Technique is a tool, and it’s hard to get the right job done with the wrong tool. In this post, my goal is to highlight some strumming techniques that that can help elevate your acoustic guitar playing to the next level.
An accent is an exaggeration of something that gives it distinction from something else. Think of a bold word in a sentence or the way someone may speak with an accent – in the US, a northerner generally has a different “accent” than a southerner.
With the acoustic guitar, you can insert accents in your strum patterns that will emphasize a chord or a part of a song. A good example of this is the song, I Know Who I Am by Israel Houghton. You can hear this technique all throughout the song, but it’s most noticeable to me in the part where it says “…and you are mine…” at the end of the chorus.
Muting the strings mid-strum is a great way to accent rhythm in a song, much like a drummer does on the snare drum. If you’re playing acoustic by yourself at your church (i.e. not a full band or “unplugged”), this is an indispensable tool that should be in your bag-o-acoustic-tricks!
Muting the strings can be done with the strumming hand and/or the fretting hand. Jack Johnson’s style is pretty consistently muting the strings on the 2 & 4 of a regular 4/4 time signature song, which can be done with either hand.
In this Dave Matthews Band song, you have to use your fretting hand to mute the strings in order to get the right sound. In this particular song, you fret a 2 string chord and then mute the rest of the strings with your fretting hand, mixing that with muting all the strings as an accent.
Palm muting is a commonly used technique in parts of a song that are building dynamically or that are slightly lower in intensity. Extravagant by Bethel is a song I usually play slightly palm muted on the verses (although, I don’t think their version necessarily has that in it). If you just slightly palm mute the strings, it gives it a different sound. That’s a good technique work practicing.
Mix Strumming & Picking
One of my favorite techniques is mixing strumming with picking – I also use this when I’m playing electric. I don’t know of an example song, but it’s pretty straightforward. When you mix strumming and picking in a chord, it helps fill up the space with sound. If you do it right, you can almost make it sound like two guitar parts.
Leave a comment below if you have any questions about this technique. I’ll make sure to include it in my first course inside the Acoustic Worshiper Community.
End of the Post
I’d love to hear your feedback on the techniques I laid out in this post. Did I miss one of your favorites? Leave a comment and join the conversation!