17 June 2012

16th note rhythms: the right way - the wrong way

Sixteenth note rhythms are about as fast as it gets when you're playing guitar chords. Playing a certain rhythms requires a given technique. Often I can categorize people who play 16th note rhythms in one of the following three categories. 

  1) People who don't have the slightest idea on what they're doing.
These are the ones who just started playing the guitar and without taking any lessons (or self study) they start playing their favorite tunes. The strumming goes all over the place. A down stroke here, some upstrokes there. They will have a hard time trying to sing and play the guitar at the same time. It's nearly impossible. To the trained ear the inexperience is quite noticeable, while your friends may just say: hmmm, I think it's not exactly how it's supposed to sound, but I can't lay my finger on it.

  2) People who play 16th note rhythms as if they are playing an 8th note rhythm.
Mostly these people did get a couple of guitar lessons, and maybe they have some more experience playing the guitar at home. They started playing up and down strokes and are pretty good at it when it comes to 8th note rhythms. The way you would play a Taylor Swift song for instance. But when you apply this strumming technique to a 16th note rhythms your song's gonna get all mixed up. When you are playing in a 8th note strumming rhythms, but you encounter a 16th note, you'll play that sixteenth- as if it was an eight note, and suddenly up- and down strokes are switched. Playing an half-inverted-8th-note-technique-16th-note-guitar-rhythm. Again, you yourself might say: what's the fuzz about? I'm playing guitar ain't I? But compared to a steady 16th note rhythm you're technique sounds like a crippled guy running the marathon and doing it quite fast. Yes, you did finish but it didn't look good.

Here we've got an example of Nick playing a 16th note rhythm the 8th note way. He doesn't do a bad job at what he's doing, but wait until you compare it to the real thing. 

  3) People who play mastered it..
Steady, relaxed and easy. That's how it should be. Able to sing, able to have a conversation while playing guitar, to make a few jokes to the audience. Able to make the breaks at the right moment. To play really tight with a band. To play any kind of strumming pattern within seconds.

The 16th note rhythm, played with a 16th note strumming technique. Look forward to the next couple of blog posts in which I'll explain how to strum 16th note patterns the right way!