Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dynamics Are The Secret to Strumming

The dead giveaway of a brand new guitarist is that their strumming has no oomph. No personality.

Every beat, every strum has the same emphasis. It sounds mechanical. Unmusical. The best description is that it is lifeless.

Think of a heartbeat. The pulse of life doesn't go:

'BUMP BUMP... BUMP BUMP... BUMP BUMP....'

Instead, it goes:

'BUMP Bump... BUMP Bump... BUMP Bump....'


The difference? Dynamics. Loudness. Life.

Not all beats are the same: Some deserve more emphasis than others.

I encourage my beginners to start practicing dynamics as soon as possible. If not in the first lesson, then in the first few weeks.

Playing some simple dynamics immediately brings a smile to the face of a beginner student. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the plodding chords they've been plunking become animated. What was once a boring ├ętude is now music.

Once you've got your rest stroke down, the very next thing you can do to improve the sounds you are getting out of your instrument its to work on dynamics. Here are some simple exercises to get started playing dynamically.

First, a simple four strums to the bar rhythm with no dynamic marking. A G chord is indicated, but you can use any chord:



The > in this example is an accent mark. It indicates for you to make the first strum of these four strums louder.

Play this example and it goes 'STRUM strum strum strum':




Play this until it's comfortable and easy. Concentrate on making the quieter strums REALLY quiet. That's tricky to do.

The next example has TWO accent marks on the odd beats, so this one goes 'STRUM strum STRUM strum':



This one turns the beat around. The dynamic accent marks are on the even beats 2 and 4, giving you a nice snappy backbeat:



Not all music divides into 2's and 4's, though. 3 is, as they say, the magic number. Try a 3/4 rhythm with a little accent on the first beat, and BOOM, it's waltz time!

'STRUM strum strum STRUM strum strum':



Throw a little curve by accenting the second beat:



Now that you've got the basics down, try something a little trickier.

'STRUM strum strum STRUM strum strum STRUM strum' or

ONE two three FOUR one two THREE four:



Try thinking up some combinations and grooves of your own combining different groups of 2 (STRUM strum) and 3 (STRUM strum strum).

You could apply dynamics to your up strums, too. Hmmm?

Have fun! L'Chaim!

***

dcguitar.com
Advancing Guitar Lessons: Washington, D.C.
Professional Musical Fun for Beginners and Beyond

1 comments :

Anonymous said...

Great post. Check out John Frusciante's strumming in the song Soul to Squeeze. He's just strumming chords during the second half of the song, so how interesting could it be? But he does it with such attitude that it passes for some truly bitchin' guitar playing - even if he is still just playing chords!

Post a Comment

Hello Internet Guitar Pickerdom,

Thanks for reading.

I love seeing strangers say hello at a party, don't you?

So please leave a comment. Say hi.

Even better, ask a musical question about the lesson above.

I might even answer you. Who knows?

Please don't spam me.

Thanks,

dc

Popular Posts

Jam Classes

.38 Special #mm 12 Bar blues 930 club accra acoustic guitar adele advancing guitar lesson aeolian Aerosmith agbekor alexandria VA amazon.com American Idol Andy Summers arlen roth Arlington arlington guitar lessons arlington VA augmented sixth chords baritone slide guitar barre chords Baseball bass bass wanted beginner beginner chords beginner guitar lessons Blink 182 blink-182 blues blues guitar Bo Diddley bob seger breast cancer breast cancer benefit brian eno CCR changing chords cheap trick chord transitions chris martin classic rock coldplay comping count basie country guitar creativity creedence clearwater Revival CSI D.C. david bowie dcguitar dcguitar.com dcguitarlessons death metal derek trucks Diddley Beat diddley bow dire straits dorian drumming earl slick easy guitar ECM eddie van halen electric guitar elvis costello every ewe falls church VA fear of music fever finger style guitar fingerstyle guitar first chords folk guitar Foo Fighters forming chords franz ferdinand freddie green free beginner guitar lessons free concert free downloads free guitar lessons free guitar tab free guitar tablature free music free music lessons fun fundraiser funk funk guitar gear review ghana gimme shelter girl talk gospel music guitar guitar accessory guitar anti-lesson guitar effects guitar hero Guitar Lesson guitar lessons guitar lessons washington D.C. guitar review guitar slide guitar tab guitar voice leading guns n' roses Hallelujah Hank Williams harmonic experience harmony hendrix chord hey jude holiday raffle Home how to practice humor hybrid picking Improvisation ipod management ipod playlists it might get loud jackass guitar lessons knoxville dcguitar jam class chuck berry johnny b. goode jam band jam class jambalaya Jazz jazz comping jazz guitar jazz guitar lesson jazz theory Jeff Buckley jim hall Jimi Hendrix jimmy page Joe Perry john mayer johnny cash johnny marr joke Jonny Buckland julia cameron k Keith Richards Kids music kinewe Law and Order led zeppelin left hand muting lesson video lessons live music blog live music review Lost lou reed lyrics Margot MacDonald mark knopfler masters of the telecaster merriweather post pavillion Michael Jackson Mick Goodrick mick jagger modes muscle memory Music music lessons music review music theory music theory lesson music videos new gear new music octave displacement online guitar lessons open position palm muting paul mccartney paul simon tribute show strathmore peggy lee performance anxiety pete townshend Phillip Phillips phrygian physics police tour Polyrhythms power chords presale code proud mary Purple Haze radiohead rave ray brown reading music red house reggae relaxation rest strokes rhythm changes rhythm guitar rhythmic displacement right hand muting ringo starr rlington VA robbie fulks robert johnson rock guitar rock guitar lessons rockband rockville MD rolling stones roxanne scales Scarborough Fair slide slide guitar slide guitar washington dc guitar lessons "washington dc guitar lessons" arlington va smart playlists solfege songwriting stay positive stephen davis Stevie Ray Vaughan Stewart Copeland Sting stride guitar strum strumming surf guitar surfaris take me out to the ball game taking back sunday talking heads tear teardrop the artist's way the beatles The Black Keys the edge The Grand Candy the hold steady the national The Police the rolling stones the smiths the white stripes the who thebravery tina turner Tour triads twelve bar blues twitter twitter guitar lessons u2 van halen Venus Virgin Fest voice leading W.A. Mathieu walk the line washington washington D.C. washington D.C. guitar lessons washington guitar lessons waterfall Weaving weaving rhythms weezer when the saints come marching in mississippi john hurt who windham hill wipeout writing youtube zen guitar lessons arlington va dcguitar jamclass zz top

Jam Class and Lesson Rates

DC Guitar's Jam Class offers top notch group and private guitar, bass, songwriting and music theory lessons for the Washington, DC Community.

Please email for current lesson rates.

Be sure to ask about Jam Class, too.