Beginner guitar players often find guitar strumming challenging and difficult. In this lesson, I have simplified the process of learning guitar strumming so that you start strumming the guitar easily and effectively.
What Is Guitar Strumming
Guitar strumming is a combination of up and down strokes, played on the guitar with your rhythm hand. A strum or a stroke is a sweeping action that sweeps across the guitar strings in the upward or downward direction. When you strum a guitar, your fingers or a guitar plectrum is brushing against the strings and this produces a desired sound from the guitar.
Strumming is also related to the rhythm when playing a stringed instrument. Different strumming patterns make up for different rhythms. We will learn more about rhythm and strumming patterns in this blog.
How To Strum Guitar
To strum a guitar, you typically use a guitar pick or your thumb and fingers of the strumming hand.
Follow the steps below to start strumming a guitar:-
- Hold the guitar in a proper stance. Have your strumming hand rested properly by your elbow.
- Hold your guitar pick properly.
- Now, with your strumming hand, strum the strings between the sound hole and the bridge of the guitar.
- Start with playing downstrokes. Try to play all strings equally.
- Once you are comfortable with downstrokes, try playing up stokes.
- Your strumming hand should move in a continuous, flowing motion.
Good Body Posture For Strumming
Having a good body posture is important while strumming a guitar. A good stance for playing the guitar while sitting down will have the following traits: -
- Try sitting on a stool with an upright back and no slouching forward. At all times, you should feel relaxed.
- Have your guitar resting over your leg in a balanced manner.
- Your strumming hand's elbow should be a little in front of the guitar body and be well-rested.
- Your strumming hand wrist should be resting near the bridge of the guitar and the pick should be near the sound hole.
Where To Strum On Guitar
The ideal position to strum on the guitar is near the centre of the sound hole. You can vary this position a little and strum a little towards the bridge or a little towards the neck. As you move your strumming position towards the bridge, the treble response of the guitar sound increases. As you move towards the neck, the bass response of the sound increases.
Try not to strum your guitar way too close to the bridge or even over the fretboard. This will result in an uneven sound response.
How To Play Downstrokes
A downstroke is played when you brush the guitar strings while sweeping your strumming hand from the sixth string towards the first string. It is a downward motion of the strumming hand (towards the floor) and comes naturally while strumming.
While playing a downstroke, try strumming all the strings equally. Producing a resonating, balanced tone.
How To Play Upstrokes
An upstroke is played when you brush the guitar strings while sweeping your strumming hand from the first string towards the sixth string. The upstroke is an upward motion of the hand(towards the roof) and will require a little practice to get used to.
While playing an upstroke, try hitting just the treble strings of your guitar, i.e., the first three or four strings. An upstroke need not hit all the six strings on the guitar. Up stokes are generally gentle and produce a subtle sound.
What Are Guitar Strumming Patterns
Strumming patterns are different repeating combinations of up and down strokes, played to different time signatures. Different strumming patterns lead to different rhythms and feel. To play a particular rhythm on a stringed instrument, you play a particular strumming pattern.
One can make hundreds of different strumming patterns. Still, for beginners, the very basic strumming pattern that everyone starts with is playing a downstroke on every downbeat. i.e., counting 1,2,3,4 and playing a downstroke on all four beats.
To understand counting, downbeat and upbeat better, I suggest you first read and understand how to count rhythm in music.
How To Read Guitar Strumming Patterns
A downstroke is denoted by a down arrow or an “inverted U” symbol or "D". An upstroke is denoted by an up arrow or a "V" Symbol or letter "U"
Strumming patterns are simple combinations of these symbols, played out on time.
The above strumming pattern can also be represented as D+D+D+DU
Here, 'D' represents a Downstroke, '+' represents a rest on upbeat and 'U' represents Upstroke.
How To Practice Guitar Strumming
To practice guitar strumming, start with the basic 4 bar beats. Play downstroke on all four beats. Next, add an upstroke to the last upbeat and gradually fill an upstroke to all upbeats of the measure.
Refer to the exercises below and make sure to watch the video to practice along with and get a better understanding.
Strumming Pattern 1
In this pattern, just add an upstroke at the last upbeat of the bar. So the strumming pattern becomes DDDDU.
Strumming Exercise 1
Play strumming pattern one over a G Chord. Make sure to count out loud the beats.
Strumming Pattern 2
In this pattern, just add another upstroke at the second last upbeat of the bar. So the strumming pattern becomes DDDUDU.
Strumming Exercise 2
Strumming Pattern 3
Continuing, just add another upstroke at the second upbeat of the bar. So the strumming pattern becomes DDUDUDU.
Strumming Exercise 3
Strumming Pattern 4
Continuing, add up stroke at the very first upbeat of the bar. So the strumming pattern becomes DUDUDUDU. Play this pattern with a continuous hand motion.
Strumming Exercise 4
What are Accents in Strumming
An accent is added emphasis to any particular strum. When you accent a strum, you simply play it a little louder or softer, compared with other notes. Accents are used in strumming to add dynamics to guitar playing. Accent creates emotional change and impacts the listener.
Accents are denoted by a bold "v" symbol below the tabs.
Watch the video to get a better understanding of how accents sound.
Strumming Pattern 4 With Accents
To the same DUDUDUDU strumming pattern, accent the second and fourth downbeats.
How To Make Your Own Strumming Patterns
Anyone can easily come up with their own strumming pattern by coming up with a combination of downstroke and upstroke. The golden rule while creating a strumming pattern is that it should complement other musical elements of the song.
You can come up with your own strumming patterns following the beat of the drum, or you can also come up with your own strumming pattern according to the melodies of the vocalists. The key is to listen to the accented notes and figuring out the down and upbeat of the songs.
Advanced Strumming Pattern 1
This strumming pattern goes like DDUUDU.
Advanced Strumming Pattern Exercise
Practice the strumming pattern over different chords
How To Strum Guitar Properly
While practising strumming on a guitar, make sure you follow these rules:
- Count out loud — As a beginner guitar player, you should always count the beats out loud
- Keep it flowing — Keep your strumming hand flowing in a smooth motion. Try not to break the flow of your strumming hand. Remember, fluid motion is the key to good strumming.
- Be gentle — Beginners should strum with a gentle hand. Do not go hard on the strings.
- Use Soft Pick and Pick at an angle — As a beginner, make sure you are using a soft pick and holding your pic at a slight downward angle.
Now you know the basics of guitar strumming, try playing the songs that you know with different strumming patterns and experiment. How did it go, let me know in the comment section below.
Beginner Guitar Lessons
- Lesson 1 — Parts Of Acoustic Guitar and Electric Guitar
- Lesson 2 — How To Hold The Guitar and Guitar Pick
- Lesson 3 — How To Tune The Guitar
- Lesson 4 — How To Read Guitar Tabs and Chord Diagram
- Lesson 5 — Easy Guitar Chords For Beginners
- Lesson 6 — D Major And G Major Chords
- Lesson 7 — A Major, B Major and E Major Chords
- Lesson 8 — E Minor & D Minor Chords
- Lesson 9 — Guitar Strumming Basics For Beginners
- Lesson 10 — How To Play F Major Chord On Guitar
- Lesson 11 — Music Theory Basics For Beginner Guitarist
- Lesson 12 — How To Play Barre Chords On Guitar
- Lesson 13 — How To Palm Mute A Guitar
- Lesson 14 — How To Learn Scales On Guitar For Beginners
- Lesson 15 – Learn Chord Formulas And Chord Inversions
- Lesson 16 – How To Know Chords In A Major Scale And Chord Progression
- Lesson 17 – Parts Of A Song And Song Structure
- Bonus Lesson – How To Write Your First Song On Acoustic Guitar