Playing along with songs is such an important skill. It is a lot of fun, plus it can really help getting your timing together. A way to start doing it is to start assigning parts of the song we hear to the rhythms I went through. The drum beat is essentially our count so we need to start tuning into those and counting along!
The Bass Drum is a thud that happens on beats 1 and 3:
The Snare Drum is a crack or pop that happens on beats 2 and 4:
With both the Bass Drum and Snare Drum, we get our count – 1 2 3 4:
The Hi Hat is a ticking that happens on each of the eighth notes (1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +):
All of these things together provide us our count to count along with (count out loud!):
Now we have our time cues, and even our cues as to what sounds correlate to which beat. This now means that we have our cues as to where we strum down (with the bass and snare) and ups (with the hi-hats).
A good way to start playing with the song is to work on each hand (Strumming/Fretting) seperately then put them together. I’m going to start with the fretting hand first using a common chord progression: G – D – Em – C. What we’re going to do is strum each chord on the first beat, letting each chord ring out:
Then we’re going to mute the strings and strum Rhythm 1 (d d d d) along with it:
Mute the Strings and strum Rhythm 5 (d d u u d u) along with it:
**I have the chord progression available as a backing track in 3 tempos, so move to where you need to!
Finally once those things feel comfortable, start working on going through the chord progression with the strumming pattern:
Some songs have different drum beats, but the concept of the drum beats are the same. Maybe the Bass drum goes: 1 (2) + 3 (4), but the bass drum is still on the 1’s and 3’s. The snare drum tends to be easier to hear, while the bass drum is easier to feel.
Next time you’re driving, try to count along with the song. Where are those 2’s and 4’s? Can you feel the 1’s and 3’s? This will allow you to play along with songs and get a better grasp on how we as guitar players fit in to the bigger picture.