Watch the Rumba Strumming online guitar lesson by Chris Buono from 40 Day Rhythm SWAT Camp
Thanks to the popularity of the Gipsy Kings, pop musicians all over the planet are incorporating the sound of flamenco rumba strumming into their productions. I’ve seen guitarists play this pulsing rhythm in several different ways. Here’s one way to make it happen.
Ex. 1a shows the basic rhythm applied to Am. The strokes are labeled thumb (T), hand (H), and palm (P); up/down direction is indicated using traditional pickstroke markings. A note played using the thumb is straightforward you simply need to determine the stroke’s direction, as in the rhythm’s first sixteenth-note (downstroke) or second sixteenth-note (upstroke).
Notes played with the hand require more thought. Some guitarists use three fingers (index, middle, and ring) to strike the strings; others use two or even one finger. Experiment to find what’s most comfortable for you. For palm strokes, hit the strings with your open palm over the soundhole to mute them. You can strike softly (to simply stop the ringing) or forcefully (to imitate the sound of bongos).
Ex. 1b shows a common, two-measure variation of the basic rumba rhythm. Notice how the first sixteenth-note in bar 2 is tied to the previous beat, which causes it to disappear from bar 2’s rhythm. For another variation, simply play this beat softly.
Put this rhythm to work in Ex. 1c a classic Im-bVII-bVI-V progression. Notice the accents that occur on the last eighth-note of each measure; they add life to the four-bar phrase.