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Ramones: Rhythm Riot


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Punk Style

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Johnny Ramone's rhythmic playing was stellar and an object lesson for anyone wanting to study how to play rhythm guitar in any rock genre. He was crucial to the development of punk and pretty much wrote the book on what punk sounded like and what it continues to sound like today.

In the first half of the lesson, we'll be using sixth and fifth string barre chords (the E and A forms) in their full extensions. One way of approaching this is to take a simple chord progression and use the same strumming rhythm. First, we'll take a one measure strumming pattern (1+2+3+4+) and apply it to a simple chord progression. In the first example, make sure to use alternate strumming, so that all the downbeats are downstrokes and all the upbeats are upstrokes. Play it along with the Jam Station track(s), because the point of this exercise is to develop a rhythmic rolling pattern to your chord playing, and alternate strumming will help to do that.

When you've tried that then try a slight variation, just strumming the top two strings of the chord on beat 1 and then strumming the remainder of the chord in the rest of the measure.

As for the second half of the lesson: most beginning guitarists use all downstrokes to their detriment, as it becomes difficult to play with any sense of rhythm as we play faster and faster. Developing a smooth all downstroke technique is a crucial part of any punk and metal guitarists technique, however, so let's talk about how Johnny used that technique.

Again with respect to the sixth and fifth string barre chords, this exercise is the opposite of the previous exercise. We will strum the entire barre chord and then play the remainder of the two measure phrase with the root and the fifth or the "power chord" part of the chord. First we'll do it open strum with downstrokes, then we'll try the same exercise with palm muting. For those unfamiliar with how to palm mute, quick tutorial: I'll be strumming the strings but the flesh of the side of my right hand palm will be resting against the bridge, right where there strings come out.

Next try a different pattern based on a I-IV progression, which involves switching from the sixth string barre chord on any given fret to its fourth chord which is at the same fret on the fifth string barre chord. In this rhythm we're going to do two beats on each chord so that the strumming pattern will be (1 2+ 3 4+).
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