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teaching rhythm

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(@martin-6)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 418
Topic starter  

Hi,
I have been teaching someone acoustic guitar for a few months (a complete beginner) and I'm having problems getting her to learn how to strum a rhythm. If I set a particular strumming pattern and we work on it for about half an hour, she can get the hang of it, but if I ask her to come up with her own rhythms she is unable to do so, even on the simplest of songs. I've shown her lots of examples of simple rhythms for the songs we work on, but when she tries to go it alone it just becomes a muddled sequence of uncertain upstrokes and downstrokes. She doesn't seem to have much natural sense of rhythm - well, she can count a beat, but her hand coordination seems to be at a much lower level.
How can I teach her strumming confidence? I have tried all sorts of examples and exercises, like one downstroke on each chord, or mimicking the melody with all downstrokes, or exagerrated hand swinging. Nothing seems to bring any improvement, and she has been playing long enough that she should be able to strum along to a simple two or three-chord song confidently.
By the way we are not working with a pick, just simple hand strumming.
Any help?


   
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(@bmxdude)
Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 119
 

O.K. this is how i learned. Have her hum a patern, then take a few chords that fit the the pattern, then play downstrokes(because they are easier) to fit that pattern. As simple as that. This will probably be simpler than following your pattern because it came from her own head.

"The answer is practice.
Now, what's the question?"
Words by David Mead.


   
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(@greybeard)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5840
 

You have to be a Catholic to teach rhythm (sorry, even though it may offend some, I couldn't resist that one). :lol: :lol:

I started with nothing - and I've still got most of it left.
Did you know that the word "gullible" is not in any dictionary?
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 xg5a
(@xg5a)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 482
 

I'm having that same problem with a student, but it isn't a "feel" problem. It's that she is a classically trained flute player. Of course, in classical music they write out the rhythms, and it has to be the exact same thing, every time. Also, they have this obsession with playing it perfect every time. She's terrified to improvise in any sense, even if it's just making a strumming pattern. Did anybody run into this before when teaching a student? I'm sorta at a loss for what to do.


   
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(@noteboat)
Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 4921
 

Looks like two separate student problems, huh? Well, I'll do one suggestion in two parts.

Making music is complicated stuff for some people, and the feedback you get from the instrument can overload some folks... I dunno why. They're bright people (and many will ultimately be fine guitarists) they're just wired differently for learning.

So part 1: when you're learning to play something, you get immediate feedback from the instrument. You hear bad notes and all... and it throws you. So when you're working with strumming hand rhythm, get rid of the sound. Have her lay her fretting hand across the strings so all she gets is a nice reliable thumping noise no matter what she does with the strumming hand. Removing pitch - treating the guitar like a percussion instrument - usually does the trick in breaking the hesitation barrier in strumming.

Part 2: what to play when you want to create a pattern... play your name. Say it, play it. a-MAN-da.... or ENG-el-bert-HUM-per-dink... or whatever. Then try saying it differently, different pace between the syllables. Say it, play it. Then go to other sentances, Robert Service poems, whatever. That builds the idea that you can use the guitar to actually say something.

Part 1 I've used with good success for years. Part 2 I just copped from an article on Bob Abrahmson - the eurythmics professor at Julliard. His job is to teach precise classical musicians how to make music worth listening to by making their instruments speak. :)

Guitar teacher offering lessons in Plainfield IL


   
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(@tim_madsen)
Prominent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 724
 

How long has your student been playing? How long did it take you to develop a sense of rhythm when you began playing? I've only been playing about a year and a half and I remember clearly that it took me six months of daily practice before the rhythm light came on. I say light because that is what it was like. I was playing with my playing partner/instructor one night and we both noticed at the same time, hey Tims got rhythm. I believe unless you are very gifted, rhythm can take varying amounts of time to develop and some people may never get it. I think comfort with the guitar is needed for rhythm. That requires muscle memory which requires time and practice imo.

Tim Madsen
Nobody cares how much you know,
until they know how much you care.

"What you keep to yourself you lose, what you give away you keep forever." -Axel Munthe


   
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(@undercat)
Prominent Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 959
 

I've found that folks who are missing the strumming timing thing, as you mentioned, just tend to be a little rhythm deficient. Two simple things usually help.

1. Get them to play to a metronome, always, and for a week or two, focus on that beat and how the melodic notes are falling in relation to that when they listen to popular music.

2. Depending on the person, give them a "drum lesson". Just set them up on my drums and have them find the down beat while I strum simple patterns. I'd say 80% of people aren't confident enough to do this, but for one of the students I was working with, it totally turned him around musically: actually explicitly creating the beat in a song helped him understand rhythm in a more natural sense, it helped him "feel it" which is really what I'm going for with strumming.

I have to admit though, Tom's suggestion of strumming muted notes... I'm definitely going to steal that.

Do something you love and you'll never work a day in your life...


   
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(@martin-6)
Honorable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 418
Topic starter  

Thanks for those tips guys.
I've already tried the total string muting technique with little success; I think what I might do next time is a sort of drum lesson where I will get my student to listen to a CD and tap out rhythms on the guitar body. Because tapping on a guitar requires zero skill, this could be a way of instilling more of a sense of rhythm which will hopefully be translated to the strumming.


   
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(@gizzy)
Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 109
 

What I did was to get my electric guitar and not plug it into the amp, I would take like the F chord and go up and down the neck listening to a song not worrying about if I was using the right chords or not but listening to the Rythym and beat and I would just keep practicing like that without the amp plugged in I didn't notice as much about what chords were being used I just kept focused on strumming to match the song in time I got the hang of alot of songs, then when I learned more chords and which ones go with what key I would plug my guitar in my amp and could always match the strumming so all I had to do then was to learn the right chords for the song after time worked out very well for me.

:D


   
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(@rodya-s-thompson)
Estimable Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 207
 

You have to be a Catholic to teach rhythm (sorry, even though it may offend some, I couldn't resist that one). :lol: :lol:

Hey greybeard, I was baptized Catholic, does that count? :P

Henry Garza, Saul Hudson, and Darrell Abbott could not be here tonight, but they all had sex and are proud to announce the birth of their two-headed baby, Rodya S. Thompson.

- Paraphrased from the Tenacious D series


   
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