Numbing Strumming: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Rhythm"
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Warford here, Editorial Manager for Guitar Tips.
hard to believe how fast the end of August seems to be coming.
Before we know it, September will be here and it will be time
to get back into our normal routines. Before all of that happens,
I thought now would be a good time to give you a mini encyclopedia
on rhythm to help you over come some of the challenges you are
warn you, this the longest lesson we've ever put out in any
our newsletters. We wanted to give you something that you could
call upon when you get stuck. It's designed with the beginner
in mind but has a little something for everyone. We hope you
how to incorporate your lead guitar techniques with rhythm to
give you the sound you've been dreaming of. Get past the days
of the boring down and up strumming patterns and learn how to
make the simple sound complex, without breaking a sweat!
have brand new items to review in our "Severe Gear Premiere"
that will spark interest in players of all skill levels. Learn
a little bit about the history on the product and how to stands
up against the rest.
out our feedback booth to see what your fellow subscribers are
saying. This week we have plenty of comments on the new implementation
of video, as well as some questions that I will answer.
top off all of this, we have details to share with you on our
next newsletter, where you will get to read about becoming a
pro and how to get there. We've landing an exclusive interview
with Jimmy Bruno who will share some of his feelings on the
all that in mind, get to it!
The Record Straight
it seems so hard...
you pick up the guitar to play a song, one of the most frustrating
problems you may face is strumming. Rhythm isn't easy, I won't
lie. For some people it comes very naturally and others just
have to work that extra little bit to get where they want to
can also be a hindrance to your self-esteem. I remember plenty
of instances when I started out where I lost the rhythm in the
middle of playing a song with musicians who were much better
than I. It didn't exactly feel like I had won the lottery. However,
it doesn't have to be this way.
are neat little tricks and solutions to the problems that you
face. Some of them are so small that it's hard to imagine them
even making the slightest impact on your sound. These are the
cunning edge techniques that will launch you into the
the tools you can use.
we think rhythm, we normally think strumming. That's half the
battle and one that we'll deal with more in depth further on.
First things first, take a look at your setup. The settings
you have on your guitar and amp, as well as the pick you are
using will affect the tone and sound you produce.
don't want that sharp, ear rattling lead guitar sound when playing
rhythm. The reason for this is because it overloads the amp
and in turn produces a muddy, indistinguishable sound. The goal
with rhythm is to get a sound that blends each of the notes
you play equally to produce a clear tone. You want to hear blended
unlike scales or chords, there are many different settings for
rhythm that can be used for many different styles of music.
Using your tone knobs and pickup selector switch, not to mention
the settings on your amplifier, you can create a unique tone
that is perfect for playing the perfect rhythm.
are equally important. It takes trial and error to find the
picks that fit your style. Rarely will I use just one particular
pick but rather a mixture of different gauges and manufacturers.
Personally, I do not believe in the old adage "Thinner
picks are for strumming and heavier are for lead." I use
to teach that method until I came to realize that I could get
a way better sound for my style using heavier gauge picks.
are measured in millimeters and that's how we identify how thick
or "heavy" it is. Surface area also plays a role.
Picks can have different surface areas but normally follow the
same shape, although that too is changing over time.
Dunlop is the leader is pick manufacturing and has a pick for
every style and every tone you could imagine. I highly suggest
that you go to your local music store and check some of them
out! Lets run through the most popular picks and see which one
best suites you.
finger pick: The finger pick is usually used for folk
music and is best utilized with an acoustic guitar. Over the
last week I have been play testing one to give you a review
and found that it was almost impossible to use on my electric
without scratching it up.
it was great on the acoustic and really gave me a chance to
learn how to use my other fingers. Naturally this isn't my strong
point so it took some practice but the end result was pretty
cool. Now I understand why country guitarists' tend to use this
style of pick... You can really pick up the speed (no pun intended!)
"Stubby":This is my personal favorite.
Many of the recordings you hear on this site that are done by
me include the stubby. It's an extremely thick pick at 3.00mm
but it adds a very controlled feeling to any piece of music
that you are playing, not to mention the leads.
many experts would recommend against using this pick for rhythm,
I have had amazing results. When playing I feel ultimate control
which gives me a better rhythm and a more percussive "snap"
to the music I'm playing. You do, however, need to hold it at
a slight angle to avoid breaking strings. I have never broken
a single string because of a stubby, so I encourage you to give
them a try.
you don't like the tiny size, they come with a larger surface
area as well.
steel pick: If you're looking for a metallic sound,
your not going to get much closer than this. Made of pure steel
(or copper, depending on where you get them) these picks are
truly unique. I personally wouldn't use them on a regular basis
but they were a lot of fun to try out. They may be for you if
you like the tone but it will take a little getting used to.
find that they produce more of a scratchy sound when used on
the coiled strings, which can be a bad thing or a good thing
depending on what style you are playing.
strumming pick: These picks are usually thinner and
the gauge will probably be under 60mm. You can't beat them if
you're looking to blend chords together and produce a soothing
rhythm. I also like them for rock because they make smooth transitions
between odd chords a snap. Many of you are probably using this
pick right now, which is perfect for this lesson.
can effectively recreate many different styles and produce a
great sound with these picks.
series picks' : These picks have a rounded tip, instead
of a sharper edge. This makes the music you play sound deep
and silky. Very nice for the more mellow tunes you may want
to play. I use it all of the time for some of the older jazz
standards. Jim Dunlop offers different series of these picks
and some do have a sharper edge, so if you're looking for the
smoother edge, make sure that's what you pick up.
thumb and index finger: Try pinching your string, pulling
it and letting it go. You get a really cool "pop"
that resembles a bass guitar. You can get amazing effects using
your fingers for any style of music. From blazing tapping, to
finger style country, your fingers are the cheapest and can
be the most effective tool that you have.
are also a lot of other new picks coming out that break the
stereotype of size and shape. Some are hit and miss but it's
worth giving them a shot.
techniques you need to know.
rhythm guitar leaves the player with literally hundreds of directions
to go in. There's an infinite array of different rhythms and
strumming patterns out there but how do you get that desired
sound? The answer involves using a few different techniques
Strumming is the foundation to becoming a great rhythm player
but it also tends to hold players up and limit creativity. Don't
let this be a daunting task for you! Pick up your guitar right
now and lets dive into this step by step. Points to remember
looking at strumming patterns, the notation directing you
to strum up looks like "^" and the notation directing
you to strum down looks like an everyday table.
you are playing an acoustic, remember to strum directly
over the sound hole. Strumming in different places will
give you different sounds but we'll cover that later on.
For now, keep it simple and stick to one location and this
will give you the best projection. The same applies to electric
players at this point.
note of what your strumming hand is doing. Make sure you
are using your wrists to strum and not your entire arm.
This conserves a lot of energy and helps you do more intricate
things. Keep your wrists relatively firm.
really, really hard isn't going to do much for your tone
or ears. Try to keep it at a medium level. You don't want
to sound too wimpy but sounding to loud can lead to undesirable
buzzing sounds. Striking a good medium will give you a nice
So now take a basic chord progression, lets say G, D, and A
minor. If you don't know these chords, click
here to look them up. Strum each chord four times starting
on an upstroke and ending on a down stroke. So the pattern for
each chord would be up, down, up, down.
how it looks and sounds:
that we have that under control, try to mix it up a little bit.
Instead of going up, down, up, down... try the reverse and do
down, up, down, up. Here's how it looks and sounds:
the rhythms that set you apart isn't as difficult as you may
think. Now that we have our chord progression and a basic strumming
pattern, we can manipulate the strumming pattern to give us
a song that we have heard many times before.
the down, up pattern and double the up strums so it looks and
sounds something like this:
This is only my interpretation of the song.
you have it, you have just performed "Knocking On Heavens
Door." Congratulations! It wasn't that bad was it? If you
want to try something different, then reverse the strum pattern
and double the down strums. You could also include some pauses
and other subtle things.
helpful tip is to pretend that your arm is the arm of a metronome.
Consistently strum down and up at a steady speed. From there
you have a doorway to hundreds of strumming patterns.
huge problem that tends to be reoccurring amongst many beginners
is transitioning between chords. Some of you may have heard
of the "Ghost chord," which basically is a cheat where
you do a quick open strum while you try to find your next chord.
fine if you're just getting started but try to lean away from
that as quickly as possible. Another reason for its popularity
is because it makes strumming easier. For the above strumming
patterns you may have noticed how seamless it sounded but you're
sitting there thinking, "What on earth is he doing to get
that, mine sounds so chopped up."
I'm doing is adding in a quick strum, roughly the length of
a second. It's so short but covers up the gap as I switch the
chords. Strum up or down (depending on the piece) right before
you switch the chord. Then when you land on the new chord, you
repeat the previous strumming pattern all over again. This way
you eliminate the need to play a ghost chord. It takes a little
practice but you can achieve that in no time.
these alternative strumming patterns for all kinds of different
styles of music. You will notice that I don't play it exactly
like the music is written. There's plenty of room for making
it your own, these are just starting points. Make them your
own and add in your personal rhythmic style.
consist of up strums.
You may notice how some of the above examples have certain strums
that sound louder and more powerful than others. This is called
targeting or "Accenting" the strum. When you are strumming
and playing in time, you can make a down or up strum sound louder
by hitting it harder. When playing along side of drums, it helps
keep the tempo moving in the music and sounds far better than
just the normal strumming pattern.
perform this, take a strumming pattern and play it repeatedly.
Then pick a certain strum out of that pattern that you plan
on accenting and hit it harder. If you're playing in a band
setting, the accent should be in time with the bass drum or
the snare drum.
your fingers to the beat: If you are playing a song that
has a more complex rhythm and you don't want it to sound like
mud, this is a tiny trick that many people use without even
knowing it. Strum whatever strumming pattern you choose (you
can accent if you wish.)
every up strum and for every down strum, slightly move your
fingers off of the chord you are holding. Don't disconnect your
fingers, rather temporarily mute them. It happens so quickly
that you don't hear the mute but you do hear more clear and
distinguishable rhythm. This is very helpful when trying to
nail a rhythm that needs more spunk.
normally used in conjunction with palm mutes so you can get
quick rests in your music, or make the notes shorter (staccato.)
Mutes: If you recall our last lesson, we covered how to
play palm mutes for lead guitar. Now we're going to transfer
those skills over to rhythm and chords.
an everyday chord like E Major and make the chord shape. Then
place your palm on the bridge and ensure that it's lying over
the strings you wish you mute, which in this particular case
would be all of them.
you simply run your pick over the strings. That's one application
of a palm mute but honestly, I don't see it as practical considering
the amount of times you will actually palm mute an entire open
chord. That application is great for picking out a rhythm or
for power chords.
I prefer to use is the full six string style mute technique
for it isn't strumming but rather the opposite... "Choking"
the note. This effect stops the ringing of the chord immediately
and will give your music a very percussive feel. Basically,
in it's simplest form it just makes for a simple rest but it
can really add a lot to your music.
is a sample of how it looks, along with some video:
can also palm mute power chords with awesome results! Another
fun application of this technique is to palm mute half of a
chord, then pick out the rest.
On's: Hammer on's are not just for lead guitar. In fact,
I can honestly say they sound just as good used in chords. It
adds a new flavor to your playing that makes your music sound
more intricate and technically advanced. You can incorporate
hammer on's by actually hammering on the entire chord or individual
notes. If you're not sure how to perform a normal hammer on,
then click here to get up to speed.
playing chords, there's normally a "box" around that
chord where you can place a free finger to change the chord
slightly to add in something extra. One very famous song that
utilizes that is "Dust In The Wind" by Kansas. They
take everyday mundane chords and add on certain notes with their
can do this too. Lets take your average D chord and D7. Both
of these chords are practically identical except for the E string,
where the F# changes to a G to form that D7 chord. This is the
perfect distance for an effortless hammer on. Take this video
clip as an example:
are some chords that take little to no effort to hammer on a
note to change the chord and add that touch:
the notes: Using your fingers or your pick to individually
pluck out the notes can result in a piece of music that is truly
beautiful and speaks to your audience. Using hammer on's and
pull off's in this situation also adds to the music and is normally
where I use them the most.
are many different picking patterns out there. Making your own
can be quite simple! It doesn't have to be a virtuoso picking
pattern to sound good. Often, I will just pick the strings out
one at a time in a very simple rhythm and when coupled with
the right chord, it can sound extremely eloquent.
how it looks and sounds:
your previous knowledge and use it:
now and then I'll come across someone who asks "How do
you do that trick, I have no clue." The funny thing is,
they do. For example, we took hammer on's from lead guitar and
applied them beautifully to rhythm. What's to stop us from taking
harmonics and placing them in our music? Perhaps you think out
of the box, develop your own technique!
give you my word that you can apply just about every technique
from lead guitar into rhythm. No, it won't sound the same simply
because you are using them for a different purpose but the end
result will be impressive nonetheless.
is a video I put together to illustrate that for you. Hope you
It All Together...
this lesson we have been using relatively simple chords to show
you how to perform these techniques correctly. Now it's time
to put this into action. For this edition I decided to take
things a little mellow and show you how some simple picking
and strumming patterns can make all of the difference.
Kind of Love Song"
it's time for us to get into some gear! This week we have quite
a lineup that is sure to get you thinking. Guitar Trader has
sent along some products with blow out prices for you to check
out and for us to review. So lets get started.
GT-6 Multi Effects Proc. w/ 30 Amp Models
are, when you think of effects pedals, you think of one legendary
company by the name of Boss. This company has a standard that
is set extremely high with a record that proves they don't make
faulty equipment. They have been around for 25 years and are
known as the company with the indestructible stomp boxes and
the great sound.
only do they make great effect pedals but they also know their
way around a recording studio. Click
here to check out their site and learn more.
GT-6 is any guitarists' dream. It has numerous inputs and outputs
for the recording studio, live sound and private jam sessions
as well as having a multitude of different amp settings and
customizable effects. I regularly play the big brother of the
GT-6, the GT-8.
the options for sound are amazing and the applications incredible,
there is one warning that comes with this rig and that is the
learning curve. The GT-6 has a better reputation than its big
brother for this but there's still a lot to be learned. The
best way to do it is sit down with the manual and learn the
basic functions then head out on your own and try a bunch of
different options. If you can't find a sound that's right for
you, there's something seriously wrong.
your guitar is naturally hot (meaning pickups but if it looks
that good, that's cool too) then this pedal can compensate with
a few quick adjustments, which is a really nice option to have.
The truth is, if you master the GT-6, you won't need any other
pedals. It has built in wah, a great volume pedal that's always
turned on, built in tuner, midi processing, 340 effects which
include all of boss's original pedals and more.
I think this is the most economical and sensible route for many
guitarists to take. It's professional quality and Boss didn't
skimp on anything with this piece of equipment. However, having
gigged with this piece of gear, I personally prefer not to use
them. I'm addicted to the classic sounds of the individual stompbox
and I don't care what anyone says... you just can't beat that.
Plus, I love to step on them.
not putting down the GT-6, it's just not for people like myself.
No one piece of gear will tickle everyone's fancy but my opinion
is that this one appeals to most.
you want a guitar for playing metal, chances are you have taken
a look at what BC Rich has to offer you. This guitar is definitely
a metal guitar and I can personally attest to that. When played
clean, this guitar has a natural growl to it that comes through
the amp and adds that signature attitude.
of the things this company should be noted for is it's consideration
for those who are on a budget. They make high end guitars as
well but have recently targeted the lower spectrum and beefed
up their quality. This starter pack is ideal for anyone who
wants to give the guitar a try and wants a heavier sound and
looks that could kill.
will eventually out grow it and find yourself looking for a
guitar with better tone woods and pickups but for starting off
and getting the fundamentals down, this guitar could be the
end of your search.
with any starter pack, you need to be on the look out for lemons.
Every company has them and it's a real let down if you end up
with one. Ask to have it taken out and get one of the professionals
in the store to play it for you, so you can truly hear what
it sounds like. Get their opinion before heading to the checkout.
also enjoyed this guitar's thinner neck. It felt nice in my
hands and was easy to navigate to the higher range, where notes
can be choked off on other guitars. Other than the normal warnings
that come with packages, this guitar is worth taking a look
I saw this little beauty on my list of things to review, I automatically
knew it was a winner. Fender has one of the most interesting
histories of any guitar company in existence. Leo Fender started
out this company by developing the broadcaster, which was then
renamed the Telecastor and was the first solid body Spanish
style guitar to be put into mass production (source: www.fender.com.)
Fender knew what he was doing and fine tuned the process to
produce some of the most acclaimed instruments of today's society.
Not only can you trust this company for a quality product and
awesome sound but you can look to them for many of your guitarist's
needs. They offer a full line of products for their guitars
the Fender chorus, you have many different tone options to shape
your sound and give you that creamy warmth that every amplifier
should. It's tight on the lower end but still fills the room.
The effects are disputed as being mediocre and perhaps they
are when compared to a Boss effect pedals but for the money
you are paying, the quality is incredible.
clean tones are absolutely beautiful and add color and vibrance
to anything you play. It's a tone that is hard to match for
a solid state amp. If you are a clean jazz player or are into
the blues, this amp was made for you.
tend to have a hard time getting past the solid state aspect
of the deal and find that the distortion is ok on the amp but
really needs a pedal to get it where it should be. Keep in mind
this is all personal preference. After hearing, playing and
seeing what others have to say, this amp is worth the money
simply for its clean tone.
the last two weeks we have had an overwhelming response to the
new introduction of video into our lessons. We truly appreciate
all of your feedback and inspirational comments. If you feel
like you have something to say, send me an email and you might
find yourself featured on our site. Good or bad, we like to
know what you think of the site and how you're doing with your
week we're going to start off with a sample of the positive
emails with regards to the introduction of video:
Bennett was one of the first to email us with regards to the
Fantastic new addition to the newsletter from the videos They
really helped me understand the different techniques much better.
Keep up the good work and thanks! Best
wishes from UK Regards,
Hand writes to us with this:
just wanted to say that your video in the newsletter was a stroke
of genius. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Jaymen"
Deveruex emailed us with his thoughts:
weeks newsletter has been awesome! I hope you keep them rolling.They
are just magical how they can help you learn and so fast. Thank
you! P.S. The videos in the newsletters are a great idea keep
this is a good site, the video really helps. Don't change a
thing, it's perfect! Thank you very much for sending me these
newsletters. Take it easy, Jim"
"Frank" Atanacio had this inspirational email to encourage me:
was amazed that a woman won the guitar tips promotion. Please
extend my congratulations to her. You're truly amazing because
you have a monumental patience and perseverance in handling
whatever things assigned you want to do. Just keep going because
you're making a lot of people happy in sharing guitar lessons
Pometto writes to us with this:
newsletter is just perfect! I was really struggling with these
concepts because I couldn't visualize what was meant, I had
not been playing as much. Vacation time came around and I picked
up the guitar again, but I still couldn't figure out how to
get to the next level with these techniques. Your e-mail arrived
a day or so later. I'll definitely be spending more time practicing
the new "tricks". Thanks,
Ahmad has this very popular question:
for the e-mail, but I'm confused a little. Is there any charge
if I learn guitar off your mail or is this all free?"
newsletter is 100% free and you can opt out at anytime. Our
memberships to get into the "Members only area" do
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you do give to us is used only for our purposes and is 100%
Kirk writes to us with this question:
you for passing me some good info about playing guitar. Even
though I'm not paying for your membership, I say the lessons
are great and I have no problem except one thing... Why are
all the lessons now being redirected to your webpage? Is it
just so that people buy the membership or what? I feel disappointed
reason why we do this isn't to get you onto our site, rather
so we can offer you more. Our email system was swamped and broadband
was being eaten up. There's no way we could get through the
video, audio and pictures to you without crashing. Plus, it
fills up your email inbox and uses up your space as well. Another
point that was though of is that you couldn't go back on all
of our previous articles as you would probably have deleted
this answers all of your guys' questions!
next time, keep on rocking!
BY GUITAR TIPS
If you've always wanted to learn to play the guitar but
never had the chance, give me 17 minutes a day for 90 days
and I'll show you how to play virtually any song you want!