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 Questions and Answers 3

26th December


Your Guitar Questions Answered, Part 3

guitar question and answersYes friends, it’s indeed time for another round of our common guitar questions and answers.

Anyone keen on how to learn electric guitar as stress free as possible should definitely check them out!

As always, please feel free to leave your question in the comment field below or contact me. Remember, there are no stupid questions, just bad answers.

Fasten your seat belts, strap on your guitar and let’s get rocking!

Help choosing an electric guitar

Q: Can you help me pick out a good electric guitar? I’m all new to this…

—-<>—-

A: Any answer to a question like this one is basically down to a matter of personal preference. What might appeal to me doesn’t always go down at all with someone else.

However, if you stick to the better known guitar brands from reputable dealers, you are less likely to run into any major problems or regrets.

The best piece of advice I can give is this: Visit your nearest well equipped music store and try out as many instruments as possible. Also, you may want to ask friends and perhaps other musicians if you can try their guitar … just briefly to get a feel for how it sits, the weight and balance, the overall sound, etc.

Most people you don’t know will probably not let you play their instrument just like that. If so, then politely ask if they would do you a favor and very briefly demonstrate how it plays and sounds. Don’t forget to ask other players why they chose that particular guitar to begin with. Most guitar players are cool and they will try to help you if you just ask.

There are some basic, yet major differences between guitars. You have the guitars with single coil pickups (like the ones you’ll see on most Fenders) and then you have humbuckers (like most Gibson guitars are equipped with).

Then you have all sorts of combinations and add-ons – like scale/vibrating string length (longer, shorter), wood types, neck styles and neck angles, finishes, hardware and controls, vibrato system or hard-tail instruments, fret board wood types … on and on it goes :-)

It somehow boils down to this: Having both, I can assure you some of my cheap guitars plays just as well as very expensive ones. Just changing the pick-ups, hardware and electronics on a lower cost guitar these days, and then having it properly adjusted/set up, will most likely give you a whole lot of guitar for your hard earned cash.

Me, I play mostly my cheaper guitars live – somewhat modded, I should add. If you tried one of my second hand and quite cheap Teles or Strats, you might very well think they were ten times their actual price.

Fresh out of the box, most low-cost guitars may not sound or play like much. As much as anything, this is due to the fact that the better instruments come set up from the factory or shop for great playing comfort!

Can’t really hammer this down – do get some qualified help in a reputable store or by someone who knows what he/she is doing. Then, try out as many guitars as you possibly can.

Tips on how to become better at playing guitar

Q: Any specific tips on how I can become a better guitar player? I’m a little past the absolute beginner guitar level.

—-<>—-

A: One of the keys (pun intended) to mastering the guitar is to get the scales and patterns “under your skin”. You might for instance begin slowly to practice the major and pentatonic scales in all positions.

Gradually work up your speed as long as you can stay relaxed and get an even sound from all notes. If you make mistakes, then just back up and start over.

When you have a basic feel for the neck and how to position your fingers, you might want to learn what notes you are playing in all scales and positions on the fingerboard.

This will build a reference or frame to understand how you can transpose things which are working in one key to another key or to another song all together. Also, knowing the notes, scales, patterns, chords etc. makes it easy to  communicate properly with other musicians who don’t play guitar.

I tend to advice beginners at times to use a metronome, click or similar, to better learn timing and flow.

It is considered important (at least I think so) to understand the structure of the songs that you play along to. What key is it in; any intro; how many verses; where’s the chorus; does it have a bridge, is it transposed from one key to another, time signatures etc?

You might want to try to play a song in another key. Why not slow it down or speed it up a little (or a lot). It is quite surprising how the overall feel changes when you change the tempo!

You should definitely learn the chord positions are all over the fretboard. Doing inversions – playing a chord on say the three or four lower strings as opposed to other strings – or playing higher or lower on the neck … how does the same chord or pattern sound and feel?

A capo is something you might want to try. It sure changes the feel and sound of your guitar! If you are adventurous, you might even try to change to an alternate (open) tuning, G or D (or A, E) are the most common ones.

Also try out playing both with your fingers as well as a pick – again, way different sound and feel :-)

Interacting (playing) with others will always be beneficial, in particular if they are better than yourself and the chemistry is good. You’ll quickly begin to pick up new stuff in addition to learn interaction, how to listen to time shifts, how other musicians are playing on and off your own ideas, how to stay in the groove and much more. Important for sure!

Oh, and let us not forget, lots of practice and then practice some more :-)

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