This lesson is a branch from Area 3 from the Playbook for Beginners and Beyond main lesson. Visit the main lesson to see my philosophy on the five different areas of learning to play.
As a tool to help you with strumming patterns, remember this truth about all forms of modern music. The main emphasis is usually, and I mean in the vast majority of pop 4/4music, on beats 1 and 3. On 1 more so than 3. Go ahead. Listen to anything easy listening on the radio, and you'll see it's true.
So when we get into patterns, keep this truth in mind and it will help gel it for you.
You've already been practicing two different strumming patterns. Yes, the '1, 2, 3, 4' and '1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and' patterns. So let's take a look at those first. To help put some good rhythm perspective on this, take the '1 ,2 ,3 ,4' pattern, the quarter note pattern, using all downstrokes. Now play it while giving emphases on the 1 and 3 beats. More so on the 1 than the 3. Do this until you have a feel for giving emphases to the beats.
And now take the eighth note pattern. Using the same downstrokes for the 'numbers' and upstrokes for the 'and's, do the same thing and give emphases to the 1st and 3rd beats. More so the 1st than the 3rd. '1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and'.
For some of you, these last two exercises will be quite challenging for a while. Hey, I'll let you in on a little secret. You'll be working on good rhythm the rest of your guitar playing life. Take your time now and learn this. Don't go forward until you're comfortable with the information.
More Strumming Patterns
Okay, so now you're beginning to understand a bit about using your ear to decipher patterns of your favorite songs. There are several different strumming schemes out there. Even though the majority of the songs are in 4/4 time there are some variations, and some of those are according to genre. Let's explore a few of these 4/4 patterns. These are just basic, mind you. I'm not trying to put any of these genres 'in a box'. 'D' equals 'down' for downstroke, and 'U' equals 'up' for upstroke. I'll give you two measures in a row. Each will contain the same strumming strokes, but will help you feel the flow.
Folk and Country
Remember about the beat emphases on beats 1 and 3. With this pattern, also try the emphases on beats 2 and 4. There are songs that use this style, too.
Rock and Metal - 1
There are many varying themes on beat emphases in rock and metal. One is, the emphasis is on the 1 of each measure. Another one is that the emphasis is only on the '1' of the first measure and not the '1' on the second measure. Another one has the emphasis on each 1 and 3.
Rock and Metal - 2
A variation on this theme is actually playing downstrokes on the 3 and 4, but still only emphasizing the upstrokes on the 'and's. But almost always, you'll hear an emphasis on the first down beat of each measure.
Reggae and Ska - 1
This example is from more of ska-type songs where they'll be rocking out and then all of a sudden the song changes tempo to more of a reggae-type beat. Often times you'll hear the downbeats as well as the upbeats, but the upbeats will be emphasized.
Reggae and Ska - 2
This example is more like what you might hear from the Police, where you won't hear any downbeats at all, but you'll definitely hear the upbeats emphasized.
This last one is an example of mixtures of styles. Some might call it 'world'. Oh well, call me what you want, just don't call me late for dinner.
Actually, some very tame and everyday pop beats can be derived from this pattern, depending on emphases. For example, try the 'normal' emphases on the 1 and 3 beats. Next try emphases on all numbers.
And lastly, with the use of syncopation (giving different emphasis on beats you might not expect, some on the down beat, some on the ups, for example) you can change this, and all of these patterns, into completely different animals. You might also be able to take the pattern above and cut the value of the 1st beat in half in comparison to the other numbers, and then you'll have some sort of 'swing' beat.
For an explanation of what a swing beat is, another lesson author here can explain it better than I could:
And here's a thread here at GfB&B about syncopation.
In Part 3 we'll talk about homework, conclusions and references.