Traditional country music, like many types of popular genres, features the classic back beat, where the snare drum hits on beats two and four. As guitarists, we are also part of the rhythm section, and we can provide a groove with our strumming patterns.
One thing we can do is sync up with the drummer, which in this case, means to accent beats two and four! Let’s build up to a classic “train” style strum pattern that goes along with the classic train drum beat (see YouTube video for example), by first playing just down strums on beats 1,2,3 and 4, with accents on the two and four. You can find various online guitar lessons to help further with rhythm and counting.
With that in mind, here is step 1. Let’s take an E major chord, and strum it on every four beats, but we’ll strum a bit harder on 2 and 4. We can also aim more at the low strings on 1 and 3, and then hit all the strings, or the higher strings, on 2 and 4:
We can start at a slower tempo like 120 beats per minute, but to really get this classic train style rhythm, we want to work up to 160 or even faster. Set a metronome for yourself, and see how it feels.
Once we’ve got that down, let’s add an up strum on the “and” of beats 2 and 4, like this:
Great! Keep that going at 120 beats per minute, and as you start to feel really comfortable with it, see if you can work your way up to 160 bpm and beyond!
This strumming pattern might seem so simple. But it requires perfect rhythm and tempo. Can you do this pattern at a steady tempo for 5 minutes straight without a metronome? Songs typically are 3-5 minutes, then if you add solos and other arrangements, as a rhythm guitarist you might be holding this pattern for a long time. And it needs to be steady. Don’t relax when it seems easy, dig in and make it sing!