Trad Backup Guitar

Guitar as played most often at sessions. Chord selection, right hand techniques, tunings, etc.

Members: 77
Latest Activity: Apr 29, 2020

Discussion Forum

Any experts in DADGAD here ? Cara live - Mike's Ride

Started by Phalaina. Last reply by Frank Kilkelly Mar 16, 2016. 3 Replies

Hi !Probably a big challenge for most guitar players to find the right tuning and chords used in this brilliant piece of music by Cara, Mike's Ride :…Continue

Tags: chords, tabs, experts, guitar, Ride

Mícheál O' Domhnaill at the 1981 Milwaukee festival

Started by Tradconnect Reviews. Last reply by Jean Banwarth Jan 28, 2015. 2 Replies

This is an interesting clip of Míchéal O' Domhnaill at the 1981 Milwaukee festival for you guitar playersContinue

Guitar Cords in DADGAD or Dropped D

Started by Tradconnect Reviews. Last reply by Richie Lloyd Jan 31, 2013. 16 Replies

Would anyone have a good guide to guitar cords in DADGAD or Dropped d, by Key with good cord progressions, alternative positions etc. Can only find the Michael Eskin one's online. Most guides don't…Continue

Tags: traditional, music, irish, guitar, dadgad

Playing session tunes on guitar

Started by Paul Dengate. Last reply by Paul Dengate Sep 5, 2012. 4 Replies

After playing backup guitar in sessions for quite a number of years, about a year ago I thought I’d start learning to play some of the popular session tunes at session speed. I had a number of…Continue

Tags: tune, session, guitar, music, traditional

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Comment by Bruce Evans on November 1, 2011 at 15:50

How many of you choose to play 7th chords in your backup and how many avoid them completely?

Comment by Bruce Evans on September 12, 2011 at 16:51

I have finally found a video example of another style of backup guitar on which I would like to have a bit of discussion. I cannot post a URL directly to it, but it is on this page:

Scroll about half way down the page to a small video on the right side labeled

Paul Conlon playing a tune called The London Lassies. The guitar player in this vid is identified elsewhere on the same page as Eoin Coughlan. In this video he is accompanying the whistle player in a style which I have been trying to understand. I usually associate this style of backup more with Cape Breton music, but these musicians are in Dublin. 


It seems that he is playing his guitar in standard tuning but instead of playing only the implied harmony, he is improvising on the harmonized scale for the key the tune is in. I have experimented with this idea a bit, but in a session with more than one backup player it would be chaos. Can somebody comment on this style? 

Comment by Bruce Evans on September 7, 2011 at 11:03

I learned to play guitar during the “Folk Music Scare” and the “British Invasion” of the 60s here in the U.S. I also became interested in jazz while I was in college and that still has some influence on my playing today. I play in standard tuning. I have briefly – very briefly – experimented with drop D and DADGAD but I haven’t found enough attraction to cause me to continue, perhaps because I play my guitar in other styles in addition to Irish Trad. I play mostly with a flat pick in a rhythmic and occasionally syncopated style, although I do accompany myself in fingertstyle on a few ballads with perhaps an instrumental interlude between sung verses. I play mostly an alternating bass line along with short connecting scale passages.


In accompanying fiddle tunes during a session, I play mostly first position open chords, but here’s where that jazz influence starts to creep in. I love playing 7th chords where I can, and I learned in jazz that a minor 7th chord whose root is the 5th of a dominant 7th chord can be “substituted” for the dom 7th. I don’t often completely substitute the minor 7th, but rather just precede the dominant chord with the minor 7th. For example:

D D G G  A7 A7  D D

will become

D D G G Em7 A7 D D


The jazz influence also shows up in my choice of “color” chords. In our sessions there is almost always more than one guitar player. I will not debate the merits or pitfalls of that now. That’s just the way it is here. When I feel the need to enhance the tonal variety I will play a color chord which does not clash with what the other backup musicians are playing. For instance, if the tune is in G I might play a G6 chord. Major 7th and Add 9 chords also fit into that bag of tricks.


OK, I have so much more I could write, but that's enough for now. How do you do it? 

Comment by Bruce Evans on August 31, 2011 at 15:03

Davy, when I started this group I also wanted to start a parallel group called Trad Melody Guitar (or solo, or something similar). The site administrator suggested we go with just one group to begin with, and I agreed. I called this one Backup guitar because I have seen on other sites where the subject is Irish/Celtic guitar the DADGAD fingerstyle players seem to take over and speak disparagingly of the "strummers," and effectively discourage those people from participating. 


I love the solo style of playing but I wanted to have a place where it is OK to ask about first position chords and strumming patterns. At least on our side of the pond, that is how guitar is played most often in sessions. So please post as you will and I hope that there is enough participation to create that other group. 

Comment by Davy Rogers on August 28, 2011 at 20:15

I thought I'd add an example here of guitar as a melody and backing instrument (fingerstyle) using DADGAD and standard EADGBE tunings. Maybe this isn't the place for this as the title of this group is "Trad. Backup Guitar". I thought I'd add this anyway to demonstrate how the guitar can be used for melody playing along with an integral bassline. If anyone's interested in finding out more about fingerstyle guitar, may I suggest browsing my website: Davy Rogers' Traditional Irish Guitar TABs and MIDIs

guitarist Donal Clancy playing "Garret Barry's" and "The Humours of...


guitarist Jean Barnwarth playing "The Blackbird"

Comment by Bruce Evans on August 28, 2011 at 17:35
My apologies to those who had to wait  few days for group approval. I have been at a music festival since last Thursday. I am home now and I think I have caught up with my duties.
Comment by Tradconnect Reviews on August 25, 2011 at 16:40
I will see if I can get any contact details. Don't hold your breath though.
Comment by Bruce Evans on August 25, 2011 at 12:09
I just listened to the video a couple times and Mr. Courell certainly isn't playing the melody of tune - perhaps an improvised counter melody. Tony, is it possible you could contact Mr. Courell and have him contribute as a visiting expert?
Comment by Bruce Evans on August 25, 2011 at 11:40
Tony, do you think he is playing melody, not chordal backup? When the tune starts he seems to be actively listening as if he isn't familiar with the it.
Comment by Tradconnect Reviews on August 25, 2011 at 10:11


The second guitar player is Declan Courell who I went to school with many years ago. A fine player now. Saw him at the Fleadh again this year. Pretty sure he plays in DADGAD which lends itself to a much more quieter style of playing, with the melody being picked out a lot rather than the straight rythmn of the 1st. 


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