Learning To Strum and Keep Rhythm
Notes won't mean a thing - unless you know the right way to play!
It's a common mistake for guitar teachers to focus on playing notes and chords only. It makes the whole thing a "one-handed" affair. The truth is, guitar playing is very much a two-handed, two-wrist and two-arm endeavor.
You'll need both to know that its doing.
You'll always strum with your strong hand (righties the right, lefties the left). You've probably become accustomed to using this hand for most things - so the responsibility of strumming shouldn't be too daunting.
But make no mistake, it's mega important to get this down. It won't matter if you can play 50 chords or slide down the guitar neck ever-so-perfectly if you can't get your strum patterns down right.
Keep in mind, its this hand that's actually PLAYING while your other hand decides what that sound will be like. You need the strumming hand, while you don't necessarily needs notes & chords. They're just nice.
We'll break down the introduction to strumming and rhythm techniques into two parts: Mechanics and Exercises.
Strum's The Word: Mechanics
I see this all the time. Kids pick up a guitar and start strumming. They're playing along and I notice something a bit odd -- and then I place it. They're using ALL wrist.
Just turning it over and over. And then I'll see them rubbing their wrist after playing for like 5 minutes. And I know why. You just can't use all wrist when strumming, you'll kill the thing. Worse than that, you could wind up with a very scary thing that rhyme with Tarpel Dunnel.
This is the BIGGEST part of strumming mechanics. And maybe the hardest part to learn.
You can't strum just with your wrist. Even if you're a punk player Ramones-ing your way through power chords. You gotta strum with your whole arm. From your elbow.
You've got to take your arm bend at the elbow and practice going up and down. Slowly, at first. Don't lock or cock your wrist up. Keep it in line with the rest of your forearm.
Play all the notes.
The idea of this is you want long & fluid motions. Remember that, long and fluid. This will guide you through the first part of your strumming practices.
Speed will come. Don't worry about that. Besides, what good is rushing through all your chords and notes if you don't know that many anyway? As you learn, strum slow. The more you learn, the faster you can play.
Act II: Strumming Mechanics
Okay - the other part of mechanics? Down-strums and up-strums. These are exactly like they sound, down-strums you go from the top to the bottom (down) and up-strums the exact opposite.
Good guitar players not only use both, but know WHEN to use both.
You'll want to learn how to integrate the two strums together to really learn how to play the guitar.
That's all I'll say on that for now - it's too hard to write about the strums, you'll want to SEE instead. StringNinja, our specially designed program to teach you how to play guitar quickly, will show EXACTLY how to master both ways.
Then you can take that knowledge right to songs and never have to worry again about whether to strum down or up. It'll just be natural!
Like I said before, it's a lot easier to SEE these things in action. But I don't want to cheat you. You'll want a guide like StringNinja to be your friend with strumming exercises..
But if you're not sold on that yet, here are a few you can practice at home. To start -- you'll want the basic.
Down -- Up -- Down -- Up and so on.
This is the foundation one. The exercise to makes sure you can go down and go up without any problems. Use a metronome and make sure you can keep the same pace with both styles.
After you get the basic down, you can move on. Like anything, right?
How about Down - Down - Up - Up - Down - Up. (d/d/u/u/d/u)?
Keep that one going. This is a fairly good idea of how rhythms may go in songs you play. It's not going to be in every song, that's for sure -- but it will give you a good background.
The rest is up to you. There are plenty of strumming exercises on the Internet if you want to move on. But get the mechanics down before you get ahead of yourself.
If you can't get these down, maybe you're missing something else. Check out our 5 day course and make sure you get all the lessons down before you start pulling your hair out!
Video Guitar Tips
How to Hold your guitar
Alternate picking is essential to practice early! More info on String Ninja...