Play Scratch Rhythms on the Backbeat

A great way to add a percussive pop to your rhythm patterns is to play scratch rhythms on beats two and four of each measure, simulating the sound of a backbeat snare drum.

A great way to add a percussive pop to your rhythm patterns is to play scratch rhythms on beats two and four of each measure, simulating the sound of a backbeat snare drum. Example 4a shows how you might do this for a thick C chord. Make sure to damp all the strings on beats two and four by lifting your fretting-hand fingers off the strings just enough so that they don’t ring out as you strum through. You can add extra pop by slapping the underside of your picking hand against the strings at the moment your pick connects.

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The straight-ahead groove in Example 4a is reminiscent of many songs, like Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of “The Midnight Special,” for instance. But you can use this backbeat scratch rhythm on a huge variety of grooves, like the slow and funky pattern in Example 4b. Keep fretting each chord while strumming the prescribed pattern. For the scratch strums, damp the strings with your fretting hand while you simultaneously slap them with your picking hand, just as we did for Example 4a. You’ll find that you may naturally damp a few strums on either side of these percussive strums, which is fine; just don’t accent these strums as much as the damped ones, and you’ll achieve the desired effect.

Andrew DuBrock
Andrew DuBrock

Singer-songwriter Andrew DuBrock was the music editor for Acoustic Guitar from 1999 to 2007 and wrote the popular book + video guide Acoustic Rock Basics.

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