Strumming the guitar

When beginning to play chords it's common to play an easy rythm, for example strumming the chords on 1, 2, 3 and 4 using only downstrokes. This lesson is an introduction to strumming and you will learn some basic excercises.

Strumming technique

There are a few "rules" (with exceptions) to remember, when strumming the guitar:

  • Keep your right wrist loose and relaxed. The wrist and the forearm should do most of the work. The shoulder and upper arm should not move much at all. The strumming movement should usually be quite wide to make the all the strings sound allmost at the same time.
  • Don't hold your pick to tight, just enough to keep it from sliding. Try to keep the pick pointing straight towards the soundhole/pickups of the guitar.
  • Never play upstrokes on the beats. When playing regular pop songs its most common to play downstrokes on the beats and upstrokes on the &s. When playing rock music, with powerchords, it's more common to use only downstrokes, both on the beats and the &s.
  • Keep the right hand/arm going, even when you leave notes out and play syncopes. Keeping a steady pulse in your arm and hand is important to make the whole accompaniment sound steady. In these exercices the hand should move down, up, down, up the entire time. When leaving out a certain beat, just move the hand a little bit further from the strings, thats all.
  • Try to strum the strings somewhere round the middle of the soundhole (or the same area on an electric guitar).

Basic strumming exercises

Let's try these basic exercices. We'll be using a G major chord to begin with. I guess most of you have allready tried the first one:

Exercise 1

As usual it's important to keep a steady pulse. Keep the pulse both with your foot and arm. Make the strums as even as possible. Play only downstrokes. This means the arm is moving down up(no strum) down up and so on.

The next exercise adds the &s. Remember, the arm movement is the same, just play the upstrokes as well. Continue counting 1, 2, 3, 4.

Exercise 2

Now it's time to combine the two exercises above. The arm movement is still the same, all that changes is when to strum and not to strum the strings:

Exercise 3

Make sure you don't rush the second part of this exercise. The pint is to keep a steady pulse through the switch.

Exercise 4

Let's try one more exercise in this beginner strumming lesson:

This time play down (up) down up down (up) down up. Also try to play this exercise over a simple chord progression;

  |G   |C D |

It's great to go through these exercises to get the coordination going, before trying some real strumming patterns for songs. The next strumming lesson will deal with some very common strumming patterns and songs that use them. You will also be introduced to syncopation and strum mute. I hope you'll enjoy it!

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