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!

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

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.

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!