Real Guitar Adventure for Grownups

How To Develop Rhythm While Strumming

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Video Transcript And Relevant Links:

Hey there, I'm Tomas Michaud from Real Guitar Success. When I was growing up, I like most people thought that either you had rhythm or you didn't. Unfortunately, I was on the more didn't side. Well I've learned different. Over the years I've come to realized that good rhythm really can be learned. I played with some great musicians who have awesome timing and rhythm and they pretty much all told me in some form or fashion that that wasn't how it was when they were growing up. Now yes, some people have more natural ability than others but that difference is much smaller than I and most people think. Really a lot of it has to do with practice, timing whether it's conscious or not. A lot of people I played with we're just brought up where they were naturally you know tapping to a rhythm or listening to rhythm and having to distinguish things that had to do with rhythm. 

So with that said, I'm gonna give you my five step system that will help you develop outstanding rhythm not just average. If you do this, you'll have outstanding rhythm especially when you're strumming the guitar. For this, we're going to use a metronome and I'm gonna use this electronic metronome. Any metronome will work. I'm gonna sit at a fairly slow speed 58 beats per minute. It's actually a little harder slower because there's more space in between the beats and that's where you get off but that's how you work it so as you get faster you're more accurate. Now first off before we even go to the metronome the first step is to have you starting right now today listening to music. And every time you do, I want you to find the beat and clap with it at least for some period of time probably several times a day and any time that you happen to listen to music even for fun.

This simple paying attention will help improve your rhythm without really having to work hard at it. You'll find it easier with songs that have a very distinct boom-boom-boom and maybe a little harder where the rhythm is a little more complex but that's part of the fun of it. Don't get discouraged just keep looking for the beat and try to tap along your foot, your hand, whatever works for you. You can even just bob your head. Don't do this and people think you don't like the music like that I was told that when I was growing up.

​There will come a time where you will be strumming a rhythm and it'll be right on that you're not even having to think about it ...

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Now the second step will involve the metronome. We're going to clap with the beat of the metronome . This is the basic starting exercise. You want to find the beat so I'll turn it on and we're just going to clap on the downbeat. Try to get it to where your clap almost drowns out the beat. Now if I'm off you can hear both very clearly. When I'm on you can almost only hear my clap. So the second part of this exercise is to add the upbeat. What I'm doing is - this is a downbeat. Now upbeat is one and two and three. There's no kick on the upbeat so that alone is a great exercise and I would encourage you to do it a little bit every day. Of course there's more complex rhythms but start with the basics and get a solid feel for where that metronome is. Once you get a good hang of it at a slower speed, try changing the speed and see how it works.

Now for the next exercise, we're going to use the guitar. It's the same idea but we're gonna use a muted strum on the guitar.  I'll show you what I mean. You put your left hand over the strings and just make it so they deaden out. You're not actually making a chord.  Turn on your metronome, my slow speed and strum down on the beat. Now you're having to incorporate things like keeping track of a pick. Make sure it doesn't fall out of your hand​ so that's the first part of the exercise.

The second part is to do the up strum too - down, up, down up, down up, down up. At this point, I would start also adding some vocalizations. Do the counting system. This is not something you do all the time or it's not mandatory but they will help you later on. I'll show you what I mean. Counting 1 and 2 and 3 and. Up is & and down is the number - 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and. Now we're ready for this third step.

The third step, we're going to do four strums per beat. We need another way to count that so I'm gonna add the E to it. It sounds like this 1 E and A. The E and the A are that added beats so here's what that sounds like. One E and a two E and the 3 E and the 4 E and the.

For this next step number four,  we're gonna up the and a little bit. Now we're gonna move the left hand to keep track. This is getting closer to what you have to do when you're changing chords. And we're gonna do a varying strumming pattern as you move your hand. It's going to look like this - 1 E and a 2 E and a 3 and 4 and 1 E and a 2 E and a 3 and 4 and. So you'll notice I'm moving my hand all the way close to the headstock and then all the way up here closer to the sound hole. I start off with that 1 E and a 2 E in the pattern. 1 E  and a 2 E and a .. and then I just do the 1 and or eight note. These are eighth notes and these would be 16 notes and two and one E and a 2 E.

Let's hear what it sounds like with the metronome. Here we go  - 1 E and the 2 E and 3 and 4 and 1 E and 2 E and 3 and 4 and 1 E and the 2 E and 3 and 4 and  1 E and the 2 E and 3 and 4.

Okay this could be challenging. Start slow. As a matter of fact, if you're really having a hard time with the one E and a two E first of all go to the previous step and practice that much but then you can start one E and two and three and four and then integrate that one E and 2 E and. And now for step number 5, what I say is somewhat optional because if you do up to steps number four and you practice it regularly your rhythms going to get better and better.  But I'm gonna have you apply it in step number five to a chord. Well start with a D chord and we're gonna move to A7. Any two chords will work. I just picked two easy chords. We're gonna go 1 E and the 2 E and 3 and 4 and 1 E and 2 E and 3 and 4.

So you'll notice what I'm doing is instead of just moving my hand I'm going to a different chord so we're doing 1 E and the 2 E and 3 and 4 and. Now I am on the D chord.  - 1 E and the 2 E and and then I go to the A7 for the next part. Let's try it with a metronome, here we go.

Now just a couple of tips, as you do these exercises go in order and work at one for a while before you move on to the next. I've seen people trying to get to the exercise #5 right away and they get frustrated cause it doesn't work. Well they didn't do the steps leading up to that. Also practice sometimes without a metronome. You don't want to get so attached to the metronome that you can't play in rhythm if you don't hear that click click so vary it up a bit but use the metronome both to test your rhythm and how well are you doing as well as to measure your speed. You can pick up the tempo of the metronome little by little and see how you're improving with speed.

Again, I encourage you to use that vocalization one and two and that'll help you when you start working out rhythm patterns but don't do it all the time also. Sometimes just feel the rhythm. Try to get it inside your body. Also use your body. Try moving a little bit with the beat or tapping your foot. And finally try to relax into it. You're trying to get the rhythm into your body and not just in your head not calculating it. It takes time, patience and practice but it pays off tremendously. There will be a time where you be strumming a rhythm and it'll be right on that you're not even having to think about it.

Thanks for joining me today. It's been a pleasure being here with you. Please wherever you're seeing this leave me a comment on Facebook, YouTube, on my blog and let me know how you liked it. If there's something else you'd like to see anything I'd love to hear from you. And if you'd like to step things up a little bit and work with me, check out my realguitarsuccess.com website.


Bye for now.

Tomas Michaud

Author - Tomas Michaud at Real Guitar Success
Tomas Michaud is an American born guitarist and music educator with a French Canadian heritage. He first developed the Starland Guitar System in 1982 when his 9 year old daughter asked him to teach her guitar. Since then he’s founded the Starland School of Music in the SF Bay Area, and RealguitarSuccess.com.

When he's not making guitar instruction videos or creating more music to record (currently 7 CDs including Beauty and Fire) he's riding his bike along the beach with his dog Marco Polo or traveling to interesting places with his lovely wife Pui.
Tomas Michaud

    1 Comment

  1. Hi Thomas – like you I am youthful,y challenged a bit at almost 70 years old but music has always been a large part of my life. I’ve been a drummer since I was 14 but a few years ago both knees developed osteoarthritis and the kick drum and hi-hat are no longer doable. I decided to pick up the guitar (electric) about a year ago and a couple of months. Having been a drumme, picking out the beat is not really a problem but when adding chords and other aspects it can get difficult to keep up with. This 5 step method of yours will be very helpful so that I will be able to solidify my strumming patterns. Thank. You very much – S Sparrow

    Steve Sparrow

    February 26, 2019

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