Learning the Celtic Strum

I have several students that are in various stages of learning how to play the so-called Celtic Strum.  If you’ve been around modern worship music at all in the last 20 years, you’ve heard this strumming pattern in hundreds of songs.  I’ve heard it called all kinds of things – the worship groove or energy groove – or even “that strummy thing.”

I was first introduced to the celtic strum via Paul Baloche’s original recording of Open The Eyes Of My Heart (Worship Leader’s Song Discovery Issue No. 5).  After that, it seemed like it was in every worship song – there have been countless others: Trading My Sorrows, Sweetly Broken to name a couple more songs that use this strum.

The Celtic Strum is a must-have for the strumming tool box for every guitarist.  Here’s how I break it down for the student:

The pattern is 2 measures long.  Starting with a down-strum, you’re strumming hand will move in a steady down-up motion for the entire pattern.  Every down-strum is an 8th note and every up-strum is an 8th note.  Here’s a PDF of the pattern in rhythmic notation:

Celtic Strum

The arrows show the direction of your strumming hand movement.  The numbers under the notes show you how to count out the rhythm.  Notice there are 4 groups of 3 and 2 groups of 2.  Counting this way will help you focus on the accents which will always fall on 1.  The key to the groove is getting those accents louder than everything else.

Get your strumming hand moving in that steady down-up motion while simultaneously counting out loud (making “one” louder than everything else): “One-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two, one-two.”  Start out slow and as you gain confidence, speed things up.  You’ll notice that your strumming hand will be moving in the opposite direction for the first 4 accents or ones and then down for the next two accents.  When you get to the end, loop it around again and again.  One of my students used my phone to make a simple video demo of the accents this morning:

I’ll add more to this post in the future.  Click like to let me know if you found this helpful.  I welcome your comments below!  Happy strumming!

Guitar Lesson – Bb Major Chord Scale

I’m currently training 3 teenage guitar players at my church.  I started them out by teaching them the 1 – 4 – 5 – and 6m chords in the key of G.  When it comes to playing a song in a non-friendly guitar key, like Bb, I usually make use of Planning Center Online’s chord chart transposition features.  With a couple of mouse clicks I can quickly produce a capo 3 chart with familiar G family chord shapes.  This keeps my players from getting that “deer in the headlights” look when I hand them a Bb chart.  (Ahhh… what would we do with out our friend, the capo?!)  One of them asked me recently, “Can you teach me some new chords?  I’m tired of playing in G!”  All right, kiddo, you asked for it!

Here’s a new guitar lesson called Bb Chord Scale – Guitar Lesson that teaches a concept called the “chord scale.”  If you take some time to get the chord shapes from this lesson under your fingers, soon you’ll be able to leave your capo inside your case the next time your worship leader hands you a chart in Bb.  They could end up being the one with that “deer-in-the-headlights” look!  I hope you find this helpful.  Let me know if you have any questions about it!

Here’s a video demo of me playing the chord scale from this lesson:

 

Fingerpicking Without Thinking

One of my Skype students asked me this week about how to improve at fingerpicking while leading worship – without having to think too much.  Honestly the only way to play in any style without having to think too much is to practice, practice, practice, etc.  The goal is to get to that place where all the technical skills become second nature.  To that end, I offer this little fingerpicking exercise.  I’ve included the chord diagrams and TAB.  Just click on this:   Fingerstyle Exercise by Pat Shelby

Have fun!  Leave a comment if you have any questions.

Pat

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

Auto Pilot

I have a bass student that’s in the 9th grade. He recently asked me, “How do you get good enough to play on the stage in the worship band at Acquire The Fire?” (He had just been to one of their conferences.) I told him to Google this question: How do you get to Carnegie Hall? The answer is the same. Practice.

This morning, I was going through my journal from last years National Worship Leader Conference. I came across the notes I had taken at one of Norm Stockton workshops. I remember Norm talking about how to play on auto pilot. That’s when you know your instrument so well that you can play with freedom and precision. When I meet with a guitar student for their first lesson, I always stress this point: You will make faster progress if you practice at least 15 minutes a day than if you practice for 1 hour, once a week. Norm would call the benefit of a daily practice regimen is that ability to go on auto pilot.

I’ve written these Norm-nuggets down from my journal here below. They are tried and true for any musician, not just bassists. Please share this with your worship teams. I give all the credit to Mr. Stockton.

  • Diligently invest in the gifts God has given you.
  • Consistent practice every day.
  • Auto pilot happens with 15 minutes a day, not 4 hours every other Saturday
  • Bass = Infrastructure
  • Don’t conflict with the groove
  • Groove = Feeling of consistent/reliable forward motion in music
  • Pursue a passion for the groove
  • In the band, everybody’s responsible for the groove.
  • Groovicidal = not grooving
  • Playing with a Click = Eating your veggies part of music
  • Your internal sense of time is not calibrated.
  • Woodshed with a Click. Period.
  • The 100% Rule – If you play in a quartet, that 100% is divided by 4
  • If your part sounds like 100% of the music, you’re playing too much.
  • Dynamic contrasts make the music say something.
  • Avoid musical schizophrenia.
  • Emotive playing!
  • To avoid “groovicidal tendencies” – the bass player and drummer need to play together. Practice grooving together!
  • Play with intensity at a low dynamic level.

A note to worship leaders, music directors, and pastors… send your bass players to Norm Stockton’s new bass teaching website, Art of Groove. Subscribers can have unlimited access to all of Norm’s teaching, including his 60-lesson bass curriculum all for $10 a month! That’s ridiculous! Makes me want to quit playing guitar and grab my bass!

Playing Your Prayers On Guitar

B & W Acoustic Guitar FretboardI remember years ago, subbing on guitar at the church of a mentor friend of mine.  We were rehearsing a song and he turned to me and said, “Take a solo, Pat!”  I froze.  I had no idea what to do.  That was a defining moment for me.  I left that service determined to improve my skills as a guitarist.  This lesson is birthed out of that experience.  Armed with your favorite DAW, iPad (I like to use Garage Band on the iPad), looper pedal, or just a hand-held digital recorder – use this lesson to give you confidence to be able to play a solo, or add worshipful improvisation over those extended prayer vamps.  If you’re not that tech savvy, get someone from your worship team to play a loop for you.  Download the lesson here.  Remember… God gives you talent – practice turns talent into skill – and skill is an offering to God.  Ps. 33:3  -Pat

Double Trouble

Here’s a FREE online guitar lesson on how to avoid “double trouble” on the worship team.  “What kind of trouble?” you may ask… If you have 2 acoustic guitarists on your worship team it can be pretty tricky to figure out a distinct part for each guitarist to play.  Especially if you’ve never explored the guitar south of the 3rd fret.  Let’s suppose your worship leader leads with guitar and they have the 1st position chords all locked up – like G, C, D, Em.  As the No. 2 player, you’re not sure what to play.  Do you just double up on the same chords, pick some lame arpeggio or play the tonic note once in a while?  Wouldn’t it be a better team approach if you could add your own unique chord voicing that fit beautifully with the rest of the band?  What if I told you that you could make your guitar sound almost like a mandolin?  Interested???  Click here to go to the Free Video Page on my new website.  Or you can watch the video right from this post.  Be sure to download the companion PDF!  Please let me know what you think of the lesson and if you found it helpful.  Blessings to you and your worship teams!  I’m leaving in the morning for NWLC 2012 – maybe we’ll see some of you in KC!