Basic Strumming Exercise

In this lesson, we are going to work with some really simple basic exercises in beginner strumming. It is most important to learn the absolute basics from square one, mainly because you have to know the preliminaries before you can move on to the more advanced and technical strumming patterns.

Let’s begin:

Part I

What you will see below is a strumming pattern that is very simple. You will want to make sure you are in tune. Some strummers use picks, and some strummers use their fingers. Let’s use a pick for this exercise for beginner purposes.

You will want to finger an A chord. Here is a picture of it in case you don’t remember what it looks like :

Now, take a look at the strumming pattern :

What you will want to do is strum downward when you see the down arrow, and upwards when you see the up arrow. On the “and”, which is also called the offbeat (reggae), you will be using an upwards strum. That is what gives reggae its sound.

Here are some helpful hints when you are playing what you hear above : 

1. Make sure all strings are ringing clearly

2. Make the volume of your downstrums and upstrums equal

3. Do not to strum too hard, as this causes strings to rattle

4. Your pick should be striking the strings with a relatively firm, even stroke

5. Think of your elbow as being the top of a pendulum; your arm should swing up and down from it in a steady motion, never pausing at any time

6. Be sure NOT to keep your wrist stiff when playing

Part II

Now that we’ve covered the very basics of strumming, we can move on to something a little bit more challenging.We are actually going to take some of the straight sounding boredom that you played earlier and turn the strumming into one of the most popular strumming patterns for pop, country, AND rock ! All we have to do is remove one of the strumming patterns, like this :

When we remove the strum ( on the “3″ ), you are going to WANT to stop strumming. We do NOT want to do this, because it mixes up the nice pattern we had going of all the downstrums being ON the beat, and all the upstrums being OFF the beat (on the “and” or on the “offbeat”.)

The key is to keep the strumming motion going in the picking hand; but ever so slightly lift the hand away from the body of the guitar momentarily, on the downstroke of the 3rd beat, so the pick misses the strings. Then, on the next upstroke (the “and” of the 3rd beat), bring the hand back closer to the body of the guitar, so the pick hits the strings. The upward and downward motion of the picking hand should not change AT ALL from the first pattern. Avoiding the strings with the pick on the 3rd beat of the pattern is the only thing that has changed.

Listen and work with this second strumming pattern, to get a better idea on how this new pattern should sound. Once you are comfortable with this, try it at a somewhat faster speed. It is important to be able to play this accurately; don’t be satisfied with getting MOST of the up and down strums in the right order. If it’s not perfect, it will make learning any harder strums virtually impossible. Be sure that you can play the pattern many times in a row, without having to stop because of an incorrect strum.

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