Last Updated August 16, 2019

Accents are a way of adding dynamics to our music. Dynamics are the differences in the way we hit the notes. As in, do we hit them softly or hard. Depending on the instrument you use, the notes will sound differently depending on how hard we hit them. Or in the case of a wind instrument how hard or softly you blow! A guitar is such an instrument.

Accents are basically when we hit a note hard. This will add impact to the notes. Let’s have a look at an example.

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Notice those small arrows pointing to the right? If you see one of those above a note or chord it means hit it hard. How hard you hit it, depends on your style. Just make sure you hit it harder than you normally do, so you can hear a difference.

In the above example we hit the accent on the first and third beats. Placing accents on the beats helps drive the beat and rhythmic structure home to the listener. It should get them foot tapping or nodding their head. Have a listen and try it for yourself.

Here is another example.

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In this example we’ve placed an accent at the end of each of the little four note phrases. This helps separate each phrase in to two separate and definable sections. If we took out the accents it would sound like one longer, eight note phrase. Using the accents in this way again adds more rhythm and helps to get a listeners foot tapping. Try playing it with and without accents.

Let’s look at a more fun rocking example.

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The open low E string needs to be palm muted. If you’ve not come across this before, don’t worry there is another section covering palm muting. Have a listen and really see the contrast between the muted notes and the accents. It really gives the accented chords a sense of impact and force!

So it’s all well and good telling someone to hit notes harder, but is there a certain way we should be doing this? Most guitarist simply just whack the notes harder. Some prefer to move the pick inwards toward the guitar’s body. So instead of using the just the tip of the pick you’re using more of it, making a louder noise when you hit the note. See what works for you.

When accenting chords, some guitarists really like to swing their arm like a windmill and really whack the strings!

Have fun with accents, but don’t over do it!

Key points to remember!
  • Accents are notes which are louder than usual..
  • We play accents by picking the strings harder than usual.
  • Accents are a way of adding dynamics to our music..
  • Dynamics are important in making music sound more alive and less robotic..
  • Accents can help us define rhythms and structure our music..