Fingerstyle or fingerpicking guitar is more than just playing arpeggios. With your fingers you can also pluck chords. In this guitar lesson you will learn how to play fingerstyle chords and create a Latin rhythm with percussive dead hits.
The first way is to simply strum chords with your thumb for a more muted sound in comparison to playing with a pick. Try the example below using the open string chords of G C D and E minor. With the C and D chords avoid strumming the low E (6th) string to ensure that these chords ring clearly.
Thumb Strum | Download
To make it more interesting it is great to pluck the individual strings as a group with the PIMA fingers. This way gives you more control of what strings are and aren’t played. This allows the thumb to act as a bass player to play moving bass lines under a chord. Check out the example below using the same chords with a syncopated rhythm pattern. The IMA fingers will stay in the same position plucking the first 3 strings while the thumb moves plucking the 3 different bass (4th, 5th and 6th) strings.
Thumb Move | Download
The next element that can be added to the rhythm are dead strums or hits. These can be played on beats 2 & 4 in the bar to create a backbeat that a snare drum would create. This style of guitar playing is used in Latin music and songs including More Than Words by Extreme, Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran and Why Georgia by John Mayer.
The percussive sound is made by the strings hitting the frets on the guitar. This is exactly the same way the percussive sounds in slap bass are made.
To actually make the percussive sound hit the strings with the hand in the plucking position. Avoid spreading the fingers to hit the strings with an open flat palm. Keeping the hand in the plucking position makes it easier to pluck the next chord straight after the dead hit.
Try the example below that use the same 4 chords and the moving thumb as in the previous example but with the added complication of the dead hits on beats 2 and 4.
Thumb Move With Dead Hits | Download
Try this fingerstyle rhythm guitar with percussive dead hits as an alternative to simply strumming the chords of songs. You will be surprised how well it will suit many songs.