We received this email from a reader of Andy’s column in Worship Leader Magazine:
“I literally just pulled the March/April issue of Worship Leader from my mail box and I had to read “How to teach beginners guitar”, I’ve been struggling for some time now with one of our musicians. He doesn’t get the idea that strum patterns can change from one song to another. He insists on doing things his way and no matter how any times he screws in a service he still won’t write done his strum patterns on his music. Myself (the sound guy) and other guitarists have tried to explain.
Will your DVD package teach to any of this?”
Well produced songs all have an intrinsic groove that should stay consistent all the way through and that’s what his strumming pattern should emulate. Essentially a strumming pattern should be a drum rhythm lined up with the chords. Basically the crossover where rhythm meets harmony. The groove itself is often best identified by the combination of the kick, snare and hi hat pattern. So start with getting him to listen to the kick drum. Generally it’ll be placed on beats 1 and 3. Beat 3 is often the most crucial as the kick might be placed before beat 3, on it, after it, or a combination of before, on or after. Then listen to whereabouts the snare drum is played, again before, on or after beats 2 and 4. Next try and work out what the hi hats are playing. Are they on the quarter notes, 8th notes or 16th notes? The more subdivisions the hats play, the more movement the groove will have. The groove itself isnt randomly chosen by the drummer however. What the drummer is picking up on is the repetitive accents in the ryhthm of the melody. One of the hallmarks of well written songs are interesting but repetitive rhythms in the vocal line. you’ll find these rhythms subtly repeat themselves time and again all the way through the verses, chorus’s, bridges etc. Thats one element in what makes a song catchy.
So just as the drummer creates his or her groove by listening to the vocal rhythms the guitarist has to do the same – Even moreso if there’s no drummer. Its simply not musical for a guitar player to think “I know these 3 strumming patterns so the song is gonna fit one of these”. Actually as musicians we listen to the song and fit around its rhythm, not the other way around! A typical example might be a Brenton Brown song like ‘Everlasting God’ or ‘Your Love is Amazing’. Brenton tends to put a lot of natural ‘pushes’ into his melodies. Your love is a…mazing, and un…changing etc etc. Its these pushes that that will inform where the kick drum is played and therefore where the accents and crucially the pauses in the strumming pattern go.
One key thing is to keep the strumming hand moving at all times. If he typically plays a 16th note strumming rhythm (marked 1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a) his arm will be moving 4 times per beat and 16 times per bar. Therefore he should naturally strum down on the beats (1,2,3,4) and the &’s. The e’s and the a’s will therefore all be upstrums and those upstrums are the accents that give the sense of pushes in a song so by keeping the hand moving it should naturally pick up on all the right elements.
I wouldnt be so concerned about him being able to write the pattern down as he may not know how to, but a competent musician should have the listening skills to pick out something that fits with the groove on the fly.
Our Intermediate Acoustic DVD package covers that quite extensively with about 35 different strumming patterns and a section on how to find the right pattern in every song. Certainly going through that course should help a lot, as long as he’s willing to learn.
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