September 28

Easy Reggae Strumming Tutorial for Beginners

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It's important as a guitar player to learn as many styles of music as you can. The more styles you learn the more rounded you'll be as a player. It's also nice to be able to understand and appreciate styles of music, even if you don't listen to them. 

Reggae is no exception. Guitars play a small but important role in Reggae. And the techniques used will help your rhythm playing in other styles of music too. I'm going to show you two versions of the standard Reggae strum. One will be easier and the other will be a little more challenging.

Simple Reggae Strum

(jump to 0:50 in the video to hear this strum)

The first thing to understand about Reggae guitar is the the accents are on the off beats. Instead of starting on the 1 of the measure (the first beat) the strums follow the off beats. What this looks like in a measure is playing on the 2 and 4 beats. 

The 1 and 3 beats are muted. You can strum the muted strings, or just leave it empty. Right now it's easier to add the mute. 

One signature of Reggae guitar is choking the chords. That means cutting off the ringing right away. That adds a considerable rhythmic element to the song.

Bass Note Reggae Strum

Let's build off the Simple Reggae Strum. Instead of muting the first beat of the measure we're going to do a muted note. Muted notes are a great technique to learn on their own. If you haven't played a muted note, here's how to do it.

Place your right palm on your guitar strings. Try to get the side of your hand on the strings in a way that you can still pick strings. With your palm down play the open 5th string. The note should be muffled, but still have sustain. If it rings too much you'll need to move your hand away from the bridge. If it's too choked you'll need to move your hand towards the bridge.

It takes some time to find the perfect spot. Jump to 4:50 in the video to hear what it should sound like, and hear the Bass Note Reggae Strum rhythm. Practice this for a bit and then continue on.

The only difference in the pattern is the 1 beat will be a muted open 5th string instead of a muted strum. 

Switching Chords

The play-along track has a chord pattern of A to D. It's based on a Bob Marley song called Three Little Birds, and will be a great way to practice the progression. This all starts at 8:08 in the video and I recommend checking it out before moving on.

If the bass notes are too complicated, then leave them out. It's better to get the pattern down first and add the bass notes in later. This is true for anything you learn. Start simple and add in the other elements later. 

Take your time with this and spend some time with the play-along track. The play-along tracks are a great way to dial in your technique with other musicians. Metronomes are great and important, but these play-along tracks can be more rewarding to practice to.  

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If you enjoyed this lesson and want to see other lessons like this, and have access to more play along tracks, check out my Real Guitar Success program.

Tomas Michaud
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