One of the main problems many people have with playing guitar over a period of time, is always resorting to the same strum for pretty much every song. After awhile, even songs that should sound very different, don’t!
If this is something you’re experiencing, then let’s go back to some basics and see what we can do to get you out of the rut.
First of all, many people will strum in an inefficient manner. Rather than keeping the strumming arm in constant motion, they will pause at the up stroke or at the down stroke in order to achieve a certain groove. When you strum, do you ever pause your arm? This usually becomes part of the problem; you haven’t learned to strum correctly! Hit the play button on the video below; as simple as it seems, try strumming it. This is a G chord. If you’re doing it right, you’ll notice there are no gaps and your arm is in constant motion:
Count along with the numbers underneath. This is a full bar of a 4/4 (or common time) strum.
Sometimes counting helps, sometimes it gets in the way, but for now, just count as you strum and if the strum is too quick at first, do it on your own and go at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
Okay, now we’re going to look at the strum again, but with a small change. Hit the play button on the following video:
When it plays you’ll see that the first down stroke is the same, but the first up stroke is in grey, dotted lines. This is what I call a “ghost strum”. What you are doing now is strumming the same pattern, but leaving that second up stroke out. You still move your arm, but don’t strum the strings as you come up. You’ll notice that you are leaving the same “space”…you’re not rushing to the 2nd down strum, but moving your arm up at the same speed as you do for the rest of the strum. You need to think of your arm like a metronome or the pendulum on a grandfather clock; it keeps a consistent movement, up and down, up and down.
If you’re getting it, you can already tell that this is a strumming groove that you’ve probably heard before, or something similar to it. When you get used to it, speed it up a little and it’ll sound even better.
Now, if you leave some of the other strokes out, then you get different grooves. Here are a couple of examples:
If you try them out and then speed them up a little, you can see how they each create different grooves! Now there are different things you can do to a strum to give it a different feel, such as emphasizing the strokes differently. In Part 2, we’ll discuss this emphasis, plus we’ll take a look at strums that you might recognize that go even further. With all that you’ve learned so far, however, you can already see all of the strumming possibilities. Keep practising!