Music Lessons
October 28, 2022

Building Better Acoustic Rhythm #2- Bass Note Strumming and Chord Transition Techniques

image of guitar TAB for a strumming exercise

"You need better rhythm" - Acoustic Bass Note Strumming w/ Chord Transitions and Arpeggios

In this edition of "You need better rhythm" we look at 3 techniques for good rhythm: Bass note strumming, Chord Transition Techniques and Arpeggiated Chords. Let's break down what each technique is and how its done.

The Exercise:

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Follow Along Video

Bass Note Strumming

Bass note strumming is a technique where the bass note is picked as part of the strumming pattern. Normally the first beat of a chord pattern, but can also be on other beats like 1+ or beat 2. The technique can really help to clean up a chord's clarity and really make new chords that you change to stand out better. Another good thing I like about it is that it breaks up the strum pattern which can sometimes be muddy sounding. There are also a few styles that really rely on this technique such as country or folk guitar.

Chord Transition Techniques

There are a few techniques used in order to change chords faster, easier, and have it sound smooth and feathered. In this exercise we have 3 of them:

  • Open Up Strum - In bar 4, beat 4+ of our exercise we can see an up strum on the open strings e, b, g. This transition is to get us from the D chord we are currently on to the C chord we need for the arpeggio. The open up strum can sound strange at slow speeds, but it does an amazing job of freeing up our fingers to get to the next chord along with feathering that change. Once play up to speed you don't even notice it. This is the most important of transition techniques for chords.

  • Common Finger Up Strum - This is the same as the open up strum except we are able to leave a common finger between the chord we are on and the chord we are changing to down without lifting it up. At the end of bar 2 we have a transition from a G chord to a D chord. If the G chord is played with the 3rd fret b string covered then we can just keep that same finger down for the D chord since it also uses the same finger, fret, and string. This can provide a nice shortcut making the change easier and faster.

  • Anticipation Strum - In bar 8 we are playing a D chord, but in the very last beat 4+ the 3rd fret high e string is added copying the bottom of the G chord we are about to change to. The g string is also opened up giving us almost a full G chord an 8th of a beat ahead of when we will actually be playing it. This sounds far more complicated than it is and it sounds really, really good.

  • Open Bass Note - Whenever we have an open base note on beat 1 of a chord that we are changing to we can use that to buy us time in order to get our fingers in place. In bar 6 we are playing an arpeggiated C chord with no transition technique at the end, but we don't need one because in bar 7 the D chord starts with an open bass note and that acts as our transition technique. All of the other transition techniques we looked at all happen on the final beat of the bar before the chord change. For this one it happens on beat 1 of the new bar.

Arpeggiated Chords

Arpeggiating a chord is easy, hold down the chord and then pick each string one at a time while not removing your fingers from the previous strings. We can call this a "Let Ring" Arpeggio since there other ones where we isolate the notes guessed it......"Isolated Arpeggios". In bar 5 of the example we arpeggiate the C chord as a way to break up the strumming and make it more interesting by adding in a bit of melody.


  • Learn the exercise by memorizing it with the exact techniques. ALL OF THEM!! :) The idea is to learn or improve on these techniques since they will greatly help your rhythm.
  • Play it to a metronome starting off at 65 BPMs until you can play it comfortably. Use the play along video if you are having a lot of trouble and try and match me at the slower speeds before trying the metronome.
  • Do it 20 times per practice session and 5 times per week for 4 weeks. Advanced players should be able to get it up to the 5 start level of 160 BPM's pretty easily.

The Star System:

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

  • 70 BPM's    = 1 Star *                    (Beginner)
  • 90 BPM's    = 2 Star **                 (Intermediate 1)
  • 110 BPM's  = 3 Star ***                (Intermediate 2)
  • 140 BPM's  = 4 Star ****              (Intermediate 3)
  • 160 BPM's  = 5 Star *****            (Advanced)

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