Rate This Article
Rate from 1 (poor) to 5 (best)

Drumming To Help Your Strumming

Beyond The Realms of Conventional Guitar Thinking - Part V
As a player who began his musical pursuits on the skins (well, actually I first played on Crisco cans and other canned goods with spoons for drumsticks in my mom's pantry), I can wholeheartedly say that aside from singing, I owe a lot to the drumming skills I developed along the way. For the cat who simply wants to be a player's player and not worry about singing at all, I feel that rhythm knowledge on a deeper level is a must. To me, solid rhythm playing is what really separates the men from the boys. Anyone can just wank away all day and look cool doing it, but if they can't play in the pocket with the rest of the band then I'm sure they'd find themselves out of a job real quick. Having good meter (i.e., being able to keep time) is essential for any serious musician, and sorry, but just tapping one's foot along with the metronome ain't gonna cut it.

"...the accent patterns that you create/learn via drumming will eventually transfer over to what you can do rhythmically on the guitar."
Some of you are probably thinking, "Geesh! First this guy tells us to take singing lessons, and now he's telling us to buy a drum kit and take lessons for that too?!?" Not at all. I learned drumming entirely on my own starting at an early age, so if a 7-yr old can do it, anybody can. Start by just tapping or your table or desk y'know... that "racket" that always got you in trouble at school (or was I the only one?). Using a metronome (once again, ALWAYS use a metronome if you ever want to improve) just start by tapping along with the click, alternating your hands (right, left, right, left..), and really pay attention to see if you're staying in time with it. Now granted, training such as this will benefit your strumming hand probably the most, but by alternating your hands it will prepare you for some really cool accents that you can also throw into your alternate picking runs on a whim.

Accents, as we all know, help bring a rhythm pattern to life (applicable to all instruments), but knowing how to achieve cool accented patterns is where drumming comes in. Just tapping along with the beat is pretty mundane unless you throw in accents to spice it up (and I'd venture to wager that many of you accent the "One" by default it's the natural thing to want to do). Once you feel comfortable playing along with the metronome, conjure up a rhythm pattern in your head that you've always liked or were drawn to and while you're still tapping along in tempo, start to hear where the notes of the rhythm in your head fall into place with your hands. Did you start tapping out the accents as you played? It's hard not to, but don't worry about it because that's actually the goal here to be able to transfer what you hear in your head to what you're doing with your hands all while staying in (near) perfect meter. Soon you'll come to the realization that the right, left, right, left of your hands is synonymous with the down, up, down, up of your strumming and/or alternate picking. So... the accent patterns that you create / learn via drumming will eventually transfer over to what you can do rhythmically on the guitar.

Don't worry about becoming the next Neil Peart or anything like that, but if you want to get serious about your rhythm playing, your meter and your ability to hang with others on complex or unorthodox rhythmic passages, do yourself a favor and take a little time to find and get to know the drummer inside you.

Craig Smoot — Musician, Web Site and Info Systems Developer — is 1/2 of the guitar team for Black Label, and also runs Hellecasters.com and Rivera.com in his spare time.