8. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Strumming Patterns (BC-103)

Topic Progress:

As we’ve just seen, creating rhythmic strumming patterns can make our chord progressions sound more interesting. We can take what we’ve just learned and apply this to our song, ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’. You can practice your strumming patterns using the backing track below.

G:1[G Major]
D:1[D Major]
Am:1[A Minor]
C:1[C Major]

options width=700 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=false time=4/4 notes =|: :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 | :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4 :qS Bu/4 :8S Bu/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 text :h,|,.1,G,D,|,Am, ++,.13,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&,|,1,(&),2,&,(3),&,4,&
options width=700 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=false notes :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 | :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4 :qS Bu/4 :8S Bu/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 =:| text :h,.1,G,D,|,C, ++,.13,.font=Times-8-,:8,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&,|,1,(&),2,&,(3),&,4,&

= Downstroke= Upstroke

 

Mixing Things Up with Open String Strums

Our song and strumming pattern is starting to sound pretty good now, but there are a few other embellishments we can play around with to make things sound even better. On the upstroke before each chord change, you can strum the open strings instead of playing the chord to give a bit of variety to the rhythm. When strumming the open strings, don’t worry too much about hitting every string – we just want to lightly strum them on our upstroke to create a percussive sound. Try this with the G to D chord change to get a feel for it:

options width=700 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=false time=4/4 notes =|: :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 =:| text :8,|,.1,G, , ,Open(O), D, , ,Open(O), ++,.13,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&

 

Now let’s try it with our song, playing an open string strum where you see the (O) above the rhythm notation:

options width=700 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=false time=4/4 notes =|: :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 | :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4 :qS Bu/4 :8S Bu/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 text :8,|,.1,G, , ,(O), D, , ,(O),|,Am, , , , , , ,(O), ++,.13,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&,|,1,(&),2,&,(3),&,4,&
options width=700 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=false notes :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 | :qS Bd/4 :8S Bd/4 :qS Bu/4 :8S Bu/4 :8S Bd/4:8S Bu/4 =:| text :8,.1,G, , ,(O), D, , ,(O),|,C, , , , , , ,(O), ++,.13,.font=Times-8-,:8,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&,|,1,(&),2,&,(3),&,4,&

 

Not only does this sound good, but it gives us a little extra time to make each chord change, so makes things easier to play!

Adding More Variety – Bass Notes

In addition to strumming, we can mix things up a little more by striking the bass note of each chord in instead of strumming it. The bass note is the note played on the thickest playable string of the chord, so for chords we have learned, the bass note would be as follows:

  • G Major: G note on the low E string.
  • D Major: Open D string.
  • A Minor: Open A string.
  • C Major: C note on the A string.

For this technique, we replace the first downstroke of each chord with the bass note, and play the rest of the strumming pattern as we having been doing previously. Try this now with the G major chord:

options width=700 space=30 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes =|: :q 3d/6 :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)d :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)u :q 3d/6 :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)d :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)u =:| text .font=Arial-11- :8,|, , , G,G, , ,G,G, ++,.27,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&

Tip: Guitar Tab. Notice this time, we’re using guitar tablature to display the strumming pattern. This is because we can’t show single notes (i.e. the bass note) using a chord chart. From our example above, we can see standard music notation at the top and guitar tab at the bottom. In guitar tab, the six horizontal lines represent the guitar strings, starting with the low E string at the bottom and ending with the high E string at the top.Notes are shown as fret numbers on each string, so the bass note (in the case of the G Major chord, the G note) is shown on the tab as the number ‘3’ (for 3rd fret) on the low E string. When we show chords in guitar tab, we show the fret numbers to be played on each of the strings. The fret numbers are arranged vertically, one on top of the other from the low E string, to the high E string, to indicate that the notes are all played at once (i.e. a chord). The image below shows how this works in guitar tab:

If we compare this to a chord diagram, we can see the fret numbers in a more familiar format:

G:1[G Major]

Now try the same pattern with the D major chord. You may find this a little tricker, as we can only hit the top four strings in D major:

options width=700 space=30 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes =|: :q 0d/4 :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)d :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)u :q 0d/4 :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)d :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)u =:| text .font=Arial-11- :8,|, , , D,D, , ,D,D, ++,.27,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&

Now the A minor chord. Make sure strum only the top five strings:

options width=700 space=30 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes =|: :q 0d/5 :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)u :q 0d/5 :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)u =:| text .font=Arial-11- :8,|, , , Am,Am, , ,Am,Am, ++,.27,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&

Finally, the C major chord:

options width=700 space=30 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes =|: :q 3d/5 :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)u :q 3d/5 :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)u =:| text .font=Arial-11- :8,|, , , C,C, , ,C,C, ++,.27,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&

Now let’s wrap it all up and try using bass notes in our song:

options width=700 space=30 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes =|: :q 3d/6 :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)d :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)u :q 0d/4 :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)d :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)u | :q 0d/5 :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)u :q (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1) :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1)u text .font=Arial-11- :8,|, , , G,G, , ,D,D, ,|, ,Am,Am,Am, ,Am,Am, ++,.27,.font=Times-8-,:8,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&
options width=700 space=30 stave-distance=30 tabstave notation=true tablature=true time=4/4 notes :q 3d/6 :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)d :8 (3/6.2/5.0/4.0/3.0/2.3/1)u :q 0d/4 :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)d :8 (0/4.2/3.3/2.2/1)u | :q 0d/5 :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)u :q (0/5.2/4.2/3.1/2.0/1) :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)d :8 (3/5.2/4.0/3.1/2.0/1)u =:| text .font=Arial-11- :8, , , G,G, , ,D,D, ,|, ,C,C,C, ,C,C, ++,.27,.font=Times-8-,:8,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&,|,1,(&),2,&,3,(&),4,&

 

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