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Tips For Getting Into Strumming

Strumming is the act of striking two or more strings simultaneously in either a downward or upward motion. Acoustic music is well known for its strumming riffs, but every other genre of music has some form of it at one point or another.

Below are some very important 'rules' to follow when strumming and some tips on how to best apply these to your practice sessions.

 

Don't Bash the Strings

 

Hitting the strings too hard is something I see a lot as a teacher. This sometimes stems from students whose left hand isn't fretting the notes correctly; the logic being that if it's not sounding right, the strings should be hit harder so the chords will sound better. This only makes badly fretted chords louder and does nothing to correct the root cause of the problem.

The pick should never dig into the strings, but rather flow through them with a firm, consistent motion. Holding the pick too hard and not playing from the wrist can also be factors in sounding heavy-handed. I recommend recording yourself to keep a check on this, and remember the old saying, 'the tape never lies'.

 

Don't Hold the Pick Too Hard

 

Holding the pick really hard is bad for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's an indication that you're tensing up, and that's never a good thing.

Secondly, the harder you hold the pick, the more heavy-handed your playing is going to sound. The idea is to hold the pick between the thumb and first finger with just enough pressure to keep the pick from falling out of the hand. If you're doing it right, there should some give when strumming, allowing the pick to brush through the strings easily.

 

Limp Is Good

 

Strumming motion should always come from the wrist. Many beginners get anxious and tense up, resulting in them locking their wrist so the movement comes from the elbow joint instead. This isn't good technique, and can, in fact, lead to injury over time.

Be sure to observe your strumming hand whilst strumming and pay attention to the wrist; let it relax and do its job.

 

Left Hand Technique Is Important, Too

 

There is more to strumming than the right hand. After all, nothing will sound good if the left hand isn't doing its job properly. That's why it's important to develop proper fretting and muting technique.

After  fretting up the chord, play each string, in order, from lowest to highest. This brings attention to strings that should be muted but are ringing out, as well as notes that should be ringing out but are being muted unconsciously.

Check out the video lesson for The Basics Of Chord Fretting Technique

 

Timing Is Key

 

Before even attempting to learn your favourite strumming tunes and patterns, it is essential to understand the basics of rhythm. Learning to play to the beat is a skill worth practicing. The most basic rhythms are: whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes. Once these are mastered, you are ready to begin learning some strumming patterns that combine these. Always play to either a metronome beat or drum track and make sure you are playing evenly to the tempo of the beat.

Check out Basic Rhythms To Get You Started for a demonstration of the various note values.