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kebob

Strumming -- can some not "feel" rhythm?

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Not trying to sound like a d-bag here, but I've had a few people who play guitar ask me what strumming pattern I've used on a certain tune -- I've always been perplexed by that question. I never learned strumming patterns. I just go by feel of the rhythm. Can some who play guitar simply not "feel" the rhythm of the tune?

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There are at least one of us that have to work very hard to get the feel of tunes for an appropriate strum. I know, sad but true.

 

Strum patterns are a quick way to get going. A starting point to work from. After many years of struggle I finally found a process for myself that let's me zero in on the feel with 3 or 4 play-thrus of a tune.

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I think there are several factors involved.

 

First, yeah, some folks are a bit rhythm challenged. OTOH, using some sort of metronome or playing along with or whatever can be a help.

 

Second, some folks' heads require something along the lines of an "order" to figure how to do things. This is a significant principle in learning theory. Some learn rather heavily visually, some verbally (and repeating the verbal clues aloud), etc., etc.

 

Third, those who learn easily visually may be questioning what "style" for what they're doing, too. For example, they may be thinking bassnote, strum (strum-bump-a-dididdy) or something along those lines or they may wonder if they should just be going strum-strum-a-strum-eee).

 

I'd suggest that in most cases the mind wants a concept of what to do more than a concept of rhythm - and even those "rhythm challenged" folks probably can pick it up if the are presented with a learning method that makes sense to them.

 

I think we need to remember too that some of us had rhythm "training" at a younger age and were encouraged by whatever it was we were doing. Dance, martial arts, any sort of music performance exposure at a relatively young age, can make a big difference in how a child picks things up later in life.

 

Yeah, some of us may find it far easier simply how our brains are wired. Call that "talent," if you will. But even those with "talent" may find the actual execution of rhythm a difficult skill to make sense of. So that's a second factor to consider.

 

The person whose natural inclination is to play bass rather than guitar, for example, probably has more "rhythm notice" in his or her head than the person whose natural inclination is to play melodies. The rhythm guitarist per se is likely somewhere between. The drummer, IMHO, hears things with more rhythm and less melodic concept in his/her head.

 

When I was in my first high school age "rock/pop/jazz" band, for example, we had a drummer who seemed to me at the time to be marvelous with 3-4-4/4 pieces but had real problems with non-standard time such as 5/4. You figure it. But I'd suggest that it may be tied to questions on "how do I strum for this song."

 

Back in "the olden days," for example, I recall folks discussing Ringo's drumming style and whether the emphasis was on 1-3 or 2-4... Examples of the difference from "the Beatles" early years might be "She Loves You" vs. "Rock-roll music" (gotta back beat you... etc.)

 

m

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There are at least one of us that have to work very hard to get the feel of tunes for an appropriate strum. I know, sad but true.

 

Strum patterns are a quick way to get going. A starting point to work from. After many years of struggle I finally found a process for myself that let's me zero in on the feel with 3 or 4 play-thrus of a tune.

 

My dad wanted to learn guitar in the worst way and he would struggle with it. He would watch me play and wonder how I managed to do it so seemingly effortlessly (strumming, nuances, feel, etc). I struggled with helping him because for me it just came without thinking about it much. I assumed it was that way for all -- my wife has since told me it's not that simple for some. I admire those that struggle yet stay the course and persevere.

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When somebody asks you a question like that - what strumming pattern did you use? - it suggests that they were taught discrete patterns or leaned them from a book, video, recording, etc. Like Kebob I just sort of picked up rhythm stuff on my own by playing with it so my only answer would be let me show what I'm doing here; I don't really have names for most of this stuff. So this sort of question may show more about somebody's method of learning than their rhythmic abilities.

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I don't need a strumming pattern to 'feel' the rhythm. But I do find them useful sometime to recreate the sound properly.

 

A "down" sounds slightly different than an "up" on the same chord.

 

 

An example of this is a tune I am currently learning.

 

Give a Little Bit by Supertramp.

 

Starts on an up stroke. It just sounds funny if you start on a down.

 

They have their place. Not essential, but they have their place.

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I have a friend who I as trying to teach guitar to some years ago…

 

He caught on to chords pretty quickly—that is, fingering them properly. However, he just COULD NOT strum for his life!

 

So, yes. There are some who simply don't possess that natural "feel" and have a lot of trouble with knowing when to up-stroke, mute strings, hold back on their attack, subtle nuances, etc. That stuff is either IN you or it's not.

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When somebody asks you a question like that - what strumming pattern did you use? - it suggests that they were taught discrete patterns or leaned them from a book, video, recording, etc. Like Kebob I just sort of picked up rhythm stuff on my own by playing with it so my only answer would be let me show what I'm doing here; I don't really have names for most of this stuff. So this sort of question may show more about somebody's method of learning than their rhythmic abilities.

 

I agree with this. I never could learn out of a book -- well, I could if I had to, just didn't have the passion or patience for it. I'd rather listen to the tune and pick it up that way. When I'm playing I never think about how I'm playing, if that makes sense.

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Precision around the strumming pattern can be pretty important in Flamenco guitar. Flamenco rhythm (compas) defines the song. Most are based on a 12 beat structure, but what varies are the accents within that 12 beat structure.

 

If you play the 12 beats with the accents (bold) as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 you might be playing an Alegrias or a Soleares

 

If you play the 12 beats with the accents as 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 you would be playing a Seguiriyas

 

 

Very differnt songs with very different emotions...These accents form almost a rhythm within the rhythm (let alone meet the need to provide a well structured rhythm for a dancer). One would have a very hard time getting the basic compas of a flamenco song without a fairly structured strumming pattern. If these are off, you might be playing a pretty song, but you are not playing flamenco, or at least the right song...

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Like you I feel my way through a song, I listen to the tune in detail, but I've normally caught the feel without thinking…. If someone asked me what strumming pattern I used I'd be stumped for an answer.

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It helps if you can kind of feel the music. The strumming part gets easy once your into the beat and rhythm of a song. For me, the timing and rhythm all kind of fall-in-place once you feel the song. Not everything (although the majority may be) is 3/4, 4/4, 2/4 time. Those are pretty easy, but the other beats I think one really has to feel. Some people do it naturally. Others have to work at for a while.

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It's a beginners mind set I think. Someone who is just learning the instruments wants to know what each hand does at any given time. To tell someone who is just learning the instrument, just strum, feel the rhythm, that doesn't work.

 

So I think it's like was mentioned already, wanting to know the strumming pattern comes from someone who was taught formally and never really left that mind set.

 

I am teaching someone the uke now and I am slowly showing them the "key important" strumming patterns. I explained almost all songs either use these strumming patterns or are very similar/built around them. I've explained though once you get these patterns down you will be playing them without thinking and soon enough be strumming and improvising with the song (feeling the groove).

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I freely admit that next to all I play on guitar, bass and drums lives from feeling the rhythm. When writing songs, I create a groove that seems to match the sensations of the lyrics and the overall mood of chords and melodies. I would badly fail if I had to explain it by using scientific terms.

 

Same is valid when I am covering songs. Listening and trying to catch the feel is all to me, besides all theory. On the other hand, I go with ChrisM that telling less experienced musicians they just had to feel it all would be too much for them in many cases. Perhaps I try to describe it best as the difference between working on music and playing music, working on an instrument and playing an instrument.

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Not trying to sound like a d-bag here, but I've had a few people who play guitar ask me what strumming pattern I've used on a certain tune -- I've always been perplexed by that question. I never learned strumming patterns. I just go by feel of the rhythm. Can some who play guitar simply not "feel" the rhythm of the tune?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YES!............................

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As a no skilled hack I guess I have to say I can't feel anything. I started trying to play at 33 and can still read some simple music from grade school so at least I can entertain my kids. I wish nothing more than to be a proficient player I just firmly believe it is somewhat of a gift.

 

I refuse to ever stop playing and I enjoy struggling through it for the most part.

 

I like to say I can play better than most of the world, just not better than most guitar players.

 

For you guys who are great I really enjoy listening.

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To get back to learning theory...

 

I think one of the better ways to start a student who has some difficulty with the concept is simply to count with them and have a downstrum at each count.

 

It may be likened to simply marching along. 1-2-3-4.

 

m

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As a point of reference, I have to work at strumming AND I can't dance ... I'm sure the two conditions are related.

 

I've seriously considered trying to work with a cajon or maybe playing bass to help build some internal rhythm.

 

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Thinking about the folks I have played with over the past 50+ years some are what I call natural musicians. They can absorb a tune and then spit it back out almost effortlessly. Others, however, have to work like a dog to get that tune down.

 

My particular problem is the moment I start trying to analyze or concentrate on rhythm or phrasing I lose it. But if I don't think about it, my left leg starts going (I am a stomper and not a tapper)and it just comes out. One of the reasons I was figured I was a lousy teacher and stuck to the I play it and you copy me kind of thing. I just could not break things down.

 

But I also do love working with a good bass player.

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As a point of reference, I have to work at strumming AND I can't dance ... I'm sure the two conditions are related.

 

I've seriously considered trying to work with a cajon or maybe playing bass to help build some internal rhythm.

 

 

Does she give lessons ?

Had a sudden interest in the cajon myself

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Retro...

 

Sometimes I don't think "lack of feeling for rhythm" isn't so much a true lack, but rather a conviction that it simply must be more than what it is.

 

When we walk, it's inevitably in 2/4 or 4/4 time. Unless otherwise ... uhhhhh ... mentally encumbered by outside substances or truly one with a physical abnormality, it's simply how humans walk.

 

It may be either that sort of disconnect by believing there must be something more than there is, or that one who finds it difficult to coordinate slapping hands with one's marching steps....

 

Personally I'm convinced that it's largely those who have that "fear" that they don't get it, and therefore "can't," even when their own body proves otherwise.

 

m

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