If you check the Beginner Guitar Videos tab above, you’ll find the eight beginner guitar “classes” that you can try out while you’re sitting at home, bored out of your mind in self isolation. These will remain up long after this virus has gone its way, but please pass the link along to anyone you think might be interested. The videos are also up on my YouTube channel.
In Part 1 of this article, we discussed how keeping your hand in motion is key to strumming, and learned how to play along with a couple of basic strums. The standard strum that I used as an example, can be played more than one way, however! So let’s review what the first way sounded like:
This time, we’re going to put the emphasis on the DOWN stroke and have a shorter up stroke, and that changes the feel of the strum entirely. Take a listen and play along if you like:
This gives the same strum a swing or “country” feel. Notice that I’ve drawn the up strokes shorter to help you remember to play them more quickly. Play along with it for awhile if you need to, in order to get the feel right. Then go back and play the first one so you can duplicate the difference yourself and get a sense of how to achieve it.
When you’re listening to a song that has an acoustic guitar strum in it, you’ll often notice that the strum doesn’t necessarily stay consistent throughout the song. Sometimes that’s because once a strum pattern has been established, sometimes the guitar player will change it just slightly here and there. That’s a natural way of playing. But often a strum pattern will actually be longer than one measure. Here’s an example from a 70′s song by the band America called “Horse With No Name“. First I’ll just show you the whole strum:
Notice now the first measure or bar has our regular pattern with a swing feel, so the up strokes are shorter. The second measure, however, has more up strokes than down strokes…we actually skip two down strokes to complete the pattern. Confused yet? 🙂
Even if you can’t quite play it yet, have a listen to the strum below:
You will probably recognize the Em chord, but may not know D 6/9, so I’m going to diagram it here:
This chord is easy to achieve from an Em if you use your first and second finger; all you have to do is move the first finger up to the 2nd fret of the 6th string and the 2nd finger down to the 2nd fret of the 3rd string. If you’re just trying the strum out on your own, however, I’d suggest you try it with ONLY the Em chord until you are proficient at it. Then introduce the D 6/9 at the second measure. You’ll be amazed how many people know what this song is by only hearing that strum! You can find out more about that strum and playing along to it in my video blog here.
And there are many other songs out there with distinctive strums…with some songs you can probably tell what the song is by hearing only the first few seconds of it! For instance, the Oasis song “Wonderwall” has a two-measure long strum that also makes it quite recognizable.
The strum is most noticeable in the first part of the video. The strum is very quick, employing 1/16th beats, so you might even think that it’s 4 measures long, but it is actually only two. Listen to it a few times and see if you can figure out what the strum is! I dare you 🙂
There are a lot of guitar players out there who don’t pay as much attention to strumming as they do the chords or notes and scales. But the fact is that strumming is a crucial part of learning guitar, and learning it well.
I hope you’ve learned something out of this article. If you have, please let me know by leaving a note below!
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!