Talkin' Blues with Keith Wyatt: Harmonizing the Drums

These videos and audio files are bonus content related to the June 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at the Guitar World Online Store.

Guitarists working within the broad spectrum of traditional American music all face the challenge at some point of coming up with a rhythm part over an unfamiliar beat, be it a regional style or a “vintage” groove.

When you're on the spot to play something without the opportunity for research (i.e. stealing ideas from other players), there is one simple, effective strategy that virtually guarantees functional, musical results: harmonize the drums.

Here's how the process works. First, distill the groove to its essence by verbalizing the drum pattern like a “human beat box.” Next, mute the strings by lightly laying your fret-hand fingers across them and match your verbal groove with a “scratch” strum pattern (strumming the fret-hand-muted strings to create a pitch-less “chick” sound).

Finally, apply the pattern to the chord progression, matching drum accents while minimizing the scratches in between. When it comes to chord types and voicings, there are many options, so the best approach is to listen to what the other harmony instruments are playing and follow suit.

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