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Bluegrass Guitar Lessons: The "Boom Chuck" Sound

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We just covered all the,
a lot of basic chord shapes and what I
feel are, you know, as you play bluegrass
music you're going to see these chord
shapes show up over and over again.
And it's it's important, important to get
your hands familiar with those shapes.
We're gonna move more to the right hand
now and
show you sort of ways to execute these
sort of building, we're starting to build
the concept of how to play rhythm.
And one of the cornerstones of Bluegrass
Country rhythm, Folk rhythm is what's
considered the boom chuck.
And what that means is [COUGH] there's a
boom and then there's a chuck or a strum.
And it's hearkens back to the day, is the
history of,
of bluegrass rhythm and, and country music
is you know, music.
A lot of times there weren't bass players.
It was small ensembles, old-time bands.
And so the guitar was sort of what now,
you know,
in a bluegrass band you have the bass.
And and the guitar's more of a strum kind
of based kind of thing.
But this, this hearkens back, and this is
the reason people play bluegrass rhythm
the way they do, is, is the boom chuck
kind of concept.
And so, basically, I'm gonna run through
those same chord shapes, but
now we're gonna add.
And instead of just, you know, full strum,
we're still going to try to make these
chords ring as long as possible, and so
we're going to add, add the boom chuck
concept with the right hand.
I'm going to show you two different ways
to do it.
We'll start with G.
We've got our G shape here and so
first what I'll all show you is the basic
what you do the boom comes from the low G,
what, we shows you the root note of every
It's gonna be important to remember that.
So G, that's your G there.
That's the boom,
that's the bass note essentially.
And so the strum from that.
That's what happens.
That's the basic boom, chuck, boom.
If you were to look at it again in a, in
tablature or in a song notated,
you would see the bar.
We talked about the bar being four quarter
One, two, three, four.
Usually, the booms are on one and three
and the upbeats, two and
four, are the are the chucks or the
Boom, booming and strumming here.
Usually with the G chord for
bluegrass you don't play this, this B
right there.
That's usually just,
just, just not the way it's done.
It's usually, you, you play the G.
And you strum from the fourth string.
And, and one of the things to start,
start being aware of is, you know, the way
your right hand feels here.
And again, we've got our, our good, you
know, hopefully our good approach here of
the, of the angles and everything's
looking good here.
Norman Blake sort of refers to
this as flinging water off your hands.
Of course, where we talked again earlier
about building the idea of playing
rhythmically, being a rhythmic musician.
Bluegrass is, is such a rhythmic way to
play music.
It's, you know, it's acoustic and you're a
small ensemble creating this big sound.
And, that comes from, you know strong
rhythm playing as an, as an ensemble.
And this, these, these are cornerstones
for that, that kind of approach so.
There it is in G.
And the other way to play that, so that,
that's the first way.
In the next one, we're gonna employ, we
talked about the rest rest stroke.
And we talked about pick attack and
striking the strings.
And so, we're gonna play a rest stroke
from that low G.
Into the fifth string.
then continue that continue the pick
through the string.
So what that looks like, if we can go
overhead, is.
there's the pick that's still inside the
And there's the angle.
[SOUND] From the from the wrist into the
It's generally a, a stronger way to play.
This, this is a little more free and, and,
and can.
Little more and dances a little more that
when you're off, you know,
not doing the wrist stroke.
You can usually do it faster.
The rest stroke is generally if you play
bluegrass, it's you know?
If you want.
We're gonna, as we get into the rhythm
we're gonna talk about voicings and, and
how to, you know, think about like
qualities of the chords and, and how to,
how to back up songs that are, you know?
If you have a song that talks about you
a lot of like murder ballads in bluegrass
you know or
Stanley Brothers kind of song that needs,
you know, a stronger foundation.
We're gonna discuss a lot of those kind of
things and so
this rest stroke kind of approach is good
for just, you know, making a bigger sound.
again the rest stroke, you know, it
generally delivers a bigger sound.
[SOUND] The pick stays inside the strings.
[SOUND] You get more meat of the pick in
the string, so therefore, you know,
more sound is produced out of the guitar,
you're not really playing harder.
You're just allowing the pick and your,
the weight of your hand to just drive it
So those are the basic things.
We'll cover this in C now.
This is, got your C form.
So here's here's sort of type one without
the rest stroke.
One, two, three, four.
And that's the basic thing to work on.
What you'll notice is when
you play the the boom, you have to get
your hand ready to come up, come back up.
So that's where these are,
these are foundations of what I want to
talk about playing rhythmically.
Where your, your right arm, or
your picking arm is sort of always in the
Sorta it helps to find the groove of what,
of where you are.
Your pocket.
We'll, we'll get into those kind of
concepts later.
But these are, these are building blocks
here so.
Its, you're picking the notes,
but you're also preparing for the, for the
End with that with a rest stroke.
Usually when you're
playing a lot of bars of rhythm together,
you'll probably go with this one.
And say you wanted to end that.
Then end it with the rest strum.
There's different, we'll get into the how
to use these things in a little bit and
just we'll move onto the D now, get our D
the basic sort of free stroke there.
And with the rest stroke.
You hear the tone get meatier as,
as the as the pick stays inside there.
there's, there's the G, C, and D with you
know, basic boom chuck stroke there.
gonna continue on with the boom chuck
approach on the other really important you
know basic chord shapes that we're gonna,
we're gonna use here.
And so, here's E, the boom chuck thing in
And again, you well, all these notes need
to ring, and a, and
show you quickly through these things,
Here's the rest stroke, in F,
Just go back and
forth as you mess around with this.
You know, this is it's not about, like,
trying to force this issue, it's it's.
you wanna let your hands just sort of find
their way with these sort of things here.
you may notice the rest stroke may feel a
little harder to do.
the rest stroke when you, once you apply
it, you know, as a rest stroke by itself.
Is is a little more it's little easier to,
to manage when you're, when you're
actually applying it into a bigger
picture like, you know, a strum pattern.
You can feel your hands.
What I try to feel is, is sort of the, I
play into the, into the strings.
It's more of an attack.
You know?
I get them playing hard, it's just trying
to set up for that.
When we, when you did that practice early
on setting up for the rest stroke.
The way when you do the upstroke,
your hand comes off the guitar.
That's kind of where you want your hand to
start for the rest stroke.
you know, the ways way to practice all
this stuff and, we're just continue to
combine left and right hand and then try
to develop a feel for or
what these notes should feel and sound
like and, and look like as you,
as you look you know, look at your picking
hand, look at your fretting hand.
You just move these, all these back and
As you move to learning
songs sometimes it's just a challenge to
keep up with the chord changes.
And so this is a way just to practice
making the chords themselves without the,
the pressure of having to put them in, you
in specific specific spots of a tune.
So you know just good little, good little
Good things to, to be able to do.
You know, and again it's,
it's more about producing as big a sound
as possible with the guitar.