Strumming Patterns

3rd August


Strumming patterns for guitar beginners

One of the very first things – if not the first thing – you want to wrap your hands around as you begin to learn electric guitar, is to understand and be comfortable with some basic guitar strumming patterns.

And sure enough, one of the most common questions you can come across on places such as Yahoo Answers, goes something along these lines: “Can someone please help me with the strumming pattern to … I can’t figure it out.” (included is one or more songs the asker wants you to explain).

Often times the same people have tried to decipher a guitar tab for the same song/s without getting any closer to nailing the fundamental strum pattern of the tune.

Before we go any further with our guitar strumming lessons, there are two things first to be aware of…

The problems with guitar tabs

Tabs (short for tablature) for guitar can be understand as a simplified notation system and a visual representation of the notes on the fretboard. When done correctly by someone with experience and knowledge, a tab can provide you with a good, basic overview of how to play a song.  So far so good.

However, there are at least to things which often creates problems for a beginner on guitar. One is the fact that guitar tabs many times have been written by people who doesn’t “quite” get it right. At times there are so many mistakes in the tabs you find, it is not even funny.

Another thing is that the tabs miss one very important thing, the rhythmical values – the element of time and timing. These are things which is integrated in proper musical notation.

In short, you will either need to learn how to pick up things and play by ear, and also learn proper musical notation. Tabs will only get you this far, and can in fact become a real stumbling block as you begin to explore the guitar.

You have to hear as well as see the strumming pattern!

The thing that often amazes me, is how some folks think they can fully explain a rhythmic figure in words – like down, down, up, up, down, up. Seriously, how do you explain rhythm in words? It will fail miserably … unless of course it is accompanied by the proper visual and auditory representation (sight and sound) from a video or guitar teacher :-)

Picking up a basic strumming lesson

Here are some things to get you on your way to learn guitar strumming.  First pick a song which has clear sound as well as picture. It should also be pretty straight forward, slow to mid tempo, without too many instruments and complicated vocal arrangements and rhythm or tempo changes.

Now, let us assume you have learned the guitar chords to the song and can play them effortlessly. Without being concerned at all about chords or notes, begin to listen to the rhythm and how the main rhythm guitar is being strummed. Now, while you mute the strings with your fretting hand, use your pick and try to follow that rhythm! Just remember, no notes, just the pick making rhythmic figures across the strings…

If you are uncertain or confused at this point, then simply watch the great, first video below from the good folks at Next Level Guitar – it’s very informative and to the point. Oh, and even though some of this stuff is played on an acoustic, it is equally important and may just as well be done on an electric guitar :-)

Now, as you tag along, you may begin to notice how there are certain accents or rhythmic shifts- places where the chord or notes seems to be hit a little harder? For instance (in a basic 4/4 song pattern), is the first beat being more accented? This is very common… Again you will notice how this may be done in the below video.

Here are more informative and easy to follow guitar strumming lessons form the good folks at Next Level Guitar, remember to check them out when you have the time! There really is a huge amount of good, solid stuff to be picked up there.

More guitar strumming tips

Some other points to remember is to use the arm more than the wrist when you do basic strumming patterns. However, you need to be loose in the wrist so that you also involve the wrist in the strumming! If your arm and your wrist is rigid, then your strum patterns will be stiff and rigid too…

If you begin to be tired as you play along, then just take a short brake  and shake loose. It helps to let your arms hang down while you shake your hands and fingers lightly for a period of time. Remember also to do some fingers and hand stretching exercises form time to time!

The pick should be held firmly, but not overly tight, between your thumb and first finger. Too tight and you become rigid and tired fast – too loose and you’ll likely drop the pick and also have problems driving that steady rhythm home. Like everything else, this is a matter of practice over a period of time.

Like one of the above videos mention, you will eventually need to learn how to dampen the strings. Both hands can dampen the strings in various ways, including also palm muting. String damping techniques is used amongst other things to create accents and variations, and thereby interest, to your guitar strumming.

Keep it simple! Remember, some of the patterns used to strum a guitar in certain song can be very complex and have many shifts and variations. Don’t be afraid to keep things more basic and to simplify things if you get overwhelmed or confused!

Happy strumming and humming :-)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Guitar Barre Chords

22nd May


A barre chord lesson

guitar-barre-chordsMake no mistake about it – a barre chord, or bar chord as it is also (although incorrectly) called, can be a real challenge to all budding electric guitar players.

It should go without saying that it is definitely not easier to do correctly and efficiently on an acoustic guitar.

In the following, we will examine some of the ways you can alleviate things and make it easier for yourself to pull of a barre chord/bar chord without calling it quits prematurely, wanting to pull your hairs one by one out or being in urgent need of painkillers or physiotherapy :-)

There are quite a few things you can do both to your playing as well as your guitar, in order to make guitar barre chords quite a bit more manageable.

But first…

What is a barre chord?

The correct spelling of this way of playing a chord is barré. Here, you’ll commonly use your index finger (and occasionally more than one finger) to press down multiple strings across the fretboard on your guitar. You may think of the index finger being a guitar capo or a “bar” pressing the strings down, and perhaps this is where the name bar chord came from.

This action of barring the strings across the fingerboard enables you to play chords not restricted by the notes of the open strings on your guitar.

Bar chords are some times also called moveable chords: The logical reason for this, is that you can easily and quickly move the various chord shapes on the guitar neck as you see fit.

Lowering the bar

I have had several people asking me how they should go about managing these “dreaded bar chords”. In fact, I suspect more than one person has given up the idea to learn electric guitar all together simply because they didn’t manage to play barre chords at all.

The sad thing really is this: The same folks have been chocked at how much easier it could be once their guitar was properly set-up. You see, a badly adjusted guitar makes playing these chords very hard even for experienced players.

To learn more about the importance of proper guitar set-up and our recommended guitar set-up guide, you can read more at this post: Guitar setup. I can guarantee you this: You will likely be amazed at how much easier a properly adjusted guitar is to handle. It can almost be a make or brake issue as far as playing barre chords goes…

How to play barre chords

There are quite a number of small but significant things you can do to you playing technique to make these moveable bar chords easier to do. This includes how to anchor your thumb on the backside of the guitar neck, opposite of the barring finger/s; where to place and how to tilt your bar finger to get cleaner notes and more.

It is always easier to see this in a video, rather than reading a lengthy, written explanation. I reckon the below video should be very helpful to you.

(Don’t) lean into it!

Another thing you should be aware of is that many beginners tend to slump or lean over their guitar in order to see where they place their fingers.  This is a bad habit in general, and really bad for being able to play guitar barre chords properly.

What happens is that it becomes much harder to hold your anchor thumb in the proper position on the guitar neck. It is also much harder to maintain enough pressure with the fretting hand and thumb if you don’t sit straight and hold your fretting hand at a proper angle.

Take it easy!

As with everything else, it is tempting to force yourself and being impatient. Just remember that mastering bar chords takes time. No matter how good your technique is and no matter how good your guitar set-up is, it still takes time to build up sufficient strength in your hand as well as “muscle memory” and coordination.

Remember to go easy on yourself and take brakes. Do some simple barre chord exercises for half an hour maximum to begin with, then play something else (or take a brake all together)!

Follow the above guidelines and you will soon have these chords down :-)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,