The Basics of Learning How to Strum

The Basics of Learning How to Strum

This short guide will get you used to strumming your guitar. When you strum the guitar, you rake your pick across all the strings to sound the notes.  Strumming is one of the key concepts you need to learn on the guitar. Here is what you need to know while you practice strumming.


Practice Chord Changes without Playing

One way to get better at strumming is to practice chord changes without strumming at all. Let's take three popular chords. Let's play G, C, and D. Start by fingering the G chord, then move on to the C chord. Finally, move on and place your fingers on the D chord. Practice moving your fingers and back and forth to each one of those chords. Say each chord name out loud as you move your fingers. When you are strumming, you have to be able to move your fingers quickly from one corner to the next. 

 

Practice this on chords, you know already. If you don't know these chords, try some that you already know. The idea is to make quick chord changes while you are strumming.  Make sure you don't stop strumming as you change chords, keep strumming through the chord changes. This is why the chords change has to be a smooth process. Try changing the chords without a strum and then add the strum in once you can make the chord change smooth.

The Basics of Learning How to Strum

Simple Strumming Pattern One

Let's do a very simple strumming pattern.  We are going to play each chord once as we count to four. This is typical 4/4 time. Each chord will get one beat. you want to practice strumming each chord once and then changing to the next chord. This chord progression, we are going to use all pick downstrokes.

Strum G, Strum C, Strum D, Strum G

Count: 1 2 3 4

Try tapping your foot on each chord change and count. One, two, three, four. Once you can do this say the chord names out loud as you play them G, C, D, G.


Simple Strumming Pattern Two

This next strumming pattern is a little bit more complicated. We're going to play a G chord for four beats, but we're going to add in an upstroke. It will look like this:

1 2 3 + 4

The + means “and” or play an upstroke. Play G for three downstrokes. When you get to +, you want to play an upstroke, which will be followed by another downstroke to complete the rhythm. As you play tap 1, 2, 3, and 4. Once you can do this change to C and do the same thing, move to D and finally, back to G.


Simple Strumming Pattern Three

This next strumming pattern is going to be continuous. We're going to play a G with down and upstrokes through one bar of music. It looks like this:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +

1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 

Down, up, down, up, down, up, down, up

Do the same with C, D, and back to G.


Strumming Tips

Stay relaxed.

When you strum your guitar, you want to keep your hand and arm relaxed. Move your arm in an up and down relaxed motion as you are strumming up and down. Think of your arm like a pendulum. It goes up and down the same way a pendulum moves. You want to keep the movement of your arm steady. It's this steady movement that will keep the rhythm going. You don't want to make jerky movements with your hand as you're strumming. The key to rhythm playing is keeping that movement going.

The Basics of Learning How to Strum

Tap the Beats

You may notice people on stage tapping their foot as they're playing. This is a great way to keep the pulse. You tap your foot to the pulse, and this helps you to keep in time. Try tapping your foot as you play a simple rhythm - you can also do this with a metronome. You can have the metronome play at a slow pulse, and then you play the chords on the beat.


Slow Down

Play everything as slow as you can, to begin with. You don't want to rush the process as you learn how to strum. Get used to strumming a few chords and then add in a more as you learn new chords.  Once you can play something slowly, you can start to speed it up a little bit. You want to keep a nice and relaxed rhythm.

The Basics of Learning How to Strum

Don't Stop

Don't stop during the strumming. Keep your strumming hand going even if you happen to fumble around with the chord. Keep the strumming hand going as much as possible. As you get better, you'll find changing chords, and strumming becomes seamless. It takes quite a bit of effort to be able to play chords, change them, and keep the rhythm going at the same time. You need to get used to keeping the rhythm going as this is what will drive the music forward.


Conclusion

This guide should get you started with basic strumming. Start as slow as you can and work your way up. Make sure you keep your strumming hand going as you play. That is the key to getting a good rhythm. Work on it as much as you can until it is smooth and seamless.