These 7 free guitar lessons are from Vicki Genfan’s

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

One of the initial motivations for creating this course came from watching the musical-comedy group, ‘Axis of Awesome’ perform their “4 Chord Song’ routine it ended up going viral on YouTube. They showed us that hundreds, if not thousands of hit songs use the very same chord progression (In this case it was I-V-VIm-IV)!

If that’s the case, then what distinguishes one song from the next?
What can we learn from this?

Certainly each song has its own melody and lyrics… but what are the other elements that give a song its unique ‘ID’? Acoustic Rhythm Guitar Survival Guide answers these questions and more! You’ll discover that you only have to know a handful of chord progressions in order to play and/or write thousands of songs!

Drawing from the 19 tools I’ve presented here, some which are my own special creations, and many which have been used by hit-makers across all styles of music, you’ll have enough fuel to ignite your creative sparks into a raging fire.

To get started, we’re going to use that same progression that Axis of Awesome used – the I-V-VIm-IV.For those of you new to chord vocabulary, the roman numerals refer to the number of the root of each chord, based in a particular key.

For instance, in the key of G, the I chord is a G Major chord. The V chord is D Major, as D is the 5th note in the G scale. The VIm refers to the chord starting on E or the 6th note of the G scale. The lower case ‘m’ lets us know this is a minor chord. Finally, the IV refers to the C or 4th note in the G scale.

This is a Major chord. If you’re new to music theory and want to learn more, it’s worth finding a good teacher or check out the TrueFireTV curriculum to find the course that’s right for your level.

Acoustic Rhythm #6: Strumming Patterns

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

First Pattern: For the beginning strummer, you first have to master the ‘Down-Up’ motion with some fluidity. If this is hard for you, take the time to practice it before trying to play the first strum pattern. Ease and Fluidity are key words here.

Another helpful hint is to count along with your strumming so that each strum has a syllable: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &… and just repeat. Your DOWN strokes should be the numbers, 1, 2, 3, 4. Your UP strokes should match with the ‘&’ s.


Bass Strings: As you get better at this – pay attention to which string (4th, 5th or 6th) is playing the root of the chord. You want to try to leave out the low strings that are going to conflict with your chords, for example; D chord root is on the 4th string. Try not to hit the 5th and 6th strings. The C chord has its root on the 5th string, so try to leave out the 6th string. Watch the ‘muting’ technique in this video segment to give you a head start on this.

Second Pattern: Here we’re alternating bass notes in each chord. You want to be sure that you’re only hitting one string at a time for the bass note. On the ‘strumming’ part of this pattern, you’ll be doing a ‘Down-Up’ stroke. Your focus or ‘aim’ is on the top 4 strings (high E, B, G and D). If you’re playing it and it doesn’t sound right, check to make sure that you are giving the ‘Down’ stroke a bit more accent than the ‘Up’ stroke.

Third Pattern (Reggae): The important thing here is mastering the ‘Palm Mute’ with your right hand. Be sure that you are really muting all the strings and that you hear the percussive sound as your right hand makes contact with the top of the guitar.

Acoustic Rhythm Technique #8: Substitute Relative Minor

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

A relative minor can be used as a substitute for any major chord. This works because the two chords have many notes in common, but a different root. You find the relative minor by counting 6 notes (or 4 and a half steps) up from the note that names the major chord. For example, A minor is the relative minor of C major (C-D-E-F-G-A).

I love using relative minors not only as substitutions, but I will sometimes start playing the major chord and then switch to the RM at the halfway point. This is a really nice effect and adds additional movement to your progression.


Acoustic Rhythm Technique #17: Using Open Tunings

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

We’ll use an ‘Open G’ Tuning:


E down a whole step to D
A down a whole step to G
D stays the same
G stays the same
B stays the same
E down a whole step to D

I have used open tunings for most of my playing life, which started at 5 yrs.old. Initially, I learned how to play in standard tuning, but for many reasons, fell into the mysterious and seductive web of ‘open tunings’ very early on.

I’ve laid out everything I know about open tunings and the techniques I’ve developed based on them in my DVD, ‘3D Acoustic Guitar‘, so if this interests you I’m sure you’ll have fun with that course. For this course, I’ve given you a jump-start in getting used to the new sounds and possibilities you’ll find with an open tuning. Pedal steel players, slide players and slack key guitarists also use open tunings as part of their regular arsenal.

Notice that the G chord or I chord, has its ROOT on the 5th string. So when you strum, try to ‘miss’ that low E string.

Take your time and get comfortable with the chords. You’ve only got TWO different chord forms to learn here, as the G chord is OPEN and the IV and V chord are the very same fingerings, just in different frets.

When you’re comfortable, try playing the progression in different ways, finger picking, strumming, plucking… notice the two ‘drone’ tones, the 3rd and 1st strings and how they stay the same throughout.

NOTE: If you take the minor chord form that I’ve shown you for the Eminor chord and play it with your first finger in the 1st fret, you’ll get a beautiful voicing of a IIminor chord, or Aminor. Move it up another two frets and you’ll get a very nice IIIminor chord or Bminor.

Acoustic Rhythm Technique #9: Adding Color Tones

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

If you want to experiment with adding different or additional color tones, feel free! You may use chord forms you’ve played before, or if you have a chord book, you can find voicings that you like and try them out.

Acoustic Rhythm Technique: Combining Techniques

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

Here’s what we did:

1 Added color tones
2 ‘Borrowed’ chords from the original progression and created a new section
3 Added harmonic tapping

TRY THIS: Now you do it! Use my example or your own version of an Ascending Bass Note progression and try using these three tools…see where it leads you.

NOTE: If you’re like me, you may have the experience of starting to do an exercise and then becoming fascinated with something along the way that takes your attention and creativity in an entirely different direction. If this should happen – by all means – LET IT! Just keep your recording device nearby, promise me, OK?

Acoustic Rhythm Technique #14: Hammers and Pull Offs

Download the tab & notation for this acoustic rhythm.

Make sure you understand AND can execute the techniques here before you start trying to incorporate them into your playing. For the hammer on’s to really sound, you have to make sure you are bringing your left hand finger to the fingerboard with a fairly strong touch…or else you just won’t hear the note. For pull off’s, the trick is to get that ‘pulling’ movement strong, yet controlled so that you don’t end up hitting the strings below and making them sound as well. Other than that, deciding which notes and strings to hammer and pull is really up to you – what you like and what your fingers can reach! Explore!

Dig these Acoustic Rhythms? Download Vicki Genfan’s Acoustic Rhythm Survival Guide for much more including tab, notation, and jam tracks!