Backup Styles

Part I - Down-up Strumming-

1. The basic downstrum. In three-four time, strum three times per bar, once per beat, counting, “One, two, three.” The accent is on “1.” In four-four time, strum four times per bar, once per beat, counting, “One, two, three, four.” The accents are on “1” and  “3.”  D= down; U =

 

        D D D
3/4  /1  2  3 / 

        D D D D
4/4  /1  2  3 4 /       When the accents fall on “2“ and “4,” it is called a backbeat.

2. Down-up Strumming. Here we use eighth-note rhythms to create a more lively effect. In three-four time, count, “one and two and three and.” In four-four time, count, “one and two and three and four and.”

Here are some down-up strums in both three-four and four-four:

Ύ time strums. These can be used for waltzes.

  D   DU D              D    DU  DU
/ 1 + 2 + 3 +  /       / 1 + 2 +  3 +  /

4/4 time strums for reels-
 D    DU DU D              D   DU D   DU          D   DU DU DU          DUDU DU DU
/ 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /       / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /      / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /      / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /

3. The “Latin,” or syncopated strum has accented strums on “1” and “2 &,” and no strum on “3” in 4/4 time. 
  ―    ―­    ­                     ―­    ­ ­                                               ‘     ’
/ 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /         / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /   4. “Sock” strum- 4/4  / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /  
The symbol ‘ indicates the tacet-let the strings off the neck with the fingers on the strings.

5. The swing strum for hornpipes. In 4/4, each beat is divided in thirds, called triplets. It is counted, “ 1 trip-let, two triplet,” etc. Strum down on “1,” count “trip,” and strum up on “let.”

         ­            ­           ­          ­
/1 trip-let   2 trip-let   3 trip-let   4-trip-let/

                                                                            ­        ­         ­         ­  ―|
6. The triplet strum is a down-up-down pattern-/1 trip-let   2 trip-let   3 trip-let   4-trip-let/

 7. The 6/8 strum. For use with jigs, this basically half of a 4/4 triplet pattern. Accents are on "1" and "4"

  D   U D  U        D U D  D U D
 
/1 2 3 4 5 6 /     /1  2  3  4  5  6/

 Part 2: Bass Note-Chord-

After down-up strumming, the next right-hand skill to learn  is bass note-chord accompaniment. This sound is more often heard in old-time and bluegrass than in Celtic music, where strumming is generally preferred.

1. The bass rest stroke and treble strum. When the bass string is played, the pick should move in a downward motion so that it comes to rest on the adjacent string. For example, if the sixth string is played, the pick should land on the fifth string. The strum should be limited to the first three treble strings.

2. In three-four time, pick the bass string on the count of “one,” and then strum the treble strings on the counts of “two” and “three.” In four-four, the basses are on the first and third counts and the strums on the second and fourth counts. Also, the bass notes are usually alternated in four-four. For example, on a G chord, a common pattern is sixth string, strum, fourth string, strum.

          B                                                                                        B   ­― ­
3/4  / 1  2  3 /    This can be also played with down-up strums:   / 1 + 2 + 3 +  /

        B B                                              B    ―­ B   ­                        B       ­―
4/4  /1  2 3 4 /     With down-up strums: / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /    Variant:  / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /

You should learn the strum with both even and swing eighth rhythms.

3. Bass note-chord patterns (they are usually the same for majors, minors and seventh chords on the same root note, so only the major chords are usually given here) are as follows - A - 5 & 4, or 5 & 6.  B7 - 5 & 4, or 5 & 6 (2nd fret). C - 5 & 4, or 5 & 6 (3rd Fret).  D- 4 & 5.  E- 6 & 4.  Short F- 4 & 3, or 4 & 5 (3rd fret).  G - 6 & 4.   Barre F form - 6 & 4.  Barre A form- 5 & 4, or 5 & 6. In Ύ, the first bass note is followed by two strums; in 4/4, play both bass notes with strums after each.

4. Playing fingerstyle. As an alternative to using the pick, you may pick the bass strings with the thumb and use the backs of the fingers (the nail side) to brush the treble strings. For the down-up technique, brush down and then up with the other (palm) side of the index finger on the offbeats. This is how Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family played guitar.

5. These are only the rudiments of this style. Many embellishments can be added as you advance, including hammers and pulls, connective bass runs, and, ultimately, the playing of the complete melody line in the bass interspersed with strums in the treble. To hear this bass-melody style, listen to the recordings of the Carter Family.

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