WHO IS THE LESSON INTENDED FOR
This lesson is intended for beginners who are just starting out on guitar.
Can play all the examples in the first strumming lesson.
This lesson will go into basic strumming patterns with the chords you have learned in the last three lessons. Being able to play different rhythms when strumming between chords is an essential skill.
If you can play the examples in the first strumming lesson, you will be able to play a great number of popular songs. Many of them use simple strumming patterns like the ones we looked at. This lesson will look at more complicated strumming patterns so you can build a better sense of rhythm. You can choose to play any chords you feel comfortable with. To learn all the essential chords on guitar, we recommend you check out the 50 Essential Chords Pack over at the Tempo Music Cards’ website which will help you learn 50 chords chosen for beginners.
ANOTHER WAY OF COUNTING
In the last lesson we looked at counting the rhythm by saying out loud 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. This should be fine in most situations. However, there are many situations where people will have trouble playing the rhythm properly counting this way. When we play eigth notes or sixteenth notes (don’t worry if you don’t know what that means yet) we are playing notes that are inbetween the numbers we count. If you had trouble playing the last couple of examples in the last lesson you will find this way of counting easier.
This time instead of splitting the bar up into four numbers, we split it into four numbers and four words. We count the following when the bar is in 4/4 time: “1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and”. The numbers are the exact same as the other method. The only difference is we add an ‘and’ in between every number. So this time when there is a chord to be played in between the numbers, we have a better idea when to play it.
This pattern uses a few eighth notes and a dotted quarter note. If you try playing this pattern while using the 1, 2, 3, 4 counting method, you may have trouble playing the eighth notes at the right time. Have a go playing this pattern using the 1 and 2 and… pattern. That way you know when you have to strum those eighth notes.
Although it looks like there is a gap in the counting, there shouldn’t be when you count it out loud. It should be completely seamless. Remember that after you count ‘4 and’ you go back to 1, not 5. Don’t forget to count the ‘and’ after 4. The tough chords in this piece are played at the second ‘and’ in the first bar and the third ‘and’ in the second bar. These are tricky because you feel comfortable strumming on the numbers, not the ‘ands’.
Take your time learning this piece on your own and when you think you can play it properly, check out the video demonstration to see how close you were. If you can play along to the video, then you know it well.
This time we are going to look at playing ‘rests’ in between the chords. Rests are when there is no sound being played. To play the rest properly in this pattern (that black squiggly curve), we take our right hand and touch all the strings so the chord stops ringing out. Practice playing a chord and then stopping the sound quickly with your hand. It takes a bit of coordination to do this while keeping a steady rhythm.
The first two examples have been in 4/4 time (four four). You can see the two 4s stacked on top of each other straight after the treble clef. This piece is in 3/4 time (three four). You can see the 3 stacked on top of the 4. This is a very common time signature (not as common as 4/4). The difference this time is that instead of counting 1, 2, 3, 4, you only count up to 3. So for this piece you can count 1, 2, 3, or you can count 1 and 2 and 3 and. So pay attention whenever you look at some sheet music so you know what you need to count to. If another musician says to you ‘this song is in three four’, you will know you only count up to three before going back to one. There are other time signatures such as 6/8 2/4 5/4 and plenty of others. We will look at them in the future because they are not as common as 4/4 and 3/4.
As you can see I have not included the numbers above the music. This is so you can have practice figuring out the rhythm on your own. If after trying a few times you can’t figure it out, have a look at the video demonstration to hear how it is counted.
By now you should have a good ability to strum between the chords and change the rhythm. Before trying this next example, have a go combining the first three patterns together in as many different ways you can.
Unfortunately, when you look up guitar tabs or chords on the internet, what you will normally find are not as detailed as the examples I provide in my lessons. Sometimes you will just be given the chord names and nothing else. So for this example I will write a few chord names and you need to come up with a couple patterns yourself. Take a piece of paper out. Now write the numbers 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and across the top of the page twice. Evenly space the four chord names C, Em across the page above both numbers 1.
Your page should look like this:
Now underneath the numbers, Put a slash / wherever you want to play a chord. You can place the slash directly under the numbers or directly under the +. Start off simple and then have a go making more complicated rhythms.
Here is an example for what you could do:
Have a look at the video demonstration to hear how this would be played. If you don’t know how to write the rhythms in proper standard notation, this method is a simple way of writing down any patterns you come up with. Use a different symbol whenever you want to have a rest (maybe use a R or X).
My experience with more complicated strumming patterns:
Playing basic strumming patterns is pretty simple and yet I see so many guitarists not able to keep a steady rhythm. I have jammed with many other guitarists and are amazed at how many of them can play fairly complicated solos and lead parts but have trouble playing in time with other musicians. Although I love playing lead and solos, I continue to focus on developing my rhythm ability. By trying to strum complicated rhythms and playing in different time signatures, I improve my sense of timing which helps my rhythm and lead playing.
I recommend every player devote time to develop their rhythm ability. Even if you want to be the next Joe Satriani or other amazing lead player, develop your rhythm skills.
Adding rests and playing chords on the ‘and’ can make your playing a whole lot more interesting rather than just strumming a basic 1 2 3 4. If you have trouble with these examples, take it slow. If you find it easy, great! Continue to develop those skills and combine these patterns and make up your own patterns. Remember, it is one thing to play examples that I have written here. It is very different to come up with your own and play them properly. When you come up with your own patterns, try to write them down so you don’t forget how to play them.
If you are comfortable with all the lessons so far, you are ready to look at some new techniques. Stay tuned for upcoming lessons that look at how to make your playing sound even more interesting.
Aaron is an instructor at Tempo Music Cards – a top resource for anybody learning guitar. Provides educational flash cards to help you learn all the essential chords on guitar, a must for beginners. See the website for backing tracks, video lessons, tips and hints, text lessons and more.