1 Powerful Strum Pattern + Counting Rhythms

If chords are the bread, then strum patterns are the butter of a guitar player’s world. So far in our Level 1 series, we haven’t really learned any strum patterns beyond the most basic. Today, that starts to change. But first, let’s discuss rhythm.

In 4/4 timing, we have four beats per measure, or per bar.

The tempo is simply how many beats per minute the song goes at. So, if the tempo is 100, that means that every time we would count 100 quarter notes over the space of one minute. One two three four, one two three four… etc.

Now, each of those quarter notes can be divided, so that we get more interesting rhythms. If we divide the quarters in half, we get eighths. Now, we have eight beats taking up the same amount of time as four quarter beats.

We’ll go further with these ideas another time, but for today, that’s enough to give us options to mix and match, and create some more interesting strum patterns.

So, the patterns we’re learning today is D D  DU  DU. (D=Down stroke, U=Up stroke)

That takes up a full bar, and each of the down strokes happens on the quarter beat. The upstrokes can be counted by saying “and” which represents the second 8th note of that quarter beat.

So, we can count that same pattern like this: “One Two Three AND Four AND.”

So we have two quarter beats, then four eighth beats, and altogether, that makes a full bar.

First Bar Chords

Welcome to the first guitar lesson in our Level 2 series!

Level 2 is for guitar players who definitely are not complete beginners… perhaps they have a few months of experience under their belt… or perhaps they’ve played for 20 years already, but regardless of how long they’ve played, they’re still in the overall “beginner” category. I like to think of Level 2 as “Experienced Beginners.” With that in mind, we’ll be looking at some topics that will probably push you a bit – like today’s lesson on bar chords, for instance!

If you know your E major and E minor chord shapes, then you’ve got enough chord knowledge to start applying this. We’re looking at bar chords that find their root notes on the 6th string, so we call them “Root 6 Chords.” Take E major for instance – it’s root note is the open E on the 6th string, so considering that as part of the chord, move the entire chord shape up 5 whole frets, until your root note is on the 5th fret. Now you’ve transposed that E major into an A major!

If you’d like to go further with your bar chords, checkout my course Bar Chords Made Simple.

Your First Guitar Lesson

Welcome to your very first guitar lesson! This is the first guitar lesson in our series for total beginners – if you’re on the email course list, you’ll be getting a lesson like this once a week. However, this lesson is 30 minutes, and most of the lessons you’ll be getting will actually be under ten minutes. The reason today’s is longer is because there’s a bunch of important groundwork we need to cover first, so that we can all get on the same page as quickly as possible!

We’re going to talk briefly about things like tuning, the parts of the guitar, using picks or fingers, holding the pick, holding the guitar, finger pain, some practice tips, and of course… we’re going to learn some chords too! Last but not least we’ll discuss strumming – at least in as much depth as you need right now. All these topics will be expanded on in future lessons.

If you want to skip ahead to different sections in the video, below you’ll find a list of the different topics and timestamps.

Topics Covered:
0:54 Tuning
4:00 Parts of The Guitar
6:33 Picks vs Fingers
8:48 Holding the Pick
10:10 Finger Pain
12:01 Holding The Guitar
14:06 Practice Tips
15:45 Your First Chords (E minor, A minor, and Asus9)
27:11 Strumming

Tips For Learning How To Sing While Playing Guitar

Being able to play guitar and sing is one of the most coveted skills out there. Most popular artists do both, which means you’ll be more likely to gain popularity as a musician if you’re able to sing while playing the guitar simultaneously. Teaching yourself to sing with a guitar can be difficult, but thankfully there are some things you can do to make your learning process easier. Here are some tips on learning how to sing while playing guitar:

Find the Root

The first step to learning how to sing with a guitar is finding the root of the chord you’re strumming. For many beginners, this can be a difficult task. We’re often so used to have another person’s voice from a recording to guide us when we’re looking for which notes to sing. When you take away that guidance, many musicians lose their sense of pitch. This is why it’s important to train yourself to find the root of a chord.

If you strum a chord and have no idea which notes to sing, try experimenting with your voice. Some notes you sing will fit with the chord much better than others. This is because when we sing “non-chord tones,” we create dissonance. The notes that sound correct will probably be either the root, third, or fifth of the chord. To ensure you’re singing the correct pitch, find the root on the guitar and pluck the string. If you want to take a look at some of the best fingerstyle guitars, check out this article.

Practice Singing Thirds & Fifths

After you’ve learned how to find the root of a chord with your voice, you can begin to practice harmonizing. Harmony is when we combine different notes together to create texture. If you simply sing the same note an octave higher or lower, you haven’t created any texture. As a singer, it’s important to stack thirds and fifths to create something more complex. The first step to singing thirds is to identify the root of the chord you’re playing.

If your root is C, then a third above will be an E. Likewise if your root is G, a third above will be a B. Find these notes on your guitar to ensure you’re singing the right pitch. To take things even further, you can learn to sing fifths above. A fifth above C is a G, and a fifth above G is a D. If you’re singing with two other musicians, this will allow you to create full major and minor chords vocally.

Use Your Diaphragm

Taking advantage of your diaphragm is important for singers who want to create a powerful sound. Your diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that relaxes when you breathe in air, and contracts when you breathe out. When singing with your diaphragm, it’s important to breathe deeply “into your diaphragm.” Typically, most people breathe very shallowly. Try breathing in deeply and pushing out your stomach as much as you can.

When you exhale, pull your stomach back towards you. This is how you should breathe when you’re singing. Doing so will give you much more presence. If you want to strengthen this muscle, try breathing into your diaphragm for as many counts as you can, holding your breath, and then breathing out slowly. Since many guitarists sit while singing, their breathing can often be compromised. The more you strengthen your diaphragm, the less your vocal power will be compromised from hunching over your guitar.

Use A Capo

If you’re trying to sing a song and you just can’t seem to hit the right notes, it might be because the song isn’t in a key suitable for your vocal range. This problem is common for women singing songs by men and vice versa because men’s voices tend to be a lot lower than women’s. Capos allow musicians to change the key of the song they’re playing without having to mentally work out the new chords. On piano, changing a key requires shifting the chord progression up or down a certain number of steps.

For example, if your chords are: C, F, and G, and you want to raise the key by one whole step, your new chords would be D, G, and A. While changing keys can be simple, more complex chords make things difficult. That’s where a capo comes into the picture. By putting your capo on the first fret and strumming the same chords to a song, as usual, you’ll have raised the key by one-half step.

Therefore, if your chords were: C, F, and G, they will now sound like a C#, F#, and G#. If you’re not sure which key you should be singing in, simply experiment with the capo on different frets to find a range that’s comfortable for your voice. You might find that only one simple half step will solve most of your vocal range problems.

About The Author

Hi there!

I’m Natalie. I work as a professional musician, session guitarist, and guitar teacher, and would like to use my music blog as a personal outlet to share my six-string knowledge with the world.

I’m owner of MusicalAdvisors.com
Contact me: [email protected]


The Three-Note Super Weapon Riff

There’s one particular riff I taught in my Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos course that I half-jokingly call my super weapon riff (maybe that’s a little over the top). You might laugh that I call it that, because honestly, it’s only a few notes. It’s not some machine gun blazing glory riff, not by any means.

Interestingly, I first picked it up from a country song somewhere (and I don’t listen to that much country!). Then, I heard Joe Bonamassa using it… and as my ear has become attuned to this particular interval, I start hearing it more places.

Today, I heard Eric Clapton using it in his solos in While My Guitar Gently Weeps. (Video posted below for your viewing pleasure). Side note – this song has an awesome chord progression worthy of studying… another time!

As I mentioned, it’s not a particularly difficult riff, it’s just an extremely tasty and well placed minor third when used at just the right place over a chord progression. It’s the kind of thing that when you nail it, you just feel that gratifying rush that says YES! This is why I love soloing on guitar! And all it is is this simple little string bend that pops to a minor third.

In fact, I just dug up a tabbed version for you from the Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos course. The riff I’m referring to is simply the first few notes of this bar – you can precede it or follow it with anything you please. This example is played over an Em, in the key of Am. The first note is a D, you stretch a full tone to an E, then pop to that G, which is a minor third up from the E. Simple right? But in context – amazing. There’s your lesson for today – it’s ALL ABOUT CONTEXT.

You can hear variations of this in Clapton’s solos at 2:20 and 5:05 to 5:07, and probably elsewhere as well. He’s got some cool solos in this song that aren’t particularly fast, but they are quite tasty, and I bet if you go looking, you find more examples of the “tasty” interval in here as well. If you do, let us know in the comments below.

PS – Clapton’s solo is in A minor as well, so this tab is in the correct key for video, bonus! He’s soloing a lot out of the Root 5 Minor Scale. I should mention that the whole super weapon thing is a bit more effective if you make this the feature… in Clapton’s solo, he passes through it pretty quick. Sounds amazing, but probably not something you’d consider super weapon status in this context. Nevertheless, worth learning!

Check it out:

The Foundation For Awesome Guitar Solos

Recently I released my Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos course (which guitar players seem to be really loving, by the way).

It focuses very deeply on using thirds in solos – both in double stops and single note lines. A lot of folks recognized that the course was a little over their heads, but at the same time, they really liked what they saw and heard, and wanted to be able to play like that because well, those thirds are just so dang tasty!

So, the question I’ve been hearing is this: what do I need to do FIRST, to get my playing up to the place where I can learn those tasty techniques?

Well my friend, a good guitar solo never comes completely out of the blue. There’s this myth floating around out there that says that good solos come straight from… the heart. That sounds great and all, but if it were *exclusively* true, you could give a guitar to anyone passionate enough and they’d be able to peel out a great solo on the spot without previous training.

We all know that won’t happen, so clearly – although the heart is involved – there are obviously other factors at work too!

The truth is that a great guitar solo is like a cool piece of architecture: it’s amazing to look at on first glance, but when you try to build it, you realize you need a foundation, you need to understand the ground it will be built on, you need certain materials, and you need a bunch of other elements that aren’t immediately apparent to the casual observer.

Today we’ll talk about two foundational elements that play a massive role in laying the groundwork for great solos.

Foundation #1 – Guitar Theory

One of the most foundational elements of all is learning some guitar theory.

I simply can’t overstate the impact this has had on my own playing.

Learning the relationships between notes, chords, keys, scales and all that good stuff gives you a way of problem solving things on the guitar.

If you don’t have any theory, you can’t define your problem, and you don’t have ways of solving it either, apart from trial and error. (Hint: that’s the really slow way to solve problems!) Theory is the language musicians use to communicate, it contains everything we need to be able to pass on musical ideas, and to develop them in creative directions.

Keep in mind that I’m talking about practical music theory here; not learning a bunch of high falutin’ terms you’ll never use but instead, learning extremely practical tools that have immediate impact on your playing.

If your guitar theory needs a tune up, you’ll love my Unlocking I IV V course – it’s a tremendously practical approach to guitar theory that has produced “light bulb” moments for thousands of guitar players.

I am so pleased with your 1-4-5 lesson. I have purchased lots of guitar/fretboard theory books but only had a vague idea as to how all the concepts were related.

Then I discovered your lesson! The light actually went on and I was able to pull everything together. Now it makes sense and I would like to thank you for doing such a fantastic job.

~ Peg Wagner Hayes, Virginia

Foundation #2 – Guitar Scales

The second foundation is also tremendously important, and it ties in with the first. I’m talking about guitar scale patterns – the key to your fretboard. Once you understand how scales work, you discover that the fretboard is in fact covered in scale patterns that all tie together very nicely.

Learn the most important patterns and you have the ability to find good sounding notes anywhere on the fretboard you choose.

There are two massive benefits of learning scale patterns:

a) You learn where all the good sounding notes are for that particular key. When it comes time to solo, trust me, it sure helps to know where the good notes are to be found! The scales help you avoid the landmines that can blow up your solo into an embarrassing mess.

b) Practicing patterns means your muscle memory improves. This is the key to speed and accuracy in your solos. As muscle memory begins to take over, the amount of actual thought required is reduced, meaning your brain bandwidth is opened up to start thinking more creatively.

A friend of mine who is a very good piano player (with lots of education to back it) watched me solo one day – he also plays guitar by the way. Afterward he asked – are you using scales or something when you play? He’s a pretty good guitar player as well, so his question surprised me. The fact was, with all that education and theory and everything else, he still had not connected the dots and applied scales to his fretboard.

If you’re unsure how scales work on your guitar, and you’d like to unlock your entire fretboard, you’re going to love my Guitar Scale Patterns course.

…Even after more than 30yrs I never had any “lights come on” in terms of my theory that I learned many times over the years.

I started with your scales course and have spent a good bit of time working on those… Your method and written material have been excellent for me!! Your pace and explanations are great and visuals are most helpful.

Last night I had a friend over and we started jamming and guess what??? THE LIGHTS WENT ON!!  Your scale instruction came through like a CHAMP.

I have never been shy about improvising but in just a few weeks of studying your course, I was playing at a whole different level and wasn’t just faking it!!! The use of my fingers was so much more efficient and clearly the knowledge of the scales gave me so much more in terms of tools and knowledge to work with!!!

By the end of one 20 min jam the adrenaline was pumping through me and I have never played so well and felt so satisfied on the guitar in my life!! Your lessons clearly helped me accomplish this wonderful experience. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!

~ Craig Villalon

What’s Next?

After you have these two foundation stones in place, there’s still plenty more to learn 🙂

Riffs are short musical phrases that relate directly to the scale – think of them like words, and think of your solo like telling a story. The more riffs you have at your fingertips, the better story you’ll be able to tell, right?

No one wants to finally get the spotlight, only to say “The brown dog ran.”

So learning and practicing riffs is tremendously helpful.

Beyond that, there are many directions you can go with your soloing: different styles and genres, perhaps you like blazing fast shred metal, or maybe you like country chicken pickin, blues, rock, or something else entirely.

One option that helps with just about all the above is learning how thirds work. I’ve dubbed the third as being the “tasty” interval. It’s crazy how many “tasty” riffs and solos are built upon this interval. But don’t take my word for it, check this out:

I have purchased several of your courses and I am just getting started on Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos. A light bulb went on and I pulled out the TAB on one of my favorite acoustic songs, Operator, by Jim Croce. I have studied the accompanied guitar part by Maury Muehleisen and could not figure out how he came up with such beautiful fills until now. He is playing thirds and like your intro part of the course, in the key of G.

I believe what you say about how “tasty” these can sound as I have always loved the guitar on that song and now I know why!

~ Craig C. in Oklahoma

If you’d like to add that “tasty” factor to your playing, you’ll love Secrets of Tasty Riffs & Solos!

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