Intermediate Rhythm Guitar 2

Difficulty: Green
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Now that you have been playing your 16th note rhythm a lot and got it feeling natural and easy (you been practicing a lot right??) we are going to look at a very cool and common rhythm guitar technique. Accents.

Often with 16th note style playing every note is strummed but some are accented more than others. This pattern we are checking out is a very commonly used one and once you learn it you will find you can adapt it to many situations!

Making some louder, or softer...

The easiest way to get this pattern down is to bring the accents in one at a time.

Accents are all about volume! So if you are already playing at your maximum volume, you will need to turn the whole thing down in order to hear your accents.

So a good starting point is to play all your 16th note patterns as quietly as you can. Bring it up a little, and then start by putting an accent on beat one of each bar. Just play a whole bar at medium volume with a louder (accented) note on beat one.

Make sure you can hear it clearly and the accent is coming out - if it's not it will be very difficult to progress further with this idea!

Be sure to remember:

1. You MUST keep your hand moving all the time!
2. The beats (1,2,3,4) and the ands (&) will be playing with a down strum. The 'e' and the 'a' are played with up strums.
3. Start SLOWLY and get it right, then speed it up. It's a real easy pattern to play, it just takes a few goes at getting it right to feel it and then you'll be flying...

Once you are cool with that try adding in the second accent in our pattern: it's on the "a" before 2. So you will accent beat 1, then play a regular up, a regular down, then an accented up! then just keep going with regular strums for the rest of the bar.

Make sure you are comfortable with that before adding in the next accent (the '&' after 2), get cool with that, then add the 'e' after 3, then finally the accent on 4.

You should also notice that it is playing groups of 3 until the last beat: D U D U D U D U D U D U D U D U

I find the 'groups of three' thinking the easiest for me.

It really is a very cool sounding strum pattern and this idea of accents is something that you will develop a lot as your skills develop - accents and the use of dynamics are a very important tool in a players arsenal and can make easy simple things sound awesome!

Important points & Additional Help

Thin Pick for the WIN
16th note strumming patterns are a load easier with a thin pick - so if you're struggling with a thick pick, then try this. But too thin and you'll find making the accents difficult. The .60 is about the perfect balance for me, but you might like to try a little thinner than that too.

Slowly slowly catchy monkey!
If you're struggling, slow down! Write the pattern down so it takes a whole page and follow it along with your eyes at super slow speed so you can get it right. Once you get it, you'll find the confidence gives you a boost and make the whole thing easier.

Make sure you only tap you foot on the beat
We looked at this already lots of times, the new struggle here is not to tap your foot when you are accenting three beat - it's a really common mistake - but one you will avoid if you have been good and working on tapping your foot all the time. If you struggle with it - do it slowly - and maybe take the foot out for a while if it's really throwing you off. Get the pattern right and then try and bring the foot back in!

You might find that really stamping your foot (not the one the guitar rests on!) can help - if you tap your foot too softly it's easy to get it wrong!

Playing with the metronome
Using the metronome is a good idea of course, and it will feel a little odd at first to be playing accents that are not on the beat - but once you get used to it - it feels cool to be doing that and it is the accents kinda distracting the beat (syncopation) that makes patterns like this sound so cool!

The silent strumming option
So looks on the forum that there are many people struggling with this one - particularly with getting the foot tapping consistently on the beat! So another tip that might help is the silent strum, a relatively new technique in my teaching arsenal that works great :)

So what you'll be doing is strumming away from the strings and imagining the strum accents. So put a chord down (doesn't matter which cos you won't be playing it!) and then put on metronome nice and slow - maybe 50 bpm. Then start you hand moving but not hitting the strings, keep it a few centimeters from the strings, and make sure you are locking in with the metronome and tap your foot. If you can't do this yet then don't think about adding the accents.

Once you're cool with the above, start the count and say the accented beats a little louder, give yourself time doing this to hear the accents. There are two approaches once you're good with this:

a) Jump in and try the pattern, see what happens! Keep it slow - with metronome if you can but try without if you're struggling and then get back with metronome later.

b) I've had some success with asking students to play JUST the accents, so they really get used to feeling where the accents and the foot taps go

This kind of syncopated rhythm can feel strange for many people but the good news is that once you get used to this feeling you're likely to find that other syncopated rhythms feel easier to get your head around!

The Hand Strum
This one seems silly but again, it's worked a few times when the above have failed... strum the pattern on your hand!! Put your guitar down and try playing the strumming pattern on the back of your fingers! Hold your fretting hand against your tummy and then strum it as if it was the guitar. Try to play the accents a little harder and imagine the sound of the guitar - and tap your foot - can you do it? It sometimes works because it's just a physical thing and removes the 'music' element which can be helpful for some!

Practice

The best practice you can do now is:

1. Practice playing this new pattern very slowly making sure your accents are clearly louder than the rest of the notes you play.
2. Once you can do the above, put it to a metronome (SLOWLY say 60 bpm). 
3. Try and get your foot taping on the beats (not on the accents!!).

Advanced trick...

Once you have the accents down - try using an E Shape Barre chord (lets say a B Major at the 7th fret) and instead of holding the chord down for every strum - just press hard on the accents! Every other note should just be a muted click (just relax the barre chord as if you were about to move it). Check out "Faith" by George Michael to hear it in action that way!! yes, there is one extra note in the Faith strumming pattern, the '&' after 3...

Moving On...

Next up we are going to have a look at all the notes in the open position and get a basic idea on note reading!

Further Information on 16th note strumming

If you want to get into your 16th note playing, then check out my DVD Really Useful Strumming Techniques 2 - it covers them in a lot more detail than I do in this course and has 24 of the most common patterns. Many of my students say that my two strumming DVDs changed how well they could play rhythm in a very short period of time, even those who struggled with it for many years and I believe them to be the most important of my teaching products. Worth a look me thinks!

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