do this?
Why do we bother?
Because when if we try to chop we have to
be really close.
So the frog, and if we do this, notice
that the wrist is bent,
in a beautiful position, in order to
approach the string, and play-
the beautiful melodies.
But, we're not playing the beautiful
melodies to this, if we try to chop,
the strings are hit by your fingers, your
fingers hit the strings,
and if you keep doing it, there's blood.
The audience don't like to see blood.
So that's one reason not to do it.
The other reason is because it hurts.
So what we do when we roll that bow out
like that, you can see,
my whole wrist flattens out, and the bow
tilts, right?
This is very important to, that the hair
goes to the other side of the stick, and
we have, this is all, becomes, relaxed and
kinda straightened out.
And the bow also, you could see it comes
around behind my head.
So it no longer is perpendicular to the
string the way it's always supposed to be
when we're playing-
[SOUND] the beautiful melodies.
So, we do this, comes around and we just
looking for the most comfortable place.
And then, you know, just, shake your arm
out, out it back, let your elbow float
down a little bit and just make sure your
wrist is kind of straight and we're just
within an inch of the frog, this is super
important, if you go down here that's
not even good, you can't do it, the
leverage is bad, bow flips, it's just bad.
Take my word for it.
On this, you're gonna wanna stay within an
inch of the frog.
You might have to do a little bit more
rosining down there in order to get
[SOUND] a little grip.
So, the first part of a chop is when the
bow comes down on
the string [SOUND] th,usly and, we can see
it just come,
come straight down the string and
there's a tiny bit of motion [SOUND] in
that direction.
I want you to put the bow on the string,
hold the bow down the string and
just push the bow toward the finger board
about half a inch.
Now this is a gigantically amplified
version of what actually happens.
This is like, way more than what really
Do that one again.
And then we're gonna go ahead and bring
the bow, on the string, and
we can hear that little chunk sound.
We're gonna go for the dee string, and
somewhat the gee string for this.
That's where we wanna be most of the time,
because, it doesn't sound so
good on the high strings.
So we've got the first component of the
chop is to bring the bow down and
just have it move a little bit.
Sorta locks to the string.
And the bow stays on the string.
Don't lift the bow off the string.
This is very important.
The bow is actually on the string about
35% of the time in a chop stroke.
It sits on the string.
It's a rest stroke [NOISE].
Your hand and the bow rest on this string
when you're in this brief time period.
Second component of the chop stroke,
according to Newton, what goes down must
come up.
So, we're going to bring the bow off the
string and
it, very slight up bow motion [NOISE] like
Okay I'm going to do that again,
we're going to bring the bow down on the
string, [NOISE],
leave the bow on the string, and then push
it up [NOISE] slightly to the left.
One more time, down, Up.
And, it's really important to do this
super slow, so
that you really get used to the feeling of
the bow being on the string,
and then coming up, and then down.
And then up, and then down.
Simon didn't say up!
So what would be really good for
you to practice when you're practicing
this is to-
[SOUND] And just practice getting-
[SOUND] a nice-
TIght little sound.
You wanna make sure there's enough rosin
down here on the bottom of the bow so
that you can get a little bit of a,
[SOUND] you know, that [SOUND] kind of,
bow locks [SOUND] on the string.
You wanna just, you wanna be locked there,
You can't really move it.
So, I know this is incredibly non-musical
But I want you to do this for about a
week, and then come back and
look at the second part of Chop.
I'm assuming that it's been at least a
week since you’ve been working on
this chop business.
I'm hoping that you've been playing other
stuff, and working on other things,
and having fun playing normal music during
this time period as well.
I very much hope that is true.
And I think you.
So we're gonna go in and look at this
And before we start anything I just wanna
mention one little caveat.
You know, this is, this technique is sorta
like handing people a very sharp knife,
or a gun, or some kind of.
You can hurt your musical self you know,
and other people with this technique.
If you come in and, and, the idea, I mean,
I know that everybody here on this site
is, is a conscientious musician.
Just the fact that you're subscribing,
that you're moving forward with the stuff
as a huge vote of confidence in your
abilities and your taste.
Obviously the best taste.
But again,
if this technique is used for evil rather
than good.
If it's used for self ag.
First it's oh, I'm going to play rhythm
I'm gonna play some rhythm.
I'm gonna.
I'm, I'm, here I am participating in the
musical process here.
I, now I'm playing rhythm and [NOISE]
that's probably
gonna get you, not only kicked out of the
but kicked out of every jam, ever,
So, obviously this technique is about.
Well it's more about the spaces between
the sounds, right?
It's not a pretty sound.
[SOUND] So what we wanna do, is like,
really think about what the,
the, what we're doing here.
We're trying to help the rhythm or
whatever is going on,
rather than add a layer, really, you know.
So we're actually, we're kinda working
from the inside out.
It's almost like a.
And so instead of.
At some point,
we wanna go from merely making this sound
Finding the groove in these sounds.
And a good way to do that is to, and
this is one of the few times I'm gonna
tell you not to practice with a metronome.
I'm gonna tell you that the best way to
practice this technique
is to put on a mid 70s to 80s reggae
record of medium tempo,
and play along with the reggae dudes.
those guys have the great feel and it's a
great tempo that's possible to play.
At a nice, slow medium tempo.
And you start hearing.
But how do these guys do it?
How do they make such a great feel?
You know?
How does, how does this thing feel so
beautiful, and yet there's so
little going on?
And you start listening to the drum part.
You can start listening to what the guy's
doing with the high hat and
the little symbol and the snare.
And all the little percussion dudes, or
doing little things.
And you start picking up on, well, what
makes this feel the way it does?
And then, you start just getting into it.
You start matching that.
And that's where you're going to get your
your feel, your, your groove, and the put
on other records that are your favorite
groove records, things that really groove.
It could be bluegrass, it could be other
kinds of music.
It could be New Orleans' music, it could
be whatever, you know.
It could be like the whatever.
The, the.
Something like that, just whatever.
Something that really feels great to you
groovewise and then get into it.
Get with that drummer.
You're not gonna be able to play
everything that the drummer plays, but
you're gonna start to see what's
What makes it groove.
What makes that rhythm work.
[SOUND] Even if it's disco.
Sometimes there's even some good disco, in
this area.
And, just start getting the feel.
Now, after you've done that for awhile,
let's look at how to generate some notes.
The, the best way to start with this is to
only be generating notes on the up bow.
So if we put the bow on the string, and
then we do our little up bow.
And let's say we're just gonna play, we
find the C note on the G string,
which is third finger.
And the E note on the D string with your
fifth finger.
So we get this.
And beautiful C type.
[SOUND] Double stop.
And then we put the ball on the string,
then we just pop it off [SOUND] like that,
we get a nice [SOUND] right?
So I want you to try that.
That downstroke is actually sort of a
damping stroke.
It, because the bow stays on the string,
we don't get a note.
[SOUND] Even though we're holding down
those notes,
we don't get a note because the bow is
damping the string, as soon as it hits it.
But it coming off, we got a nice open
then we could change to oh, how about D
and F-sharp?
And then back to the original.
It's beginning to sound a lot like music.
So, what else can we do to make it sound a
little bit more like music?
We can make it a little bit more of a like
a snare sound.
Right now it's almost like a high hat.
It's kind of like when the guy plays
the close high hat.
So, let's-
Every time we change chords, let's go to a
harder stroke.
The only thing we change about the stroke
is that we come up a little harder and
just come down a little,
just come down a little harder.
And then we sort of have a, like a little
Ska pattern, something like that.
So, we're gonna work with that for a
Chopping, part three.
Okay, I'm gonna show you one more stroke
that's gonna give you
another way to get notes out of the chop.
Now we're gonna just start again with the
bow on the string and instead of going,
[SOUND] like an upbow, we're gonna just go
the other way,
like the other side of the V.
On the right hand side of the V, we're
gonna just bring it off to the right.
[SOUND] So we have now three types of
So, you've got, the down.
You got the up.
Where we can get a note and if we come
down again,
we can go up a little to the right
And have a down stroke.
Now this might seem a little bit, like
well why do we need a down stroke and
up just sound the same.
It's sort of like asking, well why do we
And down stroke and up bow.
It just helps us keep track of where we
are in the, in the rhythmic cycle.
So we can go [SOUND] right?
So this could be used for down beats.
[SOUND] So for those kinda things, let's
[SOUND] So, we're gonna start.
Right, so.
that's a down, chop up, chop.
So try that for awhile.
We're really wanting to stay on the
That's really a super important thing
And, okay.
One more stroke.
What, and this is the stroke that I always
try to teach last because it's what
people think it is and, and it's not.
Mostly it's not what people think it is.
But this is the stroke where it is a
downstroke and
you just [SOUND] bounce of the string.
Again, we're still, we got that funny bow
grip, right?
So, [SOUND] so we're doing a bounce.
[SOUND] Down bow.
[SOUND] Chop.
So, those are all the grips.
So if we had a little pattern that can use
this, we go.
And if that's confusing, let's just go
back to.
That's a good pattern too.
We're just playing.
And then a down stroke.
[SOUND] And then wait
This is a big mouthful of information.
So go ahead and work on the.
First, and then.
And then with
the third pattern will be the down strike.
So two down strikes in a row, right?
It's funny with this cha business how
different people get it in, in different
amounts of time.
I had people pick it up instantly.
And some of the best choppers took as long
as two or
three months to just kind of figure out
how to put it together.
So, I would like to see how you're doing
with this,
if you're really interested in doing this
go ahead and send me a short video of you
just doing the.
So we know,
we can see that everything's kind of in
If you wanna do a little bit of the
the notes, and then if you're doing,
if you're going great guns and you totally
feel like you have it on a try a little
bit more if whatever you're doing and I'll
give you some feedback on that.
And if it's, if you're not interested
necessarily in pursuing this area.
There's lots of other things going on.
Just send me a video of whatever it is.
You know, phrasing wise, if you've got
some questions about the phrasing.
Or, if you're working on a melody, or
something like that.
We want some feedback on that.
And go ahead and send me something short,
I will be happy to look at it, and give me
some feedback.