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D U D U D U D U   w/Swing Feel
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

This is a diagram of the strum pattern we’ll use for Dust My Broom.

I’ve found that my students fall into two camps when it comes to learning strumming patterns. There’s the analyzers, and the groovifiers. The analyzers want the strumming pattern broken down for them: When do I go down, when do I go up? Show me the diagram! The groovifiers are like, “Get that diagram out of my face and let me just hear you play it a couple times and I’ll pick up on the groove.” Both approaches have their merit. I only caution you groovifiers out there to make sure you’re using correct strumming technique, keeping your arm going in constant up-down motion, and strumming down when I’m strumming down, and up when I’m strumming up. As long as you’re doing that, and you can just pick up on my groove by watching me play, groovacious. So before I continue, I’m going to play four measures of this pattern so that you can at least hear what you’re working toward. And if you groovifiers want to just learn the strumming pattern like this, great. I do recommend you watch the rest of the lesson, because you’re going to learn what swinging is, which will be valuable knowledge down the road.

I’m just going to mute the strings by making my fingers flat and resting them gently on the strings. You can do the same or grab one of the chords you know.

OK, analyzers, let me break down this diagram for you. There are two things here that are probably unfamiliar. One is those accent marks - the greater-than symbols. Those mean that you strum louder on the 2nd and 4th beats than you do the other strums. I’ll show you how to do this at the end of the video.

The other is this term “Swing Feel”. So what does swing feel mean? Well, normally, if you were to play this pattern without the accents and swing feel it would sound like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

Each strum gets an equal amount of time. Visualize robots marching. When we swing, those upstrums, which happen on the off beats, get delayed a bit. In fact, if this were easy to do on a computer, I’d actually write strum patterns played with a swing feel this way.

“But Rob,” you analyzers might ask, “How much do they get delayed?” Well, my friends, here’s something I think you’ll appreciate: A geeky graphic! We’re going to use four equal-length rectangles to represent the four beats in a measure, each getting the same amount of time: One, two, three, four.

When we strum with a straight feel, which means no swing, we just divide each of those beats into two equal parts, and we count them like this: One and two and three and four and. Each of those eight parts gets the same amount of time.

When we swing, the first thing we do is divide each of those beats into three equal parts, otherwise known as triplets. It sounds like this: One trip-let two trip-let three trip-let four trip-let. Then, we just count the first and third part of the triplet--we basically make the “trip” part silent: One let two let three let four let.

And that’s how you swing. You play on the beat and the let. Well, actually, this is the geeky, mathematical, hyper-analytical way of swinging. Most people learn how to swing just by listening to and playing a lot of blues and jazz ‘cause that’s typically music that swings. So now that you know how swinging works, try just playing along with me. And by the way, I won’t be counting one let two let--no one says “let”--I’ll still be using the word “and”, but now the “and”’s going to swing.

Keep rewinding the video and practicing with me until the swing starts feeling natural.

The other part we need to add to this strum is the accent on the two and the four.

When my students are learning a difficult new rhythm, I often have them say the rhythm before they play it on the guitar. “If you can say it, you can play it.” I tell them. Let’s try saying the strum pattern together, and we’ll say the down’s on the 2 and 4 louder to signify that those are accented.

Great. Now let’s try it on the guitar. The key to strumming louder is gripping your pick tighter. Let’s practice accenting by alternating between quiet and loud strums. On the quiet strums, let the pick flutter between your fingers. It’s going to be harder to hold on to it when you do this, but just do your best. On the loud strums, grip your pick harder. Here we go. Either mute the strings or grab a chord.

And now let’s apply your fabulous new accenting skills to the strumming pattern. Mute the strings or grab a chord

Great. Keep rewinding the video and playing along with me until that becomes easy. Once you’re ready, I’ll give you some tips on making smooth chord transitions while strumming, and then you can practice using this strum pattern in “Dust My Broom.”

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