In this guitar lesson we will break down the classic boom-chuck pattern heard throughout American roots music and begin to use it on songs.
This is the third lesson in our strumming basics series with Cathy Fink. The first lesson is “3 Simple Tips to Get Better at Strumming.” The second is “How to Add Variety to Basic Guitar Strumming Patterns and Use Them When Playing Songs.”
LEARN THE BASIC PATTERNS
If you have been following this series, you have learned how to use the flatpick for a whole bunch of different strums. In this lesson, you’ll start adding individual bass notes to get the boom-chuck sound heard in classic country, bluegrass, and folk music, which will help add variety to your strumming.
Start by holding down a C chord and picking just the root note—the C on string 5, fret 3. Use a downward motion, with your picking hand coming out just a little bit after sounding the note. Next, alternate between that single C note on beats 1 and 3, and downward chord strums on the upper strings on 2 and 4, as shown in Example 1a.
To make things a little more interesting, switch between the root and the fifth, or the G on string 6, fret 3 (Example 1b). Get this in your muscle memory and you’ll have the basic boom-chuck strum down. For variety, you can add upward strums on the “ands” of beats 2 and 4. Aim for the top two or three strings on the chords, as notated in Example 1c. You don’t need to be too exacting here; because you are holding down the C chord with your fretting fingers, whichever strings you strum will sound good. Next, try the same thing but add two more upward strums, on the “ands” of beats 1 and 3 (Example 1d). It might take a little time to get fluent with these strums, but keep at it, as they are essential accompaniment patterns for any acoustic guitarist.
EXTEND THE PATTERNS
Now try the same moves on an F chord. Don’t worry if you can’t yet play this shape with your first finger barred across all six strings—you can work around it with the five-note shape shown in Example 2a and play the bass notes with the root on string 4 (third-fret F) and fifth on string 5 (third-fret C). I like to keep my fourth finger on the F and third finger on the C throughout, but you can also do it by moving your third finger between those two low notes. In any case, once you get the hang of it, try adding strums on the “ands,” as shown in Examples 2b and 2c.
Once you’re comfortable playing the boom-chuck pattern on the F, try it on a G chord. The root is now the G on string 6, fret 3, and the fifth is the open D string—see Examples 3a–c for a few different strumming variations on this chord. Make sure that you are comfortable playing boom-chuck patterns on C, F, and G chords before moving on.
PLAY SOME TUNES
Now let’s use the boom-chuck pattern on a portion of a traditional song you learned in a previous lesson, “Waterbound” (Example 4). Start with a walkup on the bottom two strings—G, A, B—always a nice way to begin a tune. Notice the quick chord changes in bars 6 and 7—C–F and C–G, respectively. If needed, practice those changes on their own until you can play them smoothly. After you can play the whole excerpt continuously, try adding some of those upstroke strums seen in previous examples.
While all of this lesson’s examples have been in 4/4 time up to this point, you can also use the boom-chuck pattern in 3/4, or waltz time. Example 5 demonstrates how to do so with another traditional song, “In the Pines.” The basic idea is to play a bass note on beat 1, followed by strums on 2 and 3, and you can throw in upstroke strums on the “ands” as you like. Another fun thing to do is to add walkups between chords, like in Example 6, based on the progression of Ex. 5, where a bass line in bar 2 connects the G and C chords in the surrounding measures.
Now that you’ve taken your strumming to the next level, try using these boom-chuck patterns when playing your favorite songs!
This lesson is one of six included in The Acoustic Guitar Guide to Strumming by Cathy Fink, available to download instantly in the Acoustic Guitar Store.
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