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:

 

Thoughts on NWLC KS 2013 – Pt. 1

Having just returned from the National Worship Leader Worship in Leawood, KS., I am going to collect some of my thoughts and share them with you here.  If you attended or plan to attend one of the other NWLC gatherings around the country this year, share your experiences in the comments section at the bottom of this post.

The folks at Worship Leader Magazine never fail to put on a first-rate conference.  Even though this was my 5th consecutive conference, I still find new and interesting workshops that help equip me for ministry.  I’m blown away at how many of the speakers and clinicians spoke directly into what’s happening in my life and ministry.  For example, my church is going through a lead pastor transition so the first workshop I put on my schedule focused on the relationship between the lead pastor and worship leader.  My take-aways from that workshop were many and I feel ready to put my best foot forward when I meet our new pastor.

I continually find the conference in touch with what’s happening in local church ministry.  For example, I’ve written a couple of posts here about a pressure that I believe exists to take things to the “next level.”  (Check out Down To The Next Level – Part 1 and Part 2)  People from your church attend a worship concert on Friday night, complete with all the lights, haze, projectors, and sound system and then want you to produce the same experience on Sunday morning!  Let me be clear – I am all for the worship concert.  It’s a good thing and I love to go them.  Yet, it’s clear they’ve affected the way we do modern church.  In fact, so much so, that this was addressed at NWLC 13 by several general session speakers and clinicians.  And just yesterday I came across a tweet from @weareworship sharing an article from Paul Baloche describing this very issue as a “challenge facing us all.”

Author Ian Morgan Cron offered a workshop called “You Are What You Eat” – How a modern, non-liturgical church can unleash the trans-formative power of the Lord’s Supper in weekly worship.  He used this video to get the conversation started:

I loved his definition of what a worship leader does.  Have you been tempted to (as Ian put it) grab God and bring Him down so everyone in this space can have a seismic experience?  (Me: busted!)  Do you resonate with his observation that we (the church) have gotten into a situation where we have to keep amping it up?  

Pastor Steve Berger spoke to us passionately at one of our general sessions about the “Spirit” part of worshiping in Spirit and truth from John 4. One main theme in his message was that worshiping in the Spirit is a supernatural thing.  In Rev. 1:10 John was in the Spirit and heard/saw/experienced supernatural things.  Pastor Berger cautioned us that when we try to create the supernatural on our own (through effects, lighting, etc.) we diminish the real supernatural in our midst.  He said, “Let’s not substitute natural things for our supernatural God.”  

I’ll stop here for now and share more at a later time.  I really would love to hear from you whether you attended NWLC 13 or not.  Please share your thoughts below.  Thanks! -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!

Free “Fingerstyle” Guitar Lesson

Here’s a free guitar lesson on how to play a fingerpicking pattern that you can play over any chord.  I learned this pattern as a student while taking lessons from Preston Reed in the early 90’s.  This is a 2 measure pattern that I’ve broken down into 4 segments of 2 beats each.  Learn each segment, then connect them for the full pattern.  Practice slowly and in control, then speed things up later.  I’m using a standard D chord shape in this video, but you can apply this pattern over any chord using many different combinations of strings.  I included the TAB in the video.  Let me know if you found this helpful.