Hey, Bo Diddley!

May 11, 2006

To get a handle on this essential rhythm, set your metronome or drum machine to click quarter-notes at a relaxed tempo. Next, on muted strings, scratch out Ex. 1’s unbroken eighth-notes using alternating downstrokes and upstrokes. Finally, add the accents, digging into the strings to emphasize the down or upstrokes, as shown. Gradually raise the tempo, and hear the beat take shape.

Ex. 2 adds major triads—played on the second, third, and fourth strings—to the mix. Fret the chords on the accents, but otherwise relax your fingers and strum muted strings. For an authentic vibe, crank up the tremolo.

Now try the variation in Ex. 3. Though the accents remain the same, we’ve souped up the first measure with a slide, and we’re using two different major-triad voicings.

Once you’ve got a firm grasp of the rhythm as notated in these examples, try eliminating some of the muted scrapes. Just skip a few here and there—nothing formal—to create a more fluid, jivey sound.

Next time: We continue exploring the world of rhythm with a trip to the swamp.

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