Learning To Strum Songs

How to start strumming smoothly and playing your favorite songs

Playing songs and learning to strum chords can a lot of fun. For a beginner though it can
be challenging and so this article will help you to improve your strumming whatever style you are into.
Firstly you must have your chord changes quick enough that you do not have to pay too
much attention to the fretting hand. We will need to be able to watch the strumming hand
throughout these exercises.
Step 1
Learning to strum involves your technique of actually being able to play the guitar
efficiently but also your knowledge of the theory in terms of rhythm. This exercise will help you develop an internal feeling for the beat to help you when strumming.
First of all mute the strings with the fretting hand. This means lightly clamp your fingers
around the fretboard so that no sound is heard when strumming. Don’t push too hard, just
enough to mute the strings.
Now taking your pick between your thumb and index finger place it on string 6 and strum
downwards by pushing the pick lightly over the strings. This is a down strum.
Now strum one and count to 4, always strumming on beat 1. i.e. 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + / 1 + 2 +
3 + 4 +. Usually in music we have 4 beats per bar and we may play music on either of these
beats.
Next practice strumming beats 1 and 2 like this and resting on beats 3 and 4, 1 + 2 + 3 + 4
+ / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + /. When you have gotten used to doing this then strum beats 1, 2 and 3 and then eventually all 4 beats continuously. Use a metronome to help you keep time and set it to a slow comfortable speed that you can keep up with.
Now you have a feel for the main four beats on each bar we will play on the ‘and’ beats by
playing an upstroke. You may feel that up strums are harder because you are working against gravity and that its harder to hit all the strings accurately coming upwards. Instead don’t worry whether you are striking all the strings perfectly just aim to hit two or three strings to start with, this is still going to sound good when we introduce chords. So now play up, down, up,down etc.
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + / 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +. You should always to be aiming to keep that nice smooth
even rhythm as you strum.
Step 2
Learning to strum songs can sometimes depend on the song and the complexity of the
strumming pattern. That said though what we can always do to get a feel of the song and the structure is to take what we did previously and apply it to the chords of the song. So lets say we had a song like Knocking’ on Heavens Door and the chord progression to start is G, D, Am, Am. What we would first do once we have trained our fingers to change chords quick enough is to strum the one beat and count the rest.

G D Am Am
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Then just like before strum on beats 1 and 2, then 1, 2 and 3, then 1 2 3 4 eventually. Next
try adding in the ‘and’ beats.
G D Am Am
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Next try different variations of those beats.
G D Am Am
1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
Always remember that the main beats you will use down strums and on the ‘ands’ you will
use up strums. Using this method you will learn about counting in time and changing chords and get a sense of the song by learning its structure and changing at the right time.
This Article was written by professional guitar teacher, trainer and mentor Joseph Bailey
who owns Kent Guitar School in Maidstone in England. If you live in Maidstone and Malling
areas and are looking to make some serious progress and have much more fun on your guitar then get it touch to arrange your free consultation lesson today.
www.guitarlessonsmaidstone.co.uk