2. Playing in 4/4 time (BC-103)

Topic Progress:

In order to describe when to play something in a piece of music, we need some kind of system. If we look back at our Bob Dylan example, we did this by counting to four (and tapping our foot), and by playing chords on the first and third count. We then repeated this counting technique throughout the song, to allow us to keep track of our chord progressions.

GD
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
AmAm
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
GD
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
CC
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
etc…

In music, we would call each count (i.e. each tap of the foot) a beat, and each complete count of four a measure, as shown below:

In our current example we have four beats (1, 2, 3, 4) to each measure – this is called 4/4 time, and is the most common timing in rock, blues and pop music.

Strumming in 4/4 time with Downstrokes

When we practiced our strumming, we did this on the one and three beat, e.g:

GD
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
AmAm
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
etc…
 

We could also do this on every beat if we wanted to. Try this now by counting to four and strumming on every count.

GGDD
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
AmAmAmAm
1 ………. 2 ………. 3 ………. 4
etc…
 

When we play like this, we are strumming on the beat, i.e. we strum the chord at the same time as counting a number. Each time we strum the chord on the beat, we do so using a downstroke and the beat is called a down beat. If we were to strum the open strings using a downstroke, we would play all six strings, starting at the low E string and ending at the high E string.

 

Remember, when we play chords, we don’t always play all six of the strings (e.g. a D major):

D:1[D Major]
EADGBE

So when we play a chord using a downstroke, we start on the thickest playable string of the chord, and strum downwards to toward the thinnest playable string. In the case of a D major, we would start our downstroke on the open D string, and end our strum on the high E string:


 

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