is the first lesson in the beginner guitar strumming series, so we're
be starting with the absolute basics.
There are two directions to strumming
- down and up! Let's
start with getting our down
in time with a simple rhythm. We'll add in up strokes later. That's the
most effective way to do it - add layers
your strumming patterns and build it up in complexity.
Down strumming, as the
name suggests, is where you strum down towards the floor. Naturally,
then, down strums tend to provide the punch and drive of the rhythm,
with the bass strings of your guitar receiving most of the energy from
that downward strum.
Watch the video below to see the down strumming action using the open E
major chord, which uses all 6 strings of the guitar.
When you strum, from low E string to high E
string, make sure all
the strings in the chord are ringing out evenly. Stroke the
plectrum across them smoothly. Keep your arm and wrist joints relaxed. Just let
gravity do the work and let your plectrum fall over the strings.
It's easiest, at this stage, to group your down strums into 4 regular
...and just keep repeating that pattern in your head when playing.
You'll see why this is useful later.
The important thing at this stage is to make sure you're in time. You can use
to help with this (start slow!) and all the strumming exercises
on this page. When using the metronome, down strum once per click.
When you feel confident with that, try strumming along to the backing
uses a drum beat in that same 4/4 timing. We're still just down
strumming the E major
chord for this backing track.
Tip:Even though the bass is on E, you could
try changing chord
between E major
and A major,
as they are both compatible with that E bassline. More on changing
practicing. It's so important to get that basic down stroke
nailed to begin with. It's the foundation for what's to come.
guitar strumming - adding up strokes
have our foundations laid with the down strumming pattern above. Now
it's time to get physically comfortable with strumming in an upward
To simplify it, the down strums will be your bass strum,
hitting the bass strings with the most energy, and your up strums will
hit the treble strings with the most energy, giving us a well
Keeping that 4/4 timing above, let's add in the up strokes...
your head, think of the up strums as "...and...". Let's take a look at
a video demonstration of the down and up strums in action together.
again, keep your wrist relaxed and flexible so it can glide over those
strings without obstruction.
Again, make sure you initially use a metronome
with all these beginner guitar strumming exercises. This time we're
struming the up stroke evenly in between each click/beat.
When you're up to speed, try up and down
strumming in time to the backing track below (E major again). Remember
before I advised you to down strum every two clicks? Well, now we
simply add in the up stroke on the click between each down strum.
we now have up and down strokes to work with, the rhythm above can be
modified to create a more intricate strumming pattern, which is what
we'll do in the next lesson of this series. Before that, let's just
have a brief look at changing chord using the basic 4/4 timing we've
Changing chord when strumming
on the basic
guitar chords page, we learned 5 essential open position
chords. We're going to change between E major (from earlier) and D
major using the same 4/4 rhythm.
For this strumming exercise, I'll provide a fresh backing
track to follow the chord changes.
Here's how we'll map out the chord changes:
So we have two counts of 4 for E major before changing to D
major, then the
same two counts of 4 before changing back to E major, etc.
The tricky thing at first is keeping that up and down strum timing constant
while your fret hand negotiates the chord changes. That's why we've
done all this in stages. Don't let the chord changes interrupt your
strum-hand momentum. Keep that strumming hand/arm in relentless,
Tip:It's often impossible to change chord within
that tiny space of time
between the last "and" and the next "1" beat, as you have to
physically lift off the chord you're on to move to another chord.
Unless you're superhuman, there's no way you'll be able to instantly
move your fingers into position like that, especially if the chords are
What many guitarists do, therefore, is use that final "and" (up strum
in this case) before the chord change as the window to lift off
the chord and change position ready for the new chord on "1"...
During the very small space of time on that "and", before the chord
change, just strum the
up stroke as normal. Don't worry that your fingers have
lifted off the chord, because it's such a small fraction of a second
that it will just blend
to the rhythm! As long as your fingers are back down on the new chord
ready for the "1" down strum immediately after, it'll sound fine.
use the backing track below to change between E major and D major,
using the up/down strumming pattern we've learned.