Oldsville

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Acoustic Guitar II

Pick bass strumming (alt-bass) and some contrasting simple rhythm styles

NB Best viewed in Google Chrome to be able to access the audio clips

Picking and Strumming (Alt-Bass)

A natural evolution from bass-treble strumming is to pick the bass string notes (thumb or plectrum) and strum the treble string notes. Normally the the root note of the chord is the opening bass note on beat 1 and the simplest approach is to do this and strum the rest of chord according to whatever pattern is being used. This can be extended to include one of the other bass string notes on beat 3, hence the generic term alt-bass i.e. alternating bass. The following clips illustrate some basic pick-strum patterns along these lines.

BUDUBUDU Swing - vanilla country-style pattern
B-DUB-DU Straight - country-style
B-D-DUDU Straight - country-style pattern
B-D-B-DU Straight - sparse country-style pattern
B-B-D-DU Straight - slow country-style pattern
B-DU-UDU Straight - universal (calypso) strum pattern for ballads etc
B-DU-UDU Swing - universal (calypso) strum pattern for ballads etc

The above synthesised clips are on a C-major open chord.

Chord Roots, Fifths & Thirds

Major chords are comprised of the root note, the third note and the fifth notes of the scale. For example, in the open C major chord the root is C, the third is E and the fifth is G. It's helpful to know at least the root string for each major chord.

Whether the third or fifth notes are available from the other bass strings varies from chord-to-chord and the root may repeat. As the root-fifth-third notes are the components of the chord then playing them singly is compatible with strumming the whole chord.

The bass string notes for the major chords are identified below. The information on thirds and fifths may satisfy curiosity and be helpful for developing strum patterns.

Key to bass strings:
Root - black
Third - green
Fifth - red

Open major guitar chords, showing bass string roots, thirds and fifths of each chord

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Pick-Strum Development (plectrum-based)

Using a plectrum facilitates fuller use of bass string notes, since bass downstrokes with the plectrum can more easily be followed by bass upstrokes, compared to using the thumb.

One simple approach to the previous range of strum patterns is to maintain the bass-treble distinction and play all the eighth note down- or upstrokes in the beat 1 and 3 time interval on the bass strings, with the all the eighth note down- or upstrokes in the beat 2 and 4 time intervals being strummed on the treble strings.

This makes for a cleaner and more interesting overall sound. One can loop between the relevant bass strings, whilst respecting the relevant rests for a particular strum pattern.

The mono wav clips in this section are recorded with a Tanglewood TGRP VSE parlour-sized acoustic guitar in to the stereo mic attachment of a stand-mounted Zoom H6 digital recorder.

The figures below show in tab form how a basic looping style of strum pattern can be applied to chord groups, varied according to which root note and hence bass string starts things off.

6th String Root
Chords E, G

G-major chord
5th String Root
Chords A, B7, C

C-major chord
4th String Root
Chords D, F

D-major chord

Eighth note BBDUBBDU pick-strum patterns for chords, grouped by their root note bass strings
Note - shows right-hand only, so fretting a chord shape with the left-hand is assumed.

The next step is to apply syncopation, as previously used to derive variations in the strum pattern. The results then provide a palette that can be applied at will on a bar-by-bar basis to home in on rhythm details for whatever song is being attempted.

The following figures develops some rhythm options from the basic Root 5 pattern.

B-DUBBDU
C-major chord
B-DUB-DU
Am chord
BBDU-BDU
Am chord
B-DU-BDU
C-major chord
B-DU-BD-
Am chord

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