I am new to cigar box nation,  I learned to play the violin so I can pick out a few tunes, but I've never learned to play chords,  Is it possible to play the melody with chords so as the tunes are not just individual string notes.  How does one go about learning to play chords and maintain the melody?

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Thanks Uncle John,

I'll check out Mandolin Cafe for their 2 fingered chords.  Sounds about all I can handle now.

Hello, Paul

I have been attempting to achieve playing the bass notes with thumb picking and playing the melody at the same time

for some time now. Probably the most successful guitarist at this was Chet Atkins, and he has been my hero as

I have tried to develop my own style based on a fingerstyle that achieves bass and melody at the same time.

  After saying all that I will say that melodies come out of chords and partial chords in fingerstyle guitar. It will

be hard to achieve what you want by only flatpicking. Sometimes I play 7 string guitar and get all 7 strings

going to achieve a big full sound by fingerpicking, but a 4 string CBG tuned to an open chord can be fingerpicked as

well and sound great. Watch Doyle Dykes or Tommy Emmanuel or Chet to see how they get the melody out of

chords. I am amazed at the skill of those guys!

Hi, Paul!  Really great to meet you this summer up in Madison!

This is a nifty little site you can use to practice your chord changes and keeping rhythm.  It even has the chords all laid out for each tune, and there is a slow section and a fast section, so you can choose your tempo.


I found playing the mandolin even a little bit really helped my fiddling rhythm.

Diane  Thanks for the site, it has lots of good tunes.  since I saw you I was inspired to make a cigar box violin.  Just finished it.  I couldn't find a cigar box the right size so I made the box out of poplar. I made quite a few mistakes but it turned out really well for me.  Will post a picture if I can figure out how to.  Thanks for giving me the inspiration to make a violin.


More good advise all around!

Paul, had you said you were interested in old time music, fiddles and mandos, AND had met Diane, we could have been to this point already! LOL!

Hi Diane! Thats an interesting site and Mr Turknett has obviously put a lot of effort into creating it!

I found it very ironic, a neurologist banjo nut...... Maybe its just me!

Just a tip to those who might try using it, I have found it to run very poorly in Internet Explorer. A lot better but not perfect in Google Chrome.

Theres also a little computer app some might find useful called "The Mandolin Tool." It is also a bit quirky, and oddly named as it has useful content for Guitar, Banjo and Uke as well as Mandolin. It has a built in tuner, chord finder and a player you can load tunes into and slow down for learning those difficult passages. Its not perfect, and is missing any alternative tunings, but some might find it a useful little free tool.


Also, I have found Wayne Erbson's books very useful.


Dont take the title personally folks, he's a good guy!

I'm a big fan of his banjo books as well.

And dont forget to search Youtube, Huge resource of free instruction, some of it quite good!

Thanks MBliss,  I appreciate the advise, I'll try to check it out.

Hi Paul, Welcome,I'm an experienced player who knows almost nothing about theory.What I do know is learn the chords, learn the notes in each and train your ear VIGOROUSLY. IMO,No amount of ability can override a good ear.Get a good chord book that is visually easy,play them all....I am self taught mostly.anyone can do it.But it also doesn;t hurt to take a lesson or two.

Because I loop a bit I play rhythm and lead both mostly,I don't encounter this.

Agree w MBliss on this also being genre specific,and I think no set way to do it.Still back to listening and feeling yer way around the guitar then ,it's all about pickin and grinnin.Hope I havent utterly confused you Paul...play on

Thanks Vinnie,

I am gradually learning the chords. I hope to get the book MBliss mentioned as it looks like a good one. Appreciate you taking the time to write.

Hi Paul,

  I learned to play melody with chords by simply playing as you would a fiddle. Not full chords but double stops. Eventually you will find the right notes to add to make a reasonable chord. Take it slow and play around with the finger placement of your double stop finger. you can find some interesting chords. and when you  get to a place where you have time to do so, play a full chord. This way the melody doesn't get lost in the chord.


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