Learning Strumming Patterns
Whether you’re starting out or already seasoned, a rhythm player or a lead shredder, strumming is key for every guitarist. It’s the essential component of rhythm, which drives a song forward and leaves the listener grasping every other musical element.
Strumming can be simple or complex; but no matter what, when properly performed, it can make even the wrong notes sound great! Read on to discover more about strumming patterns, including tips to make your strumming easier, sound better, and more complex.
Just keep strumming.
Treat your strumming hand like a metronome: remember just because a note isn’t played, it doesn’t mean that time stops. By continually strumming, even when you’re not striking any notes, you will automatically keep the time, which is essential.
If you stop, you’ll lose track of the measure by thinking about the strum as opposed to simply doing it. That’s how you miss a beat and throw the entire strumming pattern off – so no matter what, don’t stop strumming.
It’s all in the wrist!
Most beginners discover they’re keeping their wrists tightly locked up when they’re strumming, which is understandable, though nevertheless restricting. You’ve got to keep that wrist as loose as a goose, though, as the key is a wrist’s twisting motion.
Additionally, most beginners start out thinking that moving the lower arm is the key to strumming, which isn’t the case. Don’t focus on the lower arm at all, just allow your hand and wrist to hang loose and twist.
Don’t death-grip your pick.
No one wants to drop their pick (it happens to the best of us). Still, death-gripping the pick is how you get it caught between strings, which leads to a variety of unfortunate events.
So hold your pick lightly between your thumb, index, and middle fingers. And if you need some extra help here, try using a thin and bendy pick for breathability between the strings.
Don’t worry about every string.
Remember that you don’t have to strum every string at once to play a chord successfully, though you certainly can. In truth, you only need to hit half of the strings – four at the most – to make a chord work.
But this also applies to the frets you push down. Instead of playing a barre-chord, you can just play am easy power chord.
Learning new patterns
It’s all about rhythm.
Most people base their opinion of a song on its rhythm – i.e. can they sway to it? Innately, they tap into the rhythm, which is the common denominator between musicians and non-musicians when it comes to music.
It takes some serious practice, but soon you will be able to strum according to your natural sense of rhythm. There’s more to strumming than “feeling it,” but it’s the first step, so keep it in mind as you progress.
Remember to use your voice.
When you’re just starting out, it’s impossible to strum naturally – the up and the down-strums are downright awkward to execute. So, a great way to naturalize your strumming is to vocalize what you’re about to do before you even strum.
By vocalizing the rhythm (humming, singing, talking, etc.), you prepare your mind for what your hand is going to do. Then, once your mind is ready and tuned, the strumming pattern will make a lot more sense to your hands.
Take it one chord at a time.
The best way to learn a new strumming pattern – or anything new, for that matter – is to break it down. The worst thing you can do now is give yourself too much to worry about, like changing chords between strums.
That’s why you should just strum one chord – any chord; no more, no less – as you try out new patterns. This enables you to give your all to the new pattern without any distractions hindering your experimentation.
Play a real song (you like)!
Now it is time for the real deal: you must strum along with a song that has chord changes. The real test here is to keep the strumming pattern in motion without messing up as you navigate those changes.
You can pick any song for this exercise, but to start, try starting out simple and working your way up. Play along until you can play without the song – you’ll have a new pattern and a new song to the repertoire!
Two essential strum patterns
The down-strum chug.
By now, the terms “down-strum” and “up-strum” have been used frequently. But for this technique, you will be focusing exclusively on the down-strum.
Down-strums add a sense of thickness to one’s strumming, which is why it’s every rhythm guitar player’s go-to musical device. And they’re easy to perform as well: just use 4/4 (one, two, three, four) and strum downwards on every beat.
Once you learn that, spice things up by using an 8/4 time-signature (one and two and three and four and). This provides a sense of urgency to your playing that is common in rock music’s various subgenres.
Either way, by performing this classic down-strum pattern, you will keep a straightforward rhythm. And if you want to sing while strumming, this technique is a great canvas for you to practice musical multi-tasking.
The classic up-and-down pattern.
For this strumming pattern, you will be using 8th notes again to perform a fast-paced combination of up and down-strums. Count with “one and two and three and four and” – for every number, strum down; for every “and,” strum up.
Now make it harder by strumming with 16th notes – note it’s best to perform this pattern on a single string. This technique will require using your foot and voice in competing terms, like patting your head while rubbing your belly.
First, stomp your foot to the normal beat of “one, two, three, four.” Then, with your voice, quickly call out “one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and” between each stomp.
Strumming this pattern will give your guitar-playing a distinctly entrancing feeling. It’s common in a variety of genres and will serve you well.
Now that you’ve got some helpful information to assist you in your expansive strumming journey, it’s up to you. It’s a long way to the top if you want to rock-and-roll, but you’ve got this!