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Jamie Humphries – The Rhythm Method Part 2: Adding Swing Rhythm

Lesson Notes

** As featured in issue 3 **

Welcome to another instalment of the Rhythm Method. Last month we looked at building guitar chords around the CAGED system. This month we are going to look at the basic subdivision of time, understanding time signatures, playing swing rhythms and also building a more sophisticated blues chord progression.

Although many guitarists like to just play the guitar, and enjoy how it sounds, I really feel that having a basic understanding of music theory really helps you achieve much greater goals. I am not suggesting for a second that you should put your guitar down for the next few years and bury your head in theory books, but I think a little more of an understanding will go a very long way.

The first thing we need to look at is the basic sub-division of time and understand and practice different types of rhythms - also to understand time signatures. The majority of popular music is based around a 4/4 time  signature, the top number tells us how many beats in the bar, the bottom number what type of beat it is: 4/4 being four crotchet or quarter notes to one bar, or measure, depending on what side of the Atlantic you come from!

Ex1: Illustrates the basic sub-division of time chart. This is explained in full in the video, and makes more sense in a practical application. The example starts with a semi-breve, or whole note, 4 beats, then a minim, or half note, 2 beats, then a crotchet, or quarter note, 1 beat, then a quaver, or eighth note, half a beat, and a semi-quaver, or sixteenth note, a ¼ of a beat. You will notice I have presented this example twice, the second time example shows the same chart but the note heads are different.. This time I have shown them as rhythm slashes; which are used by professional guitarists to notate strum patters when performing chords.

Ex2a and Ex2b: Illustrate the difference between straight 1/8 notes rhythms, and a swung 1/8 note rhythm. As explained in the video, a swing rhythm is basically a broken triplet, making the down strum last slightly longer than the up strum, giving it a swing feel. Writing a rhythm as a broken triplet would be untidy for reading, so we use a metronome mark, in the form of two straight 1/8 notes equalling a broken triplet, and this can be seen above the time signature on Ex2b.

Ex3: Shows our chord progression for our Blues, performed in the video. The progression is made up of two sections, marked with arrangement symbols. You will see these marked over the top of the chart with an A and a B. These types of markings are used on professional charts, giving an MD (musical director) an easy way of communicating sections when rehearsing a band or show. I would suggest going back to last months Rhythm Method lesson and looking at the CAGED chords that I presented to you. I showed you all five shapes of A major, A minor and A7th, and from this you should be able to work out the correct chords used in the progression. As I mention in the video, try experimenting with different chord voicings in different positions. This will help you to learn more about the neck and also you can choose for yourself as to which voicings you prefer the sound of. Also this will enable you to not have to cover huge portions of the neck when changing from one chord to the next, as you can locate chords in the same position, which also leads to smoother changes.

That pretty much rounds up this month’s instalment. Just remember to spend time with your metronome or drum machine and pay attention to really locking in with the count - and be strict with yourself! Also before you play along with the lesson track make sure you practice all of the chords found in the progression in all five positions of the neck, utilising all of the CAGED shapes. Good luck!

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