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Guitar Strumming & Chord Timing

If you've been through the first three lessons in this guitar strumming series, you'll have laid the solid foundations you need for negotiating more intricate chord change timings.

This is the final lesson in the series! By the end of this page you should be confident not only with maintaining an accurate strumming attack, but also with strumming through chord changes.

This lesson will be based around audio/ear training exercises and relating what you learned in the first three parts to what you hear.

Timing your strumming through chord changes

Before, we were just playing constant rhythms and strumming patterns through our chord changes, but this time, we're going to look at interrupted patterns and working with the chord changes more consciously. See, some chord changes can be made more interesting by intermittently changing the rhythm we play through them.

Let's start with a simple example.

Click to hear

So there were three chords used in that little piece - a modified D major, E major and G major (more on chord types in the chords section!). Listening to the strumming rhythm, the most obvious difference is how I strummed on D major and E major compared to G major. Here's a break down of the strumming patterns:

D major - click to hear

E major  - click to hear

G major -  click to hear

So I only used down strums on the G major chord which kind of acts as an interruption and adds to the tension before resolving back to D major.

Notice also how, just before each chord change, I add in a quick down-up pattern. Listen again closely, but this time I'm only scratching over the strings to emphasise the attack of the strumming pattern - click to hear - what this does is add a little skip to the rhythm and keeps it flowing. Of course, you won't always want that effect, but it's there if you need it.

You don't have to follow this inconsistant pattern every time around the chord progression - for example, try a constant strumming pattern through all chord changes once, then, the second time through, change the pattern slightly. In the example above, that "second time through" could be when I changed the strumming on that G major chord to all down strums. Experiment and mix it up!

Let's try another three chord timing exercise...

Click to hear

Chords: A minor, F major (Fmaj7 to be exact), C major.

Note - you can play any chords you want, I'm just showing you the strumming patterns!

So, quite easy to pick out in that example - A minor uses a layered technique we learned in part 2. The quick change through F major and C major is highlighted with more constant down and up strumming and, in the final time through, some muted strumming (which we learned about in part 3).

This one is a particularly good test of your strumming control, as you need to switch from quick down-up strumming back to more accurate, string targeted strumming (on A minor in this example).

Using a metronome will help keep your timing focussed throughout these changes. Even better, try using various drum tracks to test your strum timings.

This next example focuses more on the percussive elements of strumming, by timing our down strumming attack on specific chords in the progression.

Click to hear

Again, pretty obvious where the changes are, and you can hear how emphasising those down strums on the second and third chords in the progression complement the harmonic tension before returning back to the tonic B minor chord.

Remember, 3 isn't always the "magic number" for chords in a progression - these are just examples.

This final example highlights how you can strum through chord changes in such a way that you create a "bridge" between the starting chord and the ending chord (the chord before the starting chord). Take a listen...

Click to hear

The chord sequence was D major, F# minor, F major, A7

F# minor and F major were both barre chord forms and acted as the rhythmic bridge between D major and A7.

Try just down strumming the chords to start with. It'll be easier to time the chord changes when you add in the rest of the strumming rhythm - click to hear

How confident are you with guitar strumming now?

After going through this series, I hope you now feel confident enough to experiment freely with your own strumming ideas.

As always, I can't cover absolutely every aspect, and there are countless strumming patterns, tempos and rhythm combinations, all of which would just be inpractical for me to attempt to cover in a few lessons!

So it's down to you now. You have the foundations nailed, it's now time to put all this into the context of your own music. I highly recommend strumming along to drum tracks to really get a feel for playing in the context of a band.

Was this lesson useful? Please let others know, cheers...

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