Strumming for Beginners

Hello Fellow Guitarists!

Today I would like to give you some easy and useful tips for strumming. Although this is not the only way to play rhythm, it is a great system that will have you strumming away in no time. First we are going to talk about rhythm and then emphasis. For the sake of the exercise, play all of the examples with the strings muted by the left hand.

The first, and most overlooked strum pattern, is simply playing down four times. Many artists use this pattern, and it sounds great when played correctly. Count aloud and evenly as you strum all six strings with the pick, “1 2 3 4.” Now do this twice in a row without pausing, “1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4.” The second strum pattern is similar, but there is an up stroke after beat four. When counting, we refer to the upstroke as “te” (teh). When strumming up, you only need to play the bottom two or three strings. Before playing this pattern say, “Salt, Salt, Salt, Pepper”. Say “Down, Down, Down, Down-up” with the same rhythm. Now strum and count out loud, “1 2 3 4te.” Now two times in a row without pausing. If you would like to experiment further, then just continue adding upstrokes: “1 2 3te4te”, “1 2te3te4te”, or “1 2te3 4te.”

Playing with proper emphasis is the primary difference between a new guitar player and a true guitarist. When your strumming is centered around four beats, it is important to emphasize beats 1 and 3 and, more importantly, to de-emphasize beats 2 and 4. To emphasize beats 1 and 3, play at a normal volume and strum all of the strings in the chord. To de-emphasize beats 2 and 4, strum quieter and only play the top 2 or 3 strings of the chord. When done correctly, this strum will make the listener want to tap their foot, sway, or nod their head to the beat. Count, “ONE two THREE four” as you practice. For further practice, try playing the strum pattern and only emphasizing beat 1 or only emphasizing beat 3 and de-emphasizing the rest.

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Happy guitar playing,