By Josh Workman Chapter 1: Create Smooth Transitions Between Chords Chapter 2: Working with a Metronome Chapter 3: Listening to the Beat Chapter 4: Basic Syncopated Strumming Chapter 5: Unlocking Complex Rhythms Chapter 6: Barre Chords Chapter 7: Swinging the Beat Chapter 8: Genre-Specific Rhythmic Ideas Chapter 9: Arpeggio Picking Chapter 10: Adding Melody to Chords Chapter 1 Create Smooth Transitions Between Chords https://vimeo.com/701476006 When you start learning to play the guitar, there are two important goals to keep in mind that tend to separate the lifelong players from those who never quite develop their calluses. The first is learning how to play a handful of useful major and minor chords cleanly and effectively, minimizing the familiar clicks and buzzes we are all prone to when we start. The second involves moving cleanly from each chord to the next, maintaining a buzz-free sound while keeping a steady beat. In this lesson we’ll look at some techniques for getting a clean sound on the guitar while learning several new chords and combining them with others to make strong rhythm patterns. Proper Fretting Technique Since chord transitions don’t do us much good without a strong foundation, let’s review the proper technique for fretting open-position chords. First let’s look at the G chord in Example 1. Try fretting the chord and then assess your fretting-hand thumb position—you generally want your thumb to rest on the back of the neck, near the center between the bass and treble edges of the fingerboard. That allows you to fret the strings with the tips of your fingers, so that each note rings out longer and more clearly than if you were to fret it with the fleshy part of your finger. You’ll achieve the strongest, richest sound if you place each fretting finger just behind the fret. If the fingers are too far away from the fret, you’ll find it harder to push down and will likely get dead notes and buzzing strings. If you place your finger directly on the fret, you will get a muted sound. Without worrying about transitions (for now), play each chord in Example 2 one at a time, striving for the best sound possible. Form each chord shape and play each string in succession from lowest to highest, slowly. If you hear any buzzing strings or muted notes, take a close look at your fretting hand to see if any fingers are too far away from the desired fret or preventing adjacent strings from ringing out. Concentrate on applying enough pressure with each finger to achieve a solid, buzz-free sound, but keep your touch light enough that you avoid fatigue. To test this out, pluck each fretted note of a chord repeatedly, gradually releasing pressure until you hear a buzz. Then reapply just enough pressure for the buzz to disappear, and strum through all of the strings in one stroke. If you hear anything amiss, go back and check the individual strings again—and keep at it! Move Between Two Shapes Everyone who has ever held a guitar has experienced the difficulty learning to transition between chords. It’s not surprising, when you think about how many different things are happening: your brain and hands are trying to keep a good tone in the chord you’re on, remember the shape of one you’re moving toward, and tell each finger where it needs to go, all while listening to how everything sounds together. The key to learning anything effectively is slow, concentrated practice—to paraphrase some folk wisdom, “The slower you learn, the slower you forget.” By putting in the hard work now, you’re learning skills that will continue to serve you for the rest of your guitar-playing career. Let’s get started by looking at an easy shift back and forth between two chords. Example 3 walks us through a transition from G to C and back. You might know some alternate ways to fret a G chord, but for this exercise, we’re going to use a fingering that starts with the ring finger on the sixth string. Fret that first chord shape and notice how similar it is to a C chord. As you prepare to make the transition, try to visualize where each of your fingers is heading instead of placing each finger one at a time. Let go of the G shape and allow your fingers to hover over the appropriate landing spots, then bring all of your fingers down simultaneously. Next, try the same thing in reverse, moving from C back to G. If moving between chord shapes is a challenge for you, do your best not to breeze through these crucial exercises. Repeat Example 3 as many times as you can, observing the journey each finger takes to the next fretted note. Notice that the ring and middle fingers move back and forth by one string each while the index and little fingers take turns fretting notes on the first and second strings. It doesn’t take long for these little details to pay big dividends—while the back and forth may seem tedious for now, you’re actually hard at work building muscle memory and training your ear. In Example 4, we’ll be moving between two chords that don’t share any obvious geometry. Play the six-string Em chord and then visualize your fingers moving toward the D chord. If you took your time internalizing the G and C chords, your mind will already be finding connections between these new shapes. Spend some time moving between the two chords, and then re-create this exercise with any other chord shapes you’d like to practice—for the purpose of practicing transitions like this, any pair of chords will do. You can’t go wrong! Introducing the Beat In this next section, we’re going to start working with a metronome. We’ll be using the metronome a lot in these lessons, so there’s no time like the present to get acquainted with it! Set the metronome to its slowest setting (usually around 40 bpm) then start strumming a G chord—one strum directly on each click, all downstrokes, as shown in Example 5. Let the chord ring out so your focus is on the strumming hand. Try to strum through the strings all at once, rather than dragging the pick across them. This may be a bit frustrating at such a slow tempo, but hang in there! Strumming should be a quick flick of the wrist, which then snaps back up to the start position. Your picking arc should start just a hair above the lowest string and end just beyond the highest. Exaggerate this motion then tighten it up again to get a feel for the mechanics. Do this for a few moments and you’ll most likely notice that 40 bpm is a very slow tempo. That’s on purpose—the slower the tempo, the more you have to hear and feel where the next beat is. Listen carefully to the click, and try to determine where your strums fall in relation to it. Are you strumming a little ahead or behind the click? Make minor adjustments around how fast your pick gets to the strings. Just staying on one chord until you feel you’re in sync with the metronome will make quite a difference when you move onto your next chord. Now let’s get some time going between G and C. First we’ll isolate the moment of transition by letting a click go by as you move from one chord to the other (Example 6). Two beats for each chord should give your fingers plenty of time to find their destinations. Smoothly lift your fingers off the strings and guide them toward the next shape, landing precisely on the third click. Gradually lengthen the amount of time you sit on each chord before starting the next transition. When you get to where the transition begins on beat two, try switching on every click (Example 7). Eventually you will close the gap to where you don’t even think about switching chords until you’re faced with a new one. It is normal for you to hear a brief break in the sound or some slight string noise as you let go of each chord shape—it’s just part of the guitar sound! Now let’s add some more chords. In Example 8 we’ll play a G–Em–C–D progression, with each chord lasting for two beats in a repeating, two-measure pattern. Work this out at 40 bpm, and then gradually increase the tempo setting on your metronome. See if you can work your way up to a moderate tempo of about 70 bpm! If this becomes too fast to transition cleanly and comfortably, slow the tempo back down a bit—it’s good to challenge yourself, but it’s worth making sure you’re not pushing your fingers past what they’re ready to accomplish. For more practice, take a look at the short étude “Four, Two, and One” on page 5, which features different combinations of the same four chords from Example 8 and switches between one and two chords per measure. Practice slowly and gradually increase the tempo, and watch for a quick surprise at the end of the 16-measure form! Chapter 2 Working with a Metronome https://vimeo.com/701474467 No matter what instrument you play, developing a strong sense of rhythm is a key factor in becoming a confident musician. Whether playing solo or accompanying others (especially when accompanying others), a strong relationship with the beat frees you up to focus on the nuances of the music, rather than wondering if the tempo has unintentionally changed by the end of a song. Here we will work on syncing both of your hands to the beat, independently and together, so you can truly strum with confidence. One of the best practice tools available to help improve your overall sense of rhythm is a metronome, which is any device or computer app that emits a steady click for you to sync your playing with. In this article we will learn the basic functions of this simple yet powerful device and explore ways of integrating it into your daily practice routine. Even a little daily metronome practice can greatly enhance your rhythm and coordination, no matter what your level of rhythmic accuracy. Get to Know Your Metronome Metronomes have come a long way in terms of accuracy and options since the first wind-up, pendulum-based models were introduced in the early 1800s. These days, old-fashioned, mechanical metronomes are far outnumbered by electronic and software-based metronomes—there may even be options available for your cell phone! All modern metronomes feature at least a start/stop button and tempo control, which allows you to adjust how many times per minute you hear a click (this rate is referred to as beats per minute or bpm). Other features might include the ability to change the sound and volume of the click, add accented tones or clicks every few beats, tap in a tempo by rhythmically pressing a button, subdivide the beat, or even sound a reference pitch for tuning. For this lesson, all you’ll need is the ability to change the tempo and a pleasant sound to serve as your basic click. For these exercises, it’s best to have uniform-sounding clicks. If you turn off all the extra features and your device still adds an accented click every few beats, changing the time signature from 4/4 (the likely default setting) to “1/4” should give you a uniform sound. Start with the Picking Hand Before dealing with fretting-hand technique, let’s focus on getting your picking hand synced with the metronome with some single-note exercises. First, set your metronome to about 40 bpm and turn it on. Using all downstrokes, repeatedly play a C note on the fifth fret of the G string. Start out by playing quarter notes—one note right on each click of the metronome (Example 1). Try it out and adjust your pick attack until it’s right on target with the metronome, letting each note ring for its full quarter-note value until it’s time for the next attack. The term quarter note comes from 4/4 or “common” time, in which each measure of music contains four beats. These beats are called quarter notes because they make up one quarter of the total time within each measure. The top numeral 4 in “4/4” refers to the number of beats in the measure and the bottom 4 indicates that each quarter note in the measure counts as one beat. Once you’re clicking comfortably along with downstrokes on each beat, the next step is to try some upstrokes for a technique called alternate picking. To do this, play the same fifth-fret C note with an upstroke on every other beat so that you’re playing downstrokes on beats one and three and upstrokes on two and four. Pay close attention to how your upstrokes sound; if they’re as clear and loud as your downstrokes, then you’re in great shape! If not, practice the motion for a while by playing Example 1 with all upstrokes. After you feel comfortable playing one quarter note per beat, try playing two evenly spaced notes per beat, using alternate picking (Example 2). When you divide a quarter note in half, you get two eighth notes, so named because it takes eight of them to fill up one measure of music in 4/4 time. The first half of the beat is called the downbeat and the second is the upbeat. This is easy to remember when using alternate picking, since the downstroke corresponds to the downbeat and upstroke corresponds to the upbeat. Quarter notes and eighth notes make up the bulk of what you’ll see in most pieces of guitar music, but there are some shorter note durations that are worth trying out. Try playing three evenly spaced notes per beat, as shown in Example 3. These are called triplet eighth notes, since you have three eighth notes squeezed into the space of two. They’re typically picked down-up-down on each beat, as shown in Example 3. Hold the pick tight enough not to drop it, but leave the wrist loose enough to snap back to starting position after the third note of the pattern. Finally, play four notes per beat (16th notes) in Example 4. Add Some Chords Now that you’ve navigated most of the rhythms required for strumming solid rhythm guitar, it’s time to introduce some movement of the fretting hand into our exercises. In Example 5 we apply the four previous rhythms to a G chord in one measure, repeating segments in 4/4 or “common” time. With the metronome still at 40 bpm, start off with one strum right on each beat and gradually work your way up to four 16th-note strums per click. Next, let’s start working on some chord shifting by changing between G and C chords on each beat (Example 6). Allow your fingers to change as slowly as necessary for a smooth transition. If the open strings continue to ring out as you swap chord fingerings, don’t worry about it for now—it’s much more important to focus on getting your fingers into the right place at the right time. With practice, the amount of time it takes for you to make those switches will begin to decrease. Place the Click on the Strong Beats In Examples 1–6, we’ve had the metronome clicking on every beat of the measure, but that’s not the only way to use a metronome. Get ready to play Example 7 by dialing your metronome up to 60 bpm, then try playing two downstrokes per click over a G chord. For this exercise, think of the clicks as beats one and three of the measure—the strongest beats of each 4/4 measure. Meanwhile, we’ll treat each nonclick strum as beats two and four. The point of this exercise is to help you feel where beats two and four should go. Be patient with yourself and make little adjustments, one direction or the other, until you feel all four beats occurring steadily. Try a Backbeat In Example 7, we treated the click as beats one and three of each 4/4 measure, but another great exercise is to do the exact opposite, treating the clicks as beats two and four, simulating a backbeat—a style heard in a ton of popular music by a range of artists from the Beatles to Lady Gaga. Whenever you hear a rock drummer playing a snare drum on beats two and four, you’re listening to a backbeat. With the metronome still dialed in at 60 bpm, try strumming one measure of G (four beats in 4/4), followed by a measure of C and repeat the sequence until all the beats feel equidistant (Example 8). You may need to slow the tempo down a little to accommodate changing chords, at first gradually then increase it to a comfortable pace. Changing chords on beat one may feel a little strange without the click backing you up, but stick with it! This exercise will help you further solidify beats one and three, since you must now provide the strong beats yourself. If it helps, try lightly tapping your foot on beats one and three to help you internalize the beat. Once you do, you can start to imagine you’re playing with a drummer. 3/4 Time Adjusting to practicing 3/4 time (or “waltz” time) with a metronome takes a bit of concentration, but it’s basically a process of subtraction—each measure now consists of just three beats. If your metronome plays a special click on beat one, you’ll need to find a dedicated 3/4 setting so that you don’t end up with that beat one click on a different beat each time the measure changes. If your metronome doesn’t have that feature (or if you’ve turned it off), just remember that you’re switching measures once every three clicks! Let’s add one more chord to the mix and try a simple progression like G–C–D–G in waltz time for Example 9. We’ll do this with all downstrokes, one chord per measure. As you get used to the new feel, treat each of the beats equally, silently counting to three before switching chords. Once you get comfortable with this, try accenting the first beat of each measure. Waltz time is often counted in “one,” meaning that beat one is the strong beat and two and three are the weak beats. If Example 9 starts to feel easy with the click on every beat, try setting your metronome at a very slow speed and play the same progression with just one click per measure, right on beat one. Perfect Your Practice Routine When learning new songs, test your rhythm and memory by repeating two- or four-measure sections with your metronome. Let’s put this into practice using “Honing the Beat,” the short étude on page 7. The repeating four-bar chord progression is about as straightforward as they come, but the tricky strumming patterns (hint: no two measures are rhythmically identical!) are designed to keep you on your toes and get you used to dealing with a handful of different rhythmic approaches over the same metronome click. Measures 1–4 offer a fairly simple mix of quarter and eighth notes, but things get a bit more complicated with triplet eighths in measures 5–7, followed by a battery of triplet eighths and 16th notes at the ends of measures 10 and 11. Start with a gentle tempo around 60 bpm, and see if you can gradually work your way up to 80. The metronome indication below the tablature shows where the click will fall if set to quarter note clicks like Examples 1–6. Once you’re comfortable with that setting, feel free to set the device to click only on beats one and three (as in Example 7) or beats two and four (as in Example 8). You can’t help but play stronger rhythm guitar after a session of this kind of practice with your metronome. Remember, the slower you practice new material, the easier it is for all the information to pass back and forth between your brain and all the moving parts that make solid rhythm happen! Chapter 3 Listening to the Beat https://vimeo.com/701473556 One of the first things that drew me to the guitar was the incredible groove that I heard in Jimi Hendrix’s playing. He was generally “in the pocket” and locked-up with the band but not rigid. There were times when his playing felt a little loose, but he would always end up back in the groove. When I first began playing I would often get frustrated when what I played didn’t line up perfectly with each click of my metronome. I practiced with it incessantly, until I could play everything in time, but I still wasn’t really approaching the kind of groove that I’d heard on Hendrix’s recordings. If you’ve played through the first two lessons from this series, you might be tempted to think that there’s a cold science to playing rhythm—and certainly, a lot of what we talk about when we discuss beats-per-minute and rhythmic subdivision has to do with a strict adherence to tempo. But while it’s one thing to strive for rhythmic perfection, it’s quite another to play music. In this lesson, we’ll work on focusing our attention on the most important beats in an effort to create a relaxed, effortless approach to rhythm. Focus on the Strong Beats Let’s take a step back from the often-difficult work that goes into developing solid time to remember that which first drew most of us to music: the way it makes us feel! Musical moods are very much dependent on contrast—take for instance the difference between slow and fast tempos, soft and loud volumes, and let’s also add loose and tight rhythmic feel. While the ability to adhere strictly to a metronome is an important skill to have, it’s also important to develop a strong, relaxed sense of rhythm by focusing less on beats and trusting your ever-improving inner clock. To help us achieve that relaxed sense of rhythm, put down your guitar and put on a piece of music—something slow-to mid-tempo with a solid 4/4 beat—then try focusing your ears on just the downbeats. Start by tapping your foot along with each beat of the music, and see if you can count along: “one two three four, one two three four,” and so on. If you’re new to this sort of counting, it’s helpful to know that most slower songs have a little extra emphasis on beats one and three that can help you get your bearings. If you can make it through an entire song like this, you’ll probably notice some fatigue starting to set in! (A great drummer once told me to tap just my big toe to conserve energy.) Start the same song over from the beginning and this time only tap lightly on just beats one and three. Do you notice something different about the experience? You should begin hearing and feeling the different beats as having their own, distinctive characteristics. For starters, you’ll probably hear the chords changing mostly on beats one and three, which are usually considered the “strong” beats. Beats two and four are often called the backbeats or “weak” beats—but that doesn’t make them any less important. Try to think of beats one and three as your rhythmic targets and beats two and four as springboards that you use to jump from one strong beat to the next. Play the Guitar Like a Drummer When a really solid drummer tackles a 4/4 rock beat, he or she usually has a keen awareness of every beat in each measure, and the kind of approach needed to serve the flow of the song. If we, as guitarists, can get ourselves to think about our approach to rhythm in the same way that drummers do, then we’ll be well on our way to becoming excellent accompanists. Let’s get right into playing a common rock rhythm guitar part (Example 1), similar to the guitar part in Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing” (which Hendrix himself famously covered at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival). You don’t need a metronome just yet—first try playing the rhythmic figure at a comfortable tempo while tapping your foot on all four beats. Once you’re comfortable with that, try tapping only on beats one and three. As you do this, try to imagine the snare drum hitting on beats two and four, and notice what you’re playing in that space with your guitar. You might even be naturally inclined to smack those beats a little harder, as you imagine the snare drum playing. You’ve likely heard the old adage that if you can hear it, then you can play it. The realization that I could visualize and then mimic the sound of a drummer on the guitar (if I worked hard enough on my time) was extremely empowering. I invite you to crank up the volume of your own imagination and hear yourself playing in an exciting, rhythmically accurate, yet purely musical manner every time you pick up your own guitar. Add the Metronome Now that we’ve explored rhythm in a more colorful and creative manner for a while, let’s refocus our attention on accuracy for a bit by bringing out the metronome again. Let’s stick with Example 1 and dial the metronome down to 45 or 50. In this case, each click will represent beats one and three (strong beats or downbeats) in 4/4 time. To figure out the real tempo, just multiply by two, giving you 90–100 bpm. This time, don’t worry so much about getting anything spot-on except for beats one and three. Your attention may initially get pulled toward beats two and four, since those ones are seemingly floating off in space—but maintain your focus on beats one and three and before long, everything should begin to fall into place. Explore the Beat in 3/4 Time For 3/4, or waltz time, people tend to consider the first beat of each measure as the only strong beat, followed by two weak beats on two and three. Turn off your metronome and play the chord progression in Example 2, applying the same foot-tapping exercise that we used for Example 1. Start by tapping your foot on every beat for a while, then tap on just the first beat of each measure. You should notice a certain lilt to the music that is impossible if you treat each beat equally. If you listen closely to waltzes in various genres and cultures, you’ll often notice that the musicians intentionally rush or lay back on either of the two weak beats at different points in each piece. This would be pretty hard to do if each were thought of as equal. Once again, try to get in touch with your inner drummer and experiment with extra rhythmic elements that might enhance the journey back to beat one. Don’t worry if you don’t know what the rhythms are called or how to write them out on a staff—just try to imagine them and then start imitating them when you strum. Simplify Faster Tempos Where the idea of targeting only the strong beats really shines is when you’re playing a really fast tempo. A huge part of playing fast tempos is learning to quiet the mind and relax the body. A common practice by those who play fast tempos on a regular basis is to tap the foot only on the first beat of each measure of 4/4. This greatly reduces the amount of rhythmic information that your ear has to track and generally relaxes the body. You can even tell yourself that you’re simply playing a ballad that just happens to have a lot of exciting rhythms going on. To me it’s kind of like those “slo-mo” scenes in an action film where there’s complete chaos going on all around the star but he or she appears completely calm, almost blissful, as the bullets go whizzing by. As an experiment, set your metronome to 320 bpm (by any measure, a blazing fast tempo) and play the simple chords in Example 3, one bar apiece, using all quarter notes. If physically moving between several chords is still a bit challenging at this tempo, feel free to stay on one chord for now—either way, the clicking of the metronome is likely so oppressive that you’ll want to turn it right off! Now set your metronome to 80 and play four steady quarter notes per click. The point of this exercise is more about experiencing a fast tempo in a relaxed manner by targeting only the first beat. This is both a musical survival skill and a great confidence booster. It allows you to not only keep up with a fast tempo but also to be creative and interactive in the process—if the only number you need to count up to is “one,” imagine how free your mind will be to actually listen to the music going on around you! While there are absolutely going to be times when it makes more sense to treat each beat equally and tap your foot on all the beats, my hope is that your ears have opened up a little bit more to the differences between the strong and weak beats. By targeting only the strong beats some of the time, you allow your inner clock to make organic adjustments that will not only improve your time but help you develop your own sense of groove. Chapter 4 Basic Syncopated Strumming https://vimeo.com/701473182 When your practice time is devoted to simple strumming patterns, it’s not uncommon to ask yourself why what you’re working on doesn’t sound like the intricate rhythmic patterns you often hear in popular music—the exciting, offbeat strumming on “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles, for example. As you practice basic quarter-note and eighth-note strumming, you’ll start to become aware of rhythmic possibilities that fall between the strong beats. This is called “syncopation” and it happens when you emphasize weak beats or upbeats. A syncopated rhythm is one that fits within the tempo and flow of a song, but doesn’t quite cater to the strongest beats of the measure (which typically means beats one and three in 4/4 time). Here are some common ways that guitarists syncopate their strumming, and get on the path toward coming up with creative syncopated patterns of your own. Harmonic Syncopation One of the easiest ways to explore the powerful effect that syncopation can have on a piece of music is to syncopate a song’s harmony by changing chords earlier or later than your ear might expect. Ex. 1 shows some chord changes played in slightly unorthodox places. The G chord in beats one and two of measure 1 moves to D7 an eighth note earlier than you’d normally expect it, and the G in measure 2 bleeds one extra eighth note into beat three. Much of popular music depends on subtle rhythmic variations to set one four-chord song apart from another. Simply offsetting where the chords change by a small amount can add motion and excitement to a piece of music and help give your songs a unique rhythmic stamp. Focus on Weak Beats and Upbeats Harmonic syncopation is just the beginning, since you’re not breaking up the actual rhythmic flow of the music, but rather changing chords at unexpected points within that flow. When people think about syncopation, they often think of altering the rhythms to emphasize something other than the strong beats in a piece of music. For instance, you can tie beats two and three together, as shown in measure 1 of Ex. 2. When two notes are tied together in a piece of music, you continue sustaining the first note or chord through the second—so a pair of tied quarter notes sounds like a single half note. (You can write this on a staff either way—note that the half-note figure in measure 2 has the same duration as the tied notes in measure 1.) This technique is known as suspension, because you are giving the illusion of suspending the next downbeat. Even if you strum with uniform strokes, by not strumming on beat three you draw attention to beats two and four. Eighth-note syncopation emphasizes the upbeats (the ands between numbered beats in each measure) and is probably the most common type of syncopation heard in rock and folk music. Take a look at the first half of the measure in Ex. 3a, where the upbeats are accented by strumming on the ands of beats one and two. Ex. 3b looks different because of the tied eighth notes over the middle of the bar, but it sounds similar—you’re strumming on the ands of beats two and three. Similarly, Ex. 3c shows what happens if you move those syncopated strums to the ands of beats three and four. Play these examples with a metronome and you’ll really feel the difference that playing on the upbeats makes! Ex. 4 goes all-out and offsets the rhythmic flow of an entire measure by one eighth-note. You’re only strumming the first beat of each measure directly on the beat—everything else is played on the upbeat. Dotted notes work similarly to tied notes in that they extend the duration of a note or chord. When you encounter a dotted note in a piece of music, you increase the rhythmic value of the note by one half its normal value. That means a dotted half note equals three beats (Ex. 5a). Similarly, a dotted quarter note equals one and a half beats (Ex. 5b)—the same duration as a quarter note tied to an eighth note. A dotted quarter note that falls on a downbeat automatically creates some syncopation when immediately followed by another note or chord, because the next note will naturally fall on an upbeat. More Rhythmic Syncopation Examples 2–4 showed rhythmic syncopation based on eighth-note subdivision, but syncopation can occur within even smaller note durations. The practice of anticipating or delaying downbeats and upbeats with 16th notes is particularly popular in dance-oriented music like funk, hip-hop, and various forms of Latin music. Four 16th notes take up the same total duration as one quarter note. You count them using a convention similar to the “one-and-two-and” count that you use for eighth notes, but you include two extra syllables for each beat: “one-e-and-a, two-e-and-a,” and so on. Ex. 6 is similar to the chorus on Crosby, Stills, and Nash’s “You Don’t Have to Cry,” and features a cool C/D voicing that resolves up to D. Check out the 16th-note syncopation on the second half of each measure, creating a kind of rhythmic “call-and-response” figure. You can hear another version of this concept in Ex. 7, which is loosely based on Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run.” This time, play in-rhythm for the first part of each two-measure phrase, followed by a dotted eighth/16th note feel in measure two and a 16th/eighth/16th figure in measure four. Syncopate with Silence You can also use silence or rests to create syncopation. Rests are simply durations of silence, equal in length to and just as important as their pitched counterparts. Think of them as the negative space in a painting—without including shadows or bursts of white light, you would simply have a canvas full of paint and no depth. Using silence as a sonic color can emphasize the contrast between other instruments playing on the downbeats and create a tight-sounding groove. Try this concept out by playing Ex. 8, inspired by AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” along with a metronome or drum machine. Try to cut off the notes exactly the way they’re written. As you play this figure, it may help to maintain a steady 16th-note up/down motion with your picking hand. For some good target practice, the first beats of Ex. 9a–9c show the three non-downbeat possibilities for 16th-note syncopation. Loop each of these measures until you’re comfortable playing the chord on the correct part of the beat and then move on to the next. Exploring Different Genres Playing syncopated rhythms may feel a little uncomfortable at first, but the learning process is well worth the effort—you’ll end up with a whole new set of rhythmic possibilities based on simple patterns, but offset from the regular rhythmic flow. As you experiment, you’ll run into some syncopated rhythms that are characteristic of certain genres, like the staccato guitar chords on the upbeats in reggae (Ex. 10) or 16th note-based syncopation commonly heard in Latin rock (Ex. 11). Chapter 5 Unlock Complex Rhythms https://vimeo.com/701472913 Complex rhythms create a lot of excitement in music—think of the “three against four” feel in the four measures leading up to the guitar solo in AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” Yet these rhythms can be daunting to play, whether you’re trying to figure them out by ear or from notation. In this lesson, you will learn how to use rhythmic subdivision to break down complex rhythms into more manageable chunks. This example is in what’s called duple meter because everything is divisible by two. The notes can be subdivided further—you can subdivide the 16ths into 32nds, and so on—though 16ths are often the smallest subdivision in a piece of music. First, take a look at what’s often called the rhythm pyramid. The whole note (equal to one measure in 4/4 time) rhythmically divides into two half notes, four quarters, eight eighths, and 16 16ths. Here’s what the notation looks like. Below each note is the way you’d count it. To get the feel of these basic rhythmic subdivisions, set your metronome to 80 bpm and go through subdividing a whole note into half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, and 16th notes under an E chord, as in Ex. 1. When you play the eighth notes and 16th notes, use down-up alternate picking as shown. Creating Polyrhythms with Triplets In addition to dividing rhythms in multiples of two, you can take any two of these metric subdivisions and fit three notes into that space, creating triplets. You’ve probably already played triplets that fit neatly inside the beat. For instance, in Ex. 2, play eight eighth notes in measure 1 and then, in measure 2, play triplet eighth notes over a quarter-note pulse. Count them as “one-and-a, two-and-a, three-and-a, four-and-a.” Now look at what happens when you superimpose a grouping of quarter-note triplets over the space of two quarter notes. Before you try it on guitar, tap out this rhythm with just your hands. Set your metronome at 80 bpm and start tapping quarter notes with your left hand. Now add your right hand, evenly tapping three times for every two taps of your left. If this is too difficult, decrease the tempo and then try just one hand at a time, bringing them together again when you’re comfortable with each rhythm independently. It helps to slow the pattern way down and observe the interaction of the two rhythms, then speed it up again. This is an excellent way to physically feel how the two rhythms relate to each other and experience the resulting polyrhythm. This three-against-two rhythm is a vital part of any music that comes from African rhythms, such as Latin, blues, jazz, and just about anything that makes you want to move when you hear it. In Ex. 3, try a Latin rock pattern. Play Am7 over quarter-note triplets for beats one and two. Over beats three and four, play D7 over the actual polyrhythm that results from superimposing triplet quarters. Subdividing the Triplet Just as duple rhythms can be subdivided, so can triplets. In the next example, take the same triplet quarter notes and divide each one in half, giving us six eighth notes over two beats of a G chord. You’ll experience quite a different rhythmic perception depending how you accent the eighth notes. In Ex. 4a, play triplet quarters on beats one and two, followed by six eighth notes on beats three and four, accenting what would have been the first eighth note of each larger triplet. Once you feel comfortable, try Ex. 4b: play the same pattern again, but this time accent the first triplet eighth note on beats three and four. Loop Small, Rhythmic Chunks When you encounter a piece of music that uses lots of offbeat syncopation in a row (especially when you don’t have sheet music to look at) it helps to break the phrase into smaller chunks by grabbing one or two beats at a time for analysis. To illustrate this, Ex. 5 uses a fairly complex rhythmic figure, featuring three instances of 16th notes that tie to each consecutive downbeat. Upon first listening, this might sound difficult to figure out, but if you isolate each beat and determine which level of the rhythm pyramid is most dominant, you can gradually expand outward until you nail the whole phrase. Pretending that you don’t have the notation at hand, listen to this phrase on the lesson video and go through the process of subdividing each beat (quarters to eighths to 16ths), tapping along until you reach the level that seems to work through the whole phrase. In this case, you would discover a 16th-note flow throughout. You could say, “One-e-and-a, two-e-and-a,” and so on, and figure out where to tie two 16ths together to create the eighth note in the pattern. By doing this you would determine that pattern in beat one is: 16th, eighth, 16th. When you expand your scope to include both beats one and two, you will notice that there is no break between the last 16th note of beat one and the first 16th note of beat two, and that the rest of the second pattern sounds just like the first. This could only mean there is a tie connecting the last 16th of beat one and the first 16th of beat two. If you were to expand your scope to include beat three, you would encounter this same tied rhythmic pattern that then ties to beat four and finishes up with three 16th notes. Learn the Rhythms First When learning a song by ear where the chords are moving by quickly and the guitarist is strumming some fancy patterns, it helps to isolate exactly what rhythms are going on before trying to fit in all the chords. Ex. 6 features two rhythmic feels: quarter-note and eighth-note triplets in measure 1, and 16th notes in measure 2. In addition, the chords sometimes change in offbeat places, and there are even different fingerings for the C chord in the two measures. These are real-world challenges. Try isolating the problem rhythms with muted strings, or just hold down one chord until you get comfortable with the rhythm, then determine where to change chords and plug them in. These kinds of rhythmic modulations (changing from one rhythmic feel to another) can add a lot of excitement to a song when used tastefully, so it’s good to know how to tackle them. The Mixed-Up Balladeer You can test your new awareness of breaking down complex rhythms in this little ditty called “The Mixed-Up Balladeer.” One curveball to watch out for is in measures 5 and 6, in which you simply displace where the chords fall as compared to measures 3 and 4. In measure 7, the chord changes speed. As you develop a better understanding of how to break down complex rhythms when you encounter them, you will also be more able to create some of your own to add rhythmic excitement to a song—whenever the mood hits you. Tools to Slow Down the Music This kind of work on breaking down rhythms may seem really involved at first but becomes second nature with practice. Luckily you can find various computer applications these days that slow the music down without changing the pitch—in the old days you had to lower the speed on a phonograph or tape player to do this, then transpose the music back up to the original key if you slowed it down to anything other than half speed (one octave lower). Try to use these programs sparingly, as you want to develop a quick ear for playing in real musical situations. Chapter 6 Barre Chords https://vimeo.com/701472480 Barre chords are useful for moving chord shapes around the neck, especially in keys that don’t work well in open position. In this lesson we will discuss the rhythmic advantage of using barre chords in certain situations, as well as touch upon the challenges of holding these shapes, especially in the lower part of the neck. We will also cover some strategies for mapping out chord progressions on the neck when using barre chords. Instant Capo When you create barre chords, you are essentially taking open-position chord shapes that you already know and moving them up and down the neck by placing your index finger across the fretboard where the nut would be if you were in open position. To prepare, lay your index finger across all six strings at the third fret, as shown in Ex. 1, making sure your thumb is comfortably behind the neck. Having the thumb behind the neck exerts opposing force to help your index finger press down all six strings. As you let each string ring out, experiment with applying only enough pressure to keep the strings from buzzing. Try easing off a little until you get buzzing, then reapply pressure, just as you did when you first learned to play first open-position chords. Try making adjustments until you have a strong, clear sound. The goal is to save your strength, since barre chords can tire you out quickly. Sixth String Roots The first group of barre chords we’ll discuss has the root of the chord on the sixth string. You can form these chords by taking the familiar E major and E minor chord shapes and playing them with a barre at the third fret to create the corresponding G shapes. First play a G major barre chord (Ex. 2a), then a G minor (Ex. 2b). For G7, start with the G major barre and simply lift your little finger (Ex. 2c); and for Gm7, do the same from a G minor chord (Ex. 2d). Two alternate shapes involve adding your little finger on the sixth fret of the second string on both the G7 (Ex. 2e) and Gm7 chords (Ex. 2f). You will likely experience some cramping in your fretting hand at first as you work on these chords. This is completely normal. You simply need to build up actual hand strength. Please do not try to power through any cramping or pain when it happens. In fact, you should do whatever is safe for you to warm up your hands before every practice session, especially when learning barre chords. If you do a little bit of barre chord practice daily, you will experience steadily longer periods of holding down the strings comfortably. Even the pros have a hard time going back to playing barre chords if they’ve taken a break for a while. Fifth String Roots Now let’s explore barre chords based on the open-position A major and minor shapes, with roots on the fifth string. The traditional way of playing a moveable C major chord is to barre strings five through one on the third fret with the index finger, then voice an open A chord shape on the fifth fret with your middle, ring, and little fingers (Ex. 3a). However, it is just as common in nonclassical styles to play the fifth-string root with the index finger and lay the ring finger across the fifth fret, starting on the fourth string. In this case the sixth and first strings are muted (Ex. 3b). Some people with flexible joints can bend the ring finger back just enough to let the top string ring out, in which case you would use the index finger to engage a barre. For a C minor chord, barre the third fret and form an open A minor shape with your ring, little, and middle fingers (Ex. 3c). The Cmaj7 chord is similar to the traditional C major barre shape, with the third-string note lowered one fret and the middle and ring fingers reversed (Ex. 3d). For C7 (Ex. 3e), simply lift your middle finger while holding Cmaj7; and for Cm7 (Ex. 3f), lift your little finger while on a Cm chord. Just like with the sixth-string barre, you can add the little finger to the top string for alternate C7 (Ex. 3g) and Cm7 shapes (Ex. 3h). You can also take a C major and add the top string at the fifth fret to form a C6 chord (Ex. 3i). Partial Barre Sometimes you want the convenience of grabbing a barre chord without so many strings ringing out. This is where the partial barre comes in handy. The traditional shape for a first-fret F chord is based on the top four strings of an open E chord but with the awkward fingering in Ex. 4a. It’s much easier to barre the top two strings with the index finger and fill in strings four and three with your ring and middle fingers, as in Ex. 4b. Rest your ring finger against the fifth string to mute it, making a simple, four-string shape you can move all over the neck. You can also apply the partial barre approach to chords like A7 and Am7, as shown in Ex. 5. In order to use partial barre chords with a fifth-string root, simply ease up on the top end of your barre so that the top string is muted. Here is one more shape starting on the fifth string that’s based on the open-position C chord. Compare the F chord played with a more standard barre approach in Ex. 6a with the sound of the open-position C form in Ex. 6b. Our usual A shape can sound a bit stark because of the open fifth interval between the low F and C notes. When you buffer this by adding an A between the F and C notes (called stacking thirds), you end up with a mellower chord sound. Playing Rhythm with Barre Chords Let’s explore using barre chords and muted strings to produce a tight rhythmic feel. In Ex. 7, go back and forth between C7 and F7, every two beats. Notice how, by partially releasing the barre, you continue a steady 16th note feel with the muted strings? You can easily move between Am7 and D in Ex. 8, and take one shape and move it up and down the neck to create some extra motion in Ex. 9. Once you start moving around the neck with barre chords, you’ll notice that you have choices as to where you play your next shape. Deciding where to move next generally depends on two things: the sound you are going for and what’s easier to play. You’ll notice right away that the sixth-string shapes sound more full than their fifth-string counterparts. To test out the different tonal qualities, try playing a C barre chord in two positions, one after the other (Ex. 10). Notice that, if you play each note from low to high, the sixth-string shape has thicker sounding bass notes and a larger sonic range, so you also get crisp high notes. The fifth-string shapes are more midrange heavy and good for staying out of the way of another instrument on either the low or high end of the frequency spectrum. Even if you choose a sixth-string shape, you can experiment with muting the top or bottom strings, depending on your musical needs at any given moment. Let’s try a typical chord progression (F–Dm–Gm–C) using two different chord shape mappings. Start with a low F barre chord and play the closest other shapes available (Ex. 11a). Notice that we jumped up to the fifth fret to grab the Dm. This may be a little far to travel for one chord, but at a medium tempo this shouldn’t be a problem and sounds good. Heading up the neck a little, we can start with the C-shaped F and play the rest of the progression the same (Ex. 11b). Notice how similar the F and Dm chords are to each other. Lastly, try the progression starting on an eighth-fret F chord and head up the neck (Ex. 11c). Notice the sound is a bit tighter and more bell-like than in the previous example. Raise the Barre Put your knowledge of barre chords to the test in the étude “Changin’ It Up,” which uses two ways of playing a G–C–D–C progression. At the end, slide the A-shape barre chord from the sixth fret (Eb) up to the tenth fret (G). After practicing these shapes, go back and listen to some of your favorite records and see if you can pick out when the guitarist is using barre chords. Challenge your ear to pick out what part of the neck they are on and whether they are moving the shapes up or down. Chapter 7 Swinging the Beat https://vimeo.com/701472248 In this lesson, you will learn how to swing your rhythm playing and dial in just the right amount for any situation that calls for it. I’ll talk about the roots of the swing feel, the aural concept, its application in jazz and blues, and the mechanics involved so you can try it in whatever type of music you enjoy playing. What Is the Feeling of Swing? This is a question that can get a roomful of jazz musicians and listeners into a long night of discussion, often throwing around terms like “in the pocket” or “cooking.” One general way to describe the perception that a performance is swinging is that it makes you want to tap your foot, clap your hands, or dance—just like music you might describe as funky or grooving. This feeling exists in all types of music and is pretty much impossible to bottle and distill into words or musical notation. In a group, the swing feeling is magnified, as the players respond to each other. If the soloist is playing fast or syncopated rhythms in a high register, maybe the guitarist plays simpler rhythms and chooses chord shapes that are below that range. Conversely, the guitarist may choose to be a little more rhythmic on one section of a ballad where the melody instrument is playing particularly long notes or leaving a lot of space, to create contrast. There are also some especially gifted solo performers who seem to swing harder than an entire ensemble of musicians, because their playing is so rhythmically strong. Letting the Swing Flow The ability to play music in a swinging manner comes simply from the ability to get out of your own way—letting the music flow through with technical control but unhindered by your own emotions. That’s not to say that you can’t thoroughly enjoy the performance, but there is a certain compartmentalization that must occur to let the music flow freely. For instance, inexperienced players might feel like they have to emote on a sad or bluesy song by contorting their bodies or tightly closing their eyes, which simply results in added tension in the body. The same holds true when someone tries to swing. The best thing you can do to play “swingingly” is to listen to musicians who move you and tap into that feeling on an intuitive level. Experience shows that the most effective performers simply play the song, and the resulting emotion just happens. If someone like B.B. King makes a “guitar face,” it is likely a reaction to the muse and not an attempt to make anything happen that wasn’t already flowing. Swinging the Beat The best way to learn about swinging the beat is to listen to recordings; however, you can study the approximate mechanics of swung rhythms in jazz and other, related music. A common device for swinging the beat within a band is for certain instruments to play slightly behind the established downbeats. This can even happen within the scope of the drum set, whereby the drummer sets up a steady rhythmic flow on the ride cymbal but deliberately delays the downbeats, causing a more relaxed feeling. The slower the tempo, the more a drummer can employ this feel and the more noticeable it will be. At faster tempos, the rhythm section tends to tighten up and lock in with one another, but the soloist may elect to play slightly behind or ahead of the beat for rhythmic contrast. Swing Eighth Notes Where the difference between straight and swung notes really begins to show up is at the eighth note level. Perhaps the easiest way to approximate playing swung eighth notes is to start off by playing one chord over a series of triplet eighth notes, as in Ex. 1a. Now try sustaining through the first two eighth notes in the triplet grouping to form a quarter-note, eighth-note flow (Ex. 1b). The general idea is that the first note in a pair of eighth notes is slightly longer than the second, but the emphasis ends up more on second eighth because there is a snap to it. A common vocalization of what swing eighth note rhythms sound like is “doo-dat, doo-dat.” Again this is only an approximation, and how someone interprets the idea of swing is very personal, especially in jazz. In the rest of this lesson, swing eighth notes will be written in standard notation (Ex. 1c), but you should continue observing the swing feel. Freddie Green Since listening is key to internalizing any form of music, let’s discuss some historic musicians you might investigate and learn from. As the banjos of early Dixieland bands gave way to the rounder-sounding archtop guitars of the big bands during the 1930s and ’40s swing era, the overall rhythm of jazz also began to sound a bit rounder and the swing got smoother. Probably the most iconic acoustic rhythm guitar player in American jazz history was Freddie Green, who held the distinction of playing in swing jazz composer and bandleader Count Basie’s orchestra longer than Basie himself. Green’s style was simple and almost subliminal, yet so strong that if he were to suddenly stop playing, it might feel as if the bottom had fallen out of the orchestra. He played unamplified acoustic guitar and sat right in the middle of the Basie orchestra for pretty much the entirety of his career. Though he primarily played on the downbeats, along with the bass, you can still feel the eighth note swing because he would cut off the chords on the second (swung) half of each beat, as in Ex. 2a. Remember that this sounds more like Ex. 2b. If you were to hear Freddie Green just playing a steady four-to-the-bar rhythm, you could still hear how the entire orchestra would swing the beat by imagining someone else’s horn lines filling in the space that he left. This really speaks to the idea that silence is just as important as sound in music. In Ex. 3, play a mostly downbeat-only feel but with some extra eighth notes that will help you latch onto the swing eighth note feel. Be careful to mute the open strings with your fretting hand as you go through these typical swing-era jazz chord shapes. Western Swing At the same time that the big band style was evolving in the East Coast and Midwest, there was a parallel movement in the South, in Texas, and on the West Coast that, in addition to the usual rhythm section instruments of piano, bass, and drums, utilized traditional bluegrass and country instruments such as fiddles and acoustic guitar and then later integrated electric six-string and pedal steel guitars. This music was known as western swing and used a lot of the same sort of hot jazz arrangements as the big bands. Rather than having big horn sections, in a western swing band the background melodies might be played by a fiddle section, with occasional wind instruments added to the mix. A classic example of western swing is “San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. As in the big bands, the main function of the rhythm guitar in western swing was to act more like an extra percussion instrument. The guitar was pretty much glued to the acoustic bass in the rhythm section, but the player could toss in extra little rhythms that mimicked the swing eighth feel that was happening on the closed high-hat cymbals of the drum set (see Ex. 4). The feel was similar to what East Coast jazz players were doing, but the harmonic structure of the tunes was usually simpler, which kept out of the way of what the singer was trying to convey with the lyrics. The Blues During the 1940s, the blues became a bit more sophisticated, as various genres were cross-pollinating. Blues players who formerly stuck to simpler chord shapes were beginning to adopt the extended harmony of their jazz contemporaries. Blues bands were also adding horn sections made up of jazz players, so swing rhythms started creeping into the arrangements as well. T-Bone Walker, the early electric bluesman and co-composer of the classic song “Stormy Monday,” had a really tasty rhythm figure that involved moving ninth chords one fret above and below a target chord, going back and forth between swing eighths and actual triplet eighth notes. Try it in Ex. 5, and notice the chunky sound of putting the fifth below the root on those ninth chords. Notes on the sixth string are fretted with the thumb. Modern Jazz As the guitar became more of an electric instrument, guitarists tended to play more sparse rhythm, partially because the new jazz that was emerging called for more space and partially because the sound of a magnetic pickup tends to be overbearing if you’re strumming fat chord shapes, four to the bar, all the time. If you’re playing in a jazz band these days you will often find yourself playing chords with as little as two notes, as in Ex. 6, based on “I Got Rhythm.” This is especially true especially when playing with a pianist. Notice that you can hear the chord movement even though you’re only playing two notes at a time. That’s because you are playing what are known as the guide tones of the progression, so the ear fills in the rest. Swingin' the Blues Try out some new chords and rhythms for playing the blues on the étude “Swingin’ the Blues.” I’ve intentionally mixed up the harmony and rhythms a bit so you can experience some contrast in your swing rhythm playing. If you’re using a metronome, try varying how long you wait to play the second eighth note of each pair to control how “light” or “heavy” you swing the beat. Chapter 8 Genre-Specific Rhythmic Ideas https://vimeo.com/701471982 This lesson looks at several popular musical styles and attempt to extract the essence of what you might be expected to play in order to make things sound authentic. In addition, we’ll discuss a little bit about the origins of each style to pique your interest and, I hope, encourage you to dig deeper and check out some source recordings. The Blues Shuffle The lesson “Swinging the Beat” explored the swing feel in jazz and touched on its use in the blues. Let’s take a look at a rhythmic feel that truly embodies the feeling of swing or groove in the blues: the shuffle. The blues shuffle has many variations, like the straight shuffle, the double shuffle, and the backwards shuffle. A good place to place to start is with a familiar figure similar to Robert Johnson’s rhythm on “Sweet Home Chicago,” shown in Ex. 1. In this exercise you’re essentially choking the second eighth note of each triplet with the pick and playing all downstrokes. You can also try playing this example more legato and experiment with alternate picking. Notice how different the feel is, depending upon whether you play all downstrokes or use alternate picking. Now try out the backwards shuffle, which features most of the accents on the third eighth note of each triplet, essentially the swing upbeats (Ex. 2). This figure works especially well when there’s a second guitarist or a pianist playing a complementary figure, starting on the downbeats. Reggae Various forms of Jamaican music also rely heavily upon the loping triplet eighth note feel. The three-against-two rhythmic feeling is a huge part of African music, which of course spread to the Caribbean and Latin America. There was a great melding of calypso, jazz, and blues beginning in the 1950s that resulted in the doo-wop-flavored sound of ska and evolved into rock steady and then reggae in the 1960s. In reggae, the emphasis is even more on beats two and four than in the already backbeat-heavy blues. A big part of the reggae sound is a tight, yet relaxed dovetailing effect between the organ and guitar and the rhythmic pull that it creates. In a lot of reggae songs the rhythm guitarist focuses on playing staccato chords on beats two and four, cutting off just in time for an organ or piano rhythm contained within the underlying triplet eighth note feel. It helps if you stick to smaller chord shapes on the middle or top strings, in order to keep out of the bass and keyboard’s range. There are some instances where the guitar breaks out of the pattern and plays a complementary rhythm, like the triplet quarter notes in measure 4 of Ex. 3, based on Bob Marley’s “Is This Love.” Bring on the Funk If you go back and listen to the sounds of New Orleans in the late 1960s, you start hearing a different, more popping fusion of blues, jazz, and Caribbean sounds in the funkiness of folks like Professor Longhair, the Meters, and Dr. John. This music uses yet another layer of groove: 16th notes. Similar to the concept of swing eighth notes, the amount of lilt between 16th notes can greatly color the groove. In Ex. 4, try out the 3/2, son clave pattern from Afro-Cuban music, so named for the rhythmic grouping of three followed by two. This figure is also an integral part of Latin rock. Scratch a few 16th notes in between, and you’ve got a funky variation on the classic New Orleans rhythm found in “Iko Iko” (Ex. 5). The 16th note lilt tightens up a bit more on other classics like James Brown’s “Make It Funky” (Ex. 6) and “Sex Machine.” Again, playing smaller chord shapes, as in Ex. 7, helps keep things nice and tight. One of the heaviest-swung 16th-note feels has to be the D.C. go-go sound, which leans heavily on the triplet-based rhythms of the congas. Chuck Brown, the “Godfather of Go-Go,” even did a famous version of Duke Ellington’s classic “It Don’t Mean a Thing” (Ex. 8) and changed the last part of that lyric to, “if it don’t got the go-go swing.” Notice that the harmony is notated in full chord shapes but you can also choose to leave off the roots (for instance, the low C on Cm9) to more room for the bassist. Gypsy Jazz Gypsy jazz, or jazz manouche, erupted in Paris during the 1930s when virtuoso Sinti guitarist Django Reinhardt joined forces with fleet-fingered violinist Stéphane Grappelli to create the Quintette du Hot Club de France. This group, made up of violin, lead guitar, two rhythm guitars and standup bass, fused American jazz, European classical music, dance hall musettes, and traditional Gypsy melodies to create what some describe as the first world music. Without a drummer to lean on, the rhythm guitar in Gypsy jazz has to be extremely precise and steady, yet dynamically versatile. In order to achieve this fine balance, you’ll need to anchor your elbow on the face of the guitar, just enough to stabilize your picking arm in one place but not enough to cause unnecessary tension. Now arch the picking hand wrist slightly, allowing you to create to drag the pick across the strings in a wider arc. Try dragging your pick across the strings (from low to high) without moving your arm position. You’ll notice that the pick naturally lifts up at a certain point in the arc, preventing you from playing all six strings. In order to compensate for this, move your forearm forward slightly, just enough to flatten out the picking arc and hit any missing notes. A good exercise to build up control, endurance, and picking uniformity is what is commonly called the rake-chop, which can be seen in Ex. 9. Here you quickly and lightly rake the pick across all the sustaining strings from low to high on beat one, allow your wrist to fly back to the starting position, and chop beat two, then continue the same pattern for beats three and four. On the chop, you snap your wrist like you’re shaking out a thermometer and hit all the strings simultaneously, then mute the sound with your fretting fingers. You can also add a little spice to your repertoire by trying out a Gypsy bossa, which is an appropriately named interpretation of the Brazilian bossa nova feel, in Ex. 10. Simply play a steady straight-eighth pattern and chop the first eighth note of beats two and four. As you can see, each style covered has its own specific flavors and challenges, which can only be fully absorbed with concentrated listening, learning songs that appeal to you, and analyzing the guitar parts in whatever way works best for you. What all of these styles share is a reliance on the human element to make them groove in their own, unique way. A computer can’t truly replicate this. It’s your job to absorb the feeling of whatever music you choose to play and let it flow back out of your guitar. Chapter 9 Arpeggio Picking https://vimeo.com/701471473 Arpeggio are simply the individual notes of any chord played successively, in either upward or downward motion. Arpeggios can add melodic shape and variety to your rhythm playing and are great for accompanying singers. Also, by learning about arpeggios, you gain a better sense of harmony, while greatly improving your overall technique. That’s the focus of this lesson. Arpeggio Technique Let’s take the alternate picking technique that you already know from strumming chords, refine it a little more, and play some arpeggios. You’ll need to narrow the picking arc so you can cleanly strike one string at a time. Try Ex. 1a really slowly so you get a feeling and visual on just how the picking hand is moving as you gradually traverse the strings, using alternating up- and downstrokes. Pretend you’re watching a slow-motion video of your hand and release any judgment about the way it looks to you. The idea is to conserve energy and motion, so make your pick sweep only as wide as you need to clear the next string after a downstroke in order to execute the following upstroke. The benefit of doing this slowly is that you can see adjustments you make a lot easier than if you just try to rush through the exercises. After the top note of the arpeggio, your picking hand must snap right back to the low E string and be ready to do it all again. Once you internalize the motions needed for a fluid, continuous loop, you can think about increasing the tempo gradually. Now reverse the motion in Ex. 1b. Again, start this example at a near crawl, just to make sure you aren’t wasting any picking-hand motions. Remember, it’s crucial that you are able to loop this pattern smoothly before increasing the tempo. Basic Musical Applications Let’s look at a common set of chord changes and try arpeggiating the notes, using alternate picking, to create some tasteful patterns. In Ex. 2a, play two ascending arpeggios for each chord, first starting on the fifth string, then on the fourth string. In Ex. 2b, simply reverse the direction of the second arpeggio in each measure, giving one ascending and one descending arpeggio per measure. Notice how, in both instances, the top note of each chord creates a melody. This is something to be aware of when accompanying a singer. Much more than with strummed chords, arpeggio playing runs the risk of occasionally clashing with a vocal melody if you aren’t careful. On the other hand, if you take the time to really learn the melody of each song, you can choose to play certain notes that complement the singer’s performance and greatly enhance the listener’s experience. Ex. 2c offers another technique where you choose one common note that works for all the chords in a pattern and put it on top of each arpeggio. This form of repeating notes is one variation of what’s called an ostinato, which is the Italian word for stubborn. Sometimes dealing with physical limitations while exploring new techniques leads you to find new chord shapes, as evidenced by the Fsus2/C chord in measure 4 of Example 2c. The Fsus2/C uses an open G on the third string that makes the chord much easier to play than if you hold down the usual A note for the F(add9)/C shape (Ex. 2d), which requires fretting both the fifth and fourth strings with your ring finger. String Skipping You can add more shape to your arpeggios by skipping strings and varying the direction of your patterns at regular intervals, as in Ex. 3. You’ll probably want to practice just the skip between the fifth and third strings over and over until you can do it without hitting any other strings. Then move on to the back and forth motion between the second and third strings, and lastly address the skip between the third and first strings before putting it all together. This kind of work will really help you develop control over your alternate picking, as it takes some fine motor skills to avoid hitting unwanted strings. Sweep Picking One way to smooth out your arpeggios is a technique called sweep picking, where you drag your pick across two or more strings in a row, with one sweeping motion. Sweep picking can be used with both down- and upstrokes and is an effective companion to alternate picking, especially for quickly arpeggiating chords. First, slowly spell out a G major chord, one note at a time, all in downstrokes (Ex. 4a). Play a low G note on the sixth string then let your pick stop against the fifth string. This is called a rest stroke, since your pick comes to rest against the next string in whichever direction you are sweeping. Now continue in the same direction, all the way through the top string of the chord, stopping momentarily after each successive string. Set your metronome to 60 bpm and give each string one click. Rotate the Wrist You will find it easier to maintain momentum if you rotate the top of your picking hand slightly away from you, allowing the pick to cut across the strings at about a 45-degree angle. Make sure to loop this and stay in time. This will help you get used to the wide jump back to the sixth string. Be sure not to bring your hand up higher than necessary when returning to the starting position. Now reverse the direction by rotating your picking hand wrist toward you, so that the pick is cutting across the strings at about 45 degrees in the opposite direction from before (Ex. 4b). Try to make your downstrokes and upstrokes equally strong, then gradually increase the tempo. You can eventually set your metronome so that each click happens every two strings (eighth notes). Finally, put it all together in a loop (Ex. 4c). Make sure that your picking-hand wrist quickly reverses its rotation at the end of each sweep, so you can switch direction without hesitation. The House of the Sweeping Pick Finally, try out your arpeggio skills on a set of chord changes similar to those found in the classic song “The House of the Rising Sun.” Though the notation indicates sweep picking, I encourage you also to try this étude with standard alternate picking. Notice that you reverse direction on the last note of your downstroke sweep, so as to propel you into the upstroke. Since guitar chords aren’t always voiced as fully as piano chords, you sometimes need to repeat or omit a note in your arpeggios in order to keep them in time with the rest of the pattern. On the Dm and F chords, hold the root note an extra 16th note in order to keep the overall melodic shape of rest of the piece. Chapter 10 Adding Melody to Chords https://vimeo.com/701470954 This lesson explores ways to add melodic movement to your chord shapes—both with the pick and with some simple fingerpicking. You will learn how play suspended chord sounds (as on the Who’s “Pinball Wizard”), plus minor chord progressions that contain descending melodic lines (as in “Stairway to Heaven”) and chord patterns with ascending melodies (as you might hear in your favorite spy movies). You will also explore the neck a little more by moving some examples to other areas of the fretboard. All these exercises will give you new confidence to add melodic movement to your chords in all sorts of contexts. Play Scales within a Chord Shape Within every chord shape you should be able to play a full or partial major or minor scale. Even if you don’t plan on playing leads or much in the way of single-line melodies on guitar, it really helps to know your major and minor scales. Learning basic scales will help you understand what’s going on under the hood with your chords. Even if you’ve never played a scale before, you’ve likely heard them all your life, so it shouldn’t be too hard to take any familiar chord shape and find the scale tones contained within it. The thing to remember is that guitars are set up to play scales, so you shouldn’t have to stretch more than one fret outside of any chord shape to find the surrounding scale tones. Start by playing an open A chord (Ex. 1), using the three-fingered shape that starts with your index finger on the fourth string. While holding down the first two fingers, slowly play a major scale from the A note on the second fret of the third string to the G# note on the fourth fret of the first string and back down (Ex. 2). As you go through each pitch, assign the corresponding scale numbers (A1, B2, C#3, etc.). Now try the same thing but play A major chord shapes with each successive scale tone on top, as in Ex. 3. Do the same scale-tone identification as you go through this exercise, noticing the resulting chord names above each shape in the music. When you get to the notes on the top string, you can switch to a partial barre with your index finger on the second fret if things get too cramped. As you go through the scale, listen for the 1 or root, 3, and 5 (which are the basic, major chord tones), plus the major 7; in A major, these notes are A, C#, E, and G#. If you play the same scale but lower G# to G, you get an A dominant scale (Ex. 4), which goes with your A7. Further lowering the third by one fret (C# to C) gives you an A Dorian minor scale, which is found in a lot in popular music (Ex. 5), and lowering the sixth one fret (F# to Fn) gives you what is known as the A natural minor scale (Ex. 6). By finding chord shapes to accommodate each successive pitch, you not only learn to see the chord tones but you start to hear some new sounds that you may not have known were available to you, simply by adding in the other scale tones. Sus vs. Add You probably noticed two odd-sounding chord names in the previous section: Asus2 and Asus4. Sus is short for suspended, referring to the fact that there is no third in the chord to tell you whether it is major or minor. Both of these chord types can be paired with major chords (Ex. 7a) and minor chords (Ex. 7b) to add melodic movement. You can choose to resolve these chords or leave them for a more “open” tonality. You can also sweeten your sound with an add2 chord, which means you’re simply adding the 2 to a major chord (Ex. 8a) or minor chord (Ex. 8a). Try out the familiar rhythm pattern in Ex. 9, based on the Who’s “Pinball Wizard,” first in the key of D and then in A and E, to help you see the pattern. Melodic Patterns in Popular Progressions You’ve no doubt heard the main chord progression to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” which is based on an A minor chord, with the bottom notes descending by a half step (one fret) every two beats (Ex. 10a). In this example, the last note of the pattern (F#) becomes the third of the D chord (D, F#, A). You can also try this in A major (Ex. 10b). This concept is often called a descending-line cliché and is also heard a lot in Latin music, as you will see in Ex. 11a. In this case you simply keep the same partial Am chord shape on top throughout. You could also try putting the melody on top, as in Ex. 11b. Now let’s look at that mysterious-sounding “Secret Agent Man” type of chord progression. This is sometimes called an ascending-line cliché, since there is a melodic line that goes up in half steps. Try it in E minor (Ex. 12a) and A minor (Ex. 12b). In Examples 10 through 12, you can use just the pick or try a mixed picking pattern whereby you play the bottom note of the pattern with your pick and the following two notes with your middle and ring fingers. This chord pattern was often used in major keys on doo-wop ballads of the 1950s (Ex. 13). Moving Patterns Around the Neck In order to better understand the geometry of the guitar neck, it helps to create musical games to play. Try taking the now very familiar Dsus4–D–Dsus2–D chord pattern up the neck on the top two string sets. In Ex. 14a, start by playing the familiar shapes of the open-D progression but only the top three strings. Leaving the open D string out will help you see how the chords invert as you go up the neck, in the same way they do on a piano. This means that every time you go up to the next higher inversion, the bottom note of the chord shape gets put on top (up an octave). Move up to the fifth fret and notice the changing melody notes are on the second string (Ex. 14b). Now move up to the tenth fret and, as expected, the changing melody is on the third string (Ex. 14c). Next, move everything to the next string set over, starting in the second position with the moving melody on the fourth string (Ex. 14d). Move up to fifth position with the melody on the second string (Ex. 14e), and lastly up to the tenth fret with the melody on the third string (Ex. 14f). If you really want to challenge yourself, figure out the pattern on the bottom two string sets, as well as in another key, such as G or A. Being thorough when learning chord patterns really helps connect the dots and also introduces you to parts of the neck that you may be less familiar with. Adding Nonchord Tones to Seventh Chords When you add non-chord tones (scale steps 2, 4, 6) to any major, minor, or dominant seventh chord, you continue the scale numbers above the octave (scale tone 8). This means that scale step 29, 411, and 613. These so-called tension notes or color tones can add character to your chords, but you want to be tasteful and true to whatever genre you are working with. This is where serious listening will tell you if your chord shapes are cool or clunky. Since guitarists have fewer fingers available than do pianists, we have to leave certain notes out in order to add these additional scale tones. For example, a common guitar voicing for A13 (A7 plus an F# note) involves omitting the fifth (E) and substituting the sixth (F#), as you can see in Ex. 15a. If you already have a D9 chord and want to make it D13, you would change the A note to B (Ex. 15b). Chord names are far from uniform, especially when moving between musical genres, so there is a bit of trial and error, not to mention head scratching, when you come across unfamiliar chord names. The important thing to understand is that chord names are merely an approximate description of what is going on, harmonically speaking, at any given point in a piece of music. As you get more familiar with how harmony works, you learn to filter out extraneous chord names that hinder rather than help you or other musicians when you’re describing the overall arc of a song. Melody and Harmony This étude places a three-note motif (D, C, and B) over several G and C chord voicings in measures 1 through 4. In measure 5, start this pattern over Am7 but transpose it over D7 in measure 6, finally resolving to G. Notice that there are a lot of chord names in this étude. They are only meant to show you how the added melody notes can create new chord sounds. Experienced musicians generally look at chords in the simplest terms possible, so you can think of your four chords in this piece as being G, C, Am7, and D7—that’s it! Refer to the sheet music for picking-hand instructions. If you practice the mixed-picking pattern in measure 1 for a little bit, you’ll be set for the next few measures. On beat one, simultaneously strike the low G with your pick and pluck the high D note with your ring finger (a). Then play the next two notes with a downstroke of the pick. Finally, play the C chord with your pick together with your middle (m) and ring fingers, followed by picked single notes.