RIFF-MONGERS AND TAB HOUNDS,
take notice: Do not skip this lesson. Perhaps
you’ve already scanned the musical
examples herein and noticed the lesson
doesn’t offer hot licks, cool tricks, or other
transcribed morsels of instant guitar gratification,
but know this: It delivers
something much more valuable.
“It shows you how to develop rhythmic
control,” says GIT’s Vadim Zilbershtein.
“Having rhythmic control goes way beyond
making for great rhythm playing. It’s necessary
for everything you do, including
putting power in your lead playing.”
Having worked with everyone from
Chaka Khan, Rick James, and Ronnie Laws
to Marcus Miller, Me’Shell Ndegéocello
and Earth, Wind & Fire, Zilbershtein is
certainly qualified to speak on matters of
groove: “Many grooves can be broken down
into sixteenths, so that’s where this lesson
Zilbershtein, who was first turned onto
this strumming workout by one of his early
influences, guitarist Carl Burnett, says the
basic approach involves choosing a chord
(such as one of the Em7 grips in Ex. 1), getting
your metronome going at a tempo at
which you can comfortably strum four sixteenth-
notes per downbeat (“one-e-and-uh,
two-e-and-uh,” etc.), and fretting the chord
only on the noteheads in any of the many looped strum patterns featured in this lesson.
“The X-ed out notes are muted strums,”
reminds Zilbershtein. “Strum every sixteenth.
And when you’re not fretting a chord, mute
the strings with your fretting hand. Even if
your pick doesn’t actually make contact with
the strings during muted notes, be sure your
strumming hand still goes through the
motion. Keep that strumming engine running!
And never lose track of the quarter-note
downbeats. Once you’ve done an example
strummed, also practice the same pattern
with your picking restricted to a single string,
sounding only a single note [Ex. 2].”
Starting simply and gradually getting
more complex, Examples 3 through 6 cover
many of the rhythmic permutations an
ensemble guitarist needs to have nailed to
play various genres of Western music.
Example 6, for example, contains a common
three-against-four rhythm featured on
Kool & the Gang’s famous “Jungle Boogie”
interlude, as well as on other iconic songs.
“Triplets get a little trickier,” says Zilbershtein,
referring to the eighth-note
triplet groupings that are the basis of each
downbeat in Examples 7 through 9. “Now,
we’re striking the strings only three times
per downbeat, which means with each new
downbeat, our picking pattern reverses.
You may practice the triplet exercises two
different ways: starting the measure downup-
down, up-down-up, etc., or vice-versa.”
Once you get going with the basic triplet
permutations in Ex. 7, move on to Ex. 8
(which shows how quarter-note triplets
are generated by accenting every other
eighth-note) and Ex. 9 (which shows how
half-note triplets are generated by accenting
every fourth eighth-note).
“I’ve been doing this exercise for 30 years,
and it always yields results,” says Zilbershtein.
“It’s open-ended, and there is no limit to the
number of ways you can mix and match the
patterns or apply them to different tempos,
chord progressions, and riffs. It really helps
you develop consistency and control. Best of
all, it really helps you feel each pulse in the
bar, which is good. You can’t expect anyone
else to feel what you’re playing if you don’t
first feel it yourself.”