RhythmStrumming: A New, yet Old Way of Playing the Acoustic Guitar
If you've ever played guitar, you are probably familiar with the question, “what style of music do you play”? Most people usually say something like rock, folk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, or maybe just shrug, and say something like “I don't know...,” or “I'm not really sure...”
Personally, I’ve never felt comfortable being asked this question because I don’t have an answer that would both mean something to people and be accurate at the same time. I like almost all styles of music, but I play them in a way that, until now, hasn't really had a name. After years of watching other guitarists and asking questions, I made the decision to call this style of guitar playing RhythmStrumming.
At this point, you might be wondering, what exactly is RhythmStrumming, and how do I learn how to do it?
Well, let me explain.
You're all familiar with the terms lead guitarist, and rhythm guitarist right? Well for those of you who don't already know, a lead guitar player typically plays single note fills, or solos as a part of the front, or lead section of the band, and a rhythm guitarist usually plays 2 - 6 strings at a time in a series of chord progressions as a part of the band's background, or rhythm section.
But what if a guitarist is playing alone, or accompanying a singer? In these settings, just a lead line, or just a few chord progressions can sound rather inadequate. At the very least, strumming needs to be embellished, and well defined in order to serve as a satisfying “comp” (accompaniment), or stand alone piece.
By incorporating some drum set like rhythmic accents, a basic strum can be instantly transformed into a stylized, stand-alone piece, or accompaniment. Since this approach relies most heavily on rhythm for it to sound good, I decided to call it RhythmStrumming.
Every other aspect of a guitarist’s performance can drop out, including bass fills, lead lines, and chords, but only when the rhythm drops out will the music be totally lost. Every piece of music contains a rhythmic “pulse,” and all of the temporal spaces between the pulses are known as “subdivisions.” You can think of the pulse as the part of the music you’d move your body to if you were dancing. In rock music, for example, the pulse is known as the “backbeat” and usually occurs on beats two, and four of every measure, or bar, of a song that is played with four beats per measure. The subdivisions are defined as all the smaller rhythmic parts, or accents both on, and between the pulses.
If you were playing an egg shaker with the tune, each sound of the shaker would be considered a rhythmic subdivision. If you want to play guitar as a RhythmStrummer, try to think of your up-and-down right-hand strokes as the subdivisions: they would match the sounds of an egg shaker, if it were present. Everything else you do should be thought of as an added layer to this underlying groove.
You can easily begin to understand this method by turning your radio dial to any rock station, and tapping your hand or foot along with the rhythm. Once you are comfortable with that, try to transfer that tapping to your right hand on the guitar strings, with or without a pick. All you have to do is mute the strings with your left hand by lightly touching them so only a percussive sound comes out when you strike them with your right hand – we don't want any notes or tones here. Imagine you are the drummer for a band, except you are creating a constant beat by strumming on your guitar, instead of on the drums.
Make sure you relax your right arm as much as possible and consciously feel the up-and-down motion, trying to make it as graceful and consistent as possible, as if your hand is dancing to the beat. Practicing this cannot be overdone, and it’s vitally important to getting a good rhythmic feel on your guitar. Once this becomes easy, you can let some of the strokes drop out, and they will still sound implied, as if there’s an egg shaker, or Moracca going on in the background of the listener’s imagination.
To get started with RhythmStrumming, please visit our website at http://RhythmStrummer.com, and check out some of our acoustic guitar lessons. We have plenty of free content available, including easy to learn acoustic guitar songs, techniques, and a free wordpress blog that's full of unique, and interesting classic rock videos, blues videos, fun music history facts, stories, and a few surprises every now, and again.
Of course, all of our lessons reinforce the unique concept of RhythmStrumming, and when applied properly, are guaranteed to improve your overall rhythm, musicianship, and also make you a better guitarist. Please feel free to contact us directly through RhythmStrummer.com's homepage, facebook, or twitter if you have any questions, comments, or ideas you would like to share with us. Happy strumming! - Jennifer Martin