Music Lessons
January 28, 2023

Building Better Rhythm 4 - Accent Strumming

There are so many other things to cover for improving your acoustic strumming, but before we switch to electric guitar rhythm, we have one last, and very important technique: Accent Strums! We could argue that it is even far more important than all of the other tips we have already provided.

What is an accent strum?

An accent strum is a strum that stands out from the rest. This could be done in a few ways such as:

  • Strum it harder and with more volume
  • Have the strum last longer than the rest of the strums in the bar
  • Have a fast stop directly after it

Why is it important to have an accent strum?

Accent strums really set up the rhythm by providing a reference point in each bar. Typically, this will be on beat 1 and will stand out from all of the other strums. This will continue into each bar and a certain pattern or rhythm will be produced. Drummers and bass players will normally accent the exact same beat as the rhythm guitar, but if you are playing by your self and don't have an accent strum or anything else to accent it for you, your rhythm will be weak and it will be hard for anyone listening to pick up on the pattern, aka rhythm.

Check out our first example "Let It Be" from the Beatles.

Here we have an accent strum on beat number one. We do this by playing it longer than the rest. There is a slight volume increase as well, but just a tiny amount in this case. The accent strums are also signified by this symbol (>) directly above the chord.

Click here to download PDF

Setting up Time Signatures

Accents also play a very important part in setting up the time signature. In the "Let It Be" example we have just 1 accent strum on beat 1 since it is a 4/4 example, however, our next example with have more in order to set up a 6/8 time signature. The song "Elderly Woman Behind the Country of a Small Town" by Pearl Jam is in 6/8 and have 2 accented strums. One on beat 1 and another on beat 4. The accent on beat 1 is a strong accent and the accent on beat 4 is a medium strong accent. We make the accent on beat 1 just a bit stronger by playing it with more volume and also due to the fact that it is on beat one and also has a chord change all help to make it stronger.

Try it out for yourself with our second example "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter of a Small Town":

Click here to download the PDF

The Star System:

Use the star system to help motive and track your progress through songs and exercises. Here is the breakdown for this song:

  • 2 Star **              = Memorize "Let it Be"
  • 3 Star ***            = Memorize Memorize "Let it Be" and "Elderly Woman"
  • 4 Star ****          = Play to the music at 75% speed
  • 5 Star *****         = Play to the music at 100% speed

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