Hey, this is Gabe from Reggae Guitar Lessons.
Here's a beginner lesson on a few basic reggae guitar strumming patterns.
The video lesson below (See the very bottom of this blog post) covers how I learned to play reggae guitar in New York City, then gets into right-hand and left-hand technique and some strumming exercises in 4/4 time.
First, let's talk about your ...
Rest your left hand on top of the strings without applying any pressure, and it will mute your sound. Then quickly press down on the top three strings when the right hand strikes the chord. You are trying to create a short, staccato sound. Practice first with the strings muted, and then progress to pressing them down.
The right hand plays a strong down-stroke motion on the offbeat of the rhythm. You are not trying to "strum" the strings; you want to “chop” them. Put some power into your picking attack and make use of the guitar as a percussive instrument. Also remember to play only the top three strings.
Reggae Strumming Patterns
01. The most common reggae rhythm guitar pattern involves playing a downstroke on the offbeat of the rhythm. So if you are counting in 4/4 time, you would play a downstroke on the + (the "and") of the beat. See the figure below ...
... and check out Bob Marley's "Jammin'" as an example:
02. The second most common reggae guitar strumming pattern involves a slight variation. Instead of just a downstroke, now it's a down and up stroke on the offbeat. See the figure below ...
... and listen to “Get up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley as an example:
The best way to learn how to play reggae rhythm guitar is by listening to your favorite reggae songs and trying to play along. Start with these two basic patterns, and then you can alter them to create your own reggae guitar strumming patterns. Be sure to check out the extra (third) strumming pattern in the video below.
Gabe Bendana is a New York City-based guitarist and professional music teacher. For more reggae guitar lessons, visit reggaeguitarlessons.com.