Chop chord

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In music, a chop chord is a "clipped backbeat". [3] [4] In 4
: 1 2 3 4. It is a muted chord that marks the off-beats or upbeats. [5] As a rhythm guitar and mandolin technique, it is accomplished through chucking, in which the chord is muted by lifting the fretting fingers immediately after strumming, producing a percussive effect.


The chop is analogous to a snare drum beat and keeps the rhythm together and moving. It's one of the innovations bluegrass inventor Bill Monroe pioneered, and it gave the music a harder groove and separated it from old-time and mountain music.

Bruce Dix [6]

Traditional bluegrass bands typically do not have a drummer, and the timekeeping role is shared between several instruments. The upright bass generally plays the on-beats, while the banjo keeps a steady eighth-note rhythm. The mandolin plays chop chords on the off-beats or upbeats. [7] (see: boom-chick) By partially relaxing the fingers of the left hand soon after strumming, the strings are allowed to rise off the frets, and their oscillations are damped by the fingers. All strings are stopped (fingered); open strings are not played in chop chords.

The offbeat was played on the piano in rhythm and blues "shuffle" style, as heard in songs like Louis Jordan's "It's a Low-Down Dirty Shame" (1942) and Professor Longhair's "Wille Mae" (1949). This popular, danceable shuffle style was present on many early rock and roll records. It was played on the electric guitar at least as early as 1950 by Robert Kelton on Jimmy McCracklin's "Rockin' All Day." Either played on the guitar, piano or both, the "chop", "chuck" or "skank" offbeat eventually influenced Jamaican rhythm and blues of the 1950s, which morphed into ska in late 1962, then rocksteady and reggae, all of which featured the offbeat "chuck" or "skank" guitar.


The "chuck" usually consists of a downward strum on the up beat notes. Alternatively, the bass note can be played and allowed to ring, with the remainder of the chord being "chucked" on the up beat. [8] This technique is usually used in a rhythmically simple manner, such as chucking on every beat, or bass notes on down beats and chucking on up beats.[ citation needed ] Freddie Green and Django Reinhardt are known for this technique.[ citation needed ]


Mandolin "chunks", or more commonly known as "chops", rarely include a down-beat strum. When a mandolin is playing rhythm it is most often in conjunction with other instruments, such as guitar and bass, which produce the main beat. The mandolin contributes to the rhythm by producing a sharp "chunk" on the upbeat notes. [9] This is particularly common when playing bluegrass music. According to Andy Statman, "the mandolin can drive and push the band in the same way (as) a snare drum." [10]


The chop was introduced to fiddle playing by Richard Greene in the 1960s. [11]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Guitar Fretted string instrument

The guitar is a fretted musical instrument that usually has six strings. It is typically played with both hands by strumming or plucking the strings with either a guitar pick or the fingers/fingernails of one hand, while simultaneously fretting with the fingers of the other hand. The sound of the vibrating strings is projected either acoustically, by means of the hollow chamber of the guitar, or through an electrical amplifier and a speaker.

Jazz guitar Jazz instrument and associated playing style

The term jazz guitar may refer to either a type of electric guitar or to the variety of guitar playing styles used in the various genres which are commonly termed "jazz". The jazz-type guitar was born as a result of using electric amplification to increase the volume of conventional acoustic guitars.

Rhythm guitar Guitar used to provide rhythm

In music performances, rhythm guitar is a technique and role that performs a combination of two functions: to provide all or part of the rhythmic pulse in conjunction with other instruments from the rhythm section ; and to provide all or part of the harmony, i.e. the chords from a song's chord progression, where a chord is a group of notes played together. Therefore, the basic technique of rhythm guitar is to hold down a series of chords with the fretting hand while strumming or fingerpicking rhythmically with the other hand. More developed rhythm techniques include arpeggios, damping, riffs, chord solos, and complex strums.

Steel guitar

A steel guitar is any guitar played while moving a steel bar or similar hard object against plucked strings. The bar itself is called a "steel" and is the source of the name "steel guitar". The instrument differs from a conventional guitar in that it does not use frets; conceptually, it is somewhat akin to playing a guitar with one finger. Known for its portamento capabilities, gliding smoothly over every pitch between notes, the instrument can produce a sinuous crying sound and deep vibrato emulating the human singing voice. Typically, the strings are plucked by the fingers of the dominant hand, while the steel tone bar is pressed lightly against the strings and moved by the opposite hand.


Clawhammer, sometimes called frailing, is a distinctive banjo playing style and a common component of American old-time music.

Appalachian dulcimer fretted string instrument

The Appalachian dulcimer is a fretted string instrument of the zither family, typically with three or four strings, originally played in the Appalachian region of the United States. The body extends the length of the fingerboard, and its fretting is generally diatonic.

Rhythm section

A rhythm section is a group of musicians within a music ensemble or band that provides the underlying rhythm, harmony and pulse of the accompaniment, providing a rhythmic and harmonic reference and "beat" for the rest of the band. The rhythm section is often contrasted with the roles of other musicians in the band, such as the lead guitarist or lead vocals whose primary job is to carry the melody.

Fingerstyle guitar

Fingerstyle guitar is the technique of playing the guitar or bass guitar by plucking the strings directly with the fingertips, fingernails, or picks attached to fingers, as opposed to flatpicking. The term "fingerstyle" is something of a misnomer, since it is present in several different genres and styles of music—but mostly, because it involves a completely different technique, not just a "style" of playing, especially for the guitarist's picking/plucking hand. The term is often used synonymously with fingerpicking except in classical guitar circles, although fingerpicking can also refer to a specific tradition of folk, blues and country guitar playing in the US. The terms "fingerstyle" and "fingerpicking" also applied to similar string instruments such as the banjo.

In music, a breakdown is part of a song in which various instruments have solo parts (breaks). This may take the form of all instruments playing the verse together, and then several or all instruments individually repeating the verse as solo parts.


In music, strumming is a way of playing a stringed instrument such as a guitar, ukulele, or mandolin. A strum or stroke is a sweeping action where a finger or plectrum brushes over several strings to generate sound. On most stringed instruments, strums are typically executed by a musician's designated strum hand, while the remaining hand often supports the strum hand by altering the tones and pitches of any given strum.


Flatpicking is the technique of striking the strings of a guitar with a pick held between the thumb and one or two fingers. It can be contrasted to fingerstyle guitar, which is playing with individual fingers, with or without wearing fingerpicks. While the use of a plectrum is common in many musical traditions, the exact term "flatpicking" is most commonly associated with Appalachian music of the American southeastern highlands, especially bluegrass music, where string bands often feature musicians playing a variety of styles, both fingerpicking and flatpicking. Musicians who use a flat pick in other genres such as rock and jazz are not commonly described as flatpickers or even plectrum guitarists. As the use of a pick in those traditions is commonplace, generally only guitarists who play without a pick are noted by the term "fingerpicking" or "fingerstyle".

Left-hand muting is a performance technique for stringed instruments, where the vibration of a string is damped by the left hand.

Flamenco guitar Acoustic guitar used in Flamenco music

A flamenco guitar is a guitar similar to a classical guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. It usually has nylon strings, as opposed to steel. It generally possesses a livelier, more gritty sound compared to the classical guitar. It is used in toque, the guitar-playing part of the art of flamenco.

Guitar picking

Guitar picking is a group of hand and finger techniques a guitarist uses to set guitar strings in motion to produce audible notes. These techniques involve plucking, strumming, brushing, etc. Picking can be done with:

Ghost note Musical note with a rhythmic value, but no discernible pitch

In music, a ghost note is a musical note with a rhythmic value, but no discernible pitch when played. In musical notation, this is represented by an "X" for a note head instead of an oval, or parentheses around the note head. It should not be confused with the X-shaped notation that raises a note to a double sharp.

The ska stroke up or ska upstroke, skank or bang, is a guitar strumming technique that is used mostly in the performance of ska, rocksteady, and reggae music. It is derived from a form of rhythm and blues arrangement called the shuffle, a popular style in Jamaican blues parties of the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

Open chord

In music for stringed instruments, especially guitar, an open chord is a chord that includes one or more strings that are not fingered. An open string vibrates freely, whereas a fingered string will be partially damped unless fingered with considerable pressure, which is difficult for beginner players. In an open chord the unfingered strings are undamped, and the player is able to exert maximum pressure on the fretted strings, to avoid unwanted damping. On a regular six-string guitar, an open chord can have from one to six open strings sounding. In contrast, all of the strings are fingered for a barre chord, which requires greater technique to be allowed to ring freely. To damp a barre chord, a player simply needs to relax the fingers. Fully damping an open chord requires the player to roll the fingers of the left hand over the open strings, or else damp with the right hand.

Banjo roll

In bluegrass music, a banjo roll or roll is a pattern played by the banjo that uses a repeating eighth-note arpeggio – a broken chord – that by subdividing the beat 'keeps time'. "Each ["standard"] roll pattern is a right hand fingering pattern, consisting of eight (eighth) notes, which can be played while holding any chord position with the left hand."

Bluegrass mandolin

Bluegrass mandolin is a style of mandolin playing most commonly heard in bluegrass bands.


  1. "Introduction to the 'Chop'", Anger, Darol. Strad (0039-2049); 10/01/2006, Vol. 117 Issue 1398, p72-75.
  2. Horne, Greg (2004). Beginning Mandolin: The Complete Mandolin Method, p.61. Alfred. ISBN   9780739034712.
  3. Bruce, Dix (2013). Parking Lot Picker's Play-Along Guitar, p.14. Mel Bay. ISBN   9781619114463.
  4. Bruce, Dix (2010). Getting Into Bluegrass Mandolin, p.18. Mel Bay. ISBN   9781610651196.
  5. "Mandolin Glossary: Chop Chord". Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  6. Bruce (2013), p.16.
  7. "Chop Chords" (PDF). 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 August 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  8. Dziuba, Mark (1997). Blues Guitar , [ page needed ]. Alfred Music Publishing. ISBN   9780882848495.
  9. "Bluegrass Instruments: Mandolins", Accessed August 7, 2014.[ self-published source? ]
  10. Statman, Andy (1978). Teach Yourself Bluegrass Mandolin, [ page needed ]. Amsco Music Company, New York. ISBN   9780825603266.
  11. "How A Sore Wrist And A Fondness For 'Noise' Forever Changed The Way The Violin Is Played".