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Musical Strumming Tips

Welcome to video eleven in the Beginner Guitar Quick-Start Series. In this lesson, I’ll show you how to dress up your strumming and make it more musical. In the last lesson we went though the G-D-A minor 7-C progression, and we kept the strumming quite simple so you could focus on making the chord changes smoothly.

Now we’re make your strumming more realistic and musical, which will be great for you because you can start expressing yourself more on guitar. Don’t feel like you need to have your chord changes down perfectly to continue with the strumming pattern in this lesson.

In order to play the strumming pattern we have, you’ll need to know how to count sixteenth notes. So far in this lesson series, we’ve been counting out 1, 2, 3, 4, as you can see me play in the video. To move to sixteenth notes, we need to give each beat, or number, four syllables. Instead of counting out 1, 2, 3, 4, we’ll count out 1, e, and, a, 2, e, and, a, 3, e, and, a, 4, e, and, a. You might feel a little silly, but count out loud with me and go through it several times until you are used to it.

Now that you know how to count sixteenth notes, I’ll play the strumming pattern for you in the video and then we’ll break it down into sections. This pattern does include upstrokes so remember that you don’t need to strum through all six strings with your upstroke. You can see in the video that I am only strumming through the top four strings with my upstrokes.

Another tip I want to give you for both your upstrokes and downstrokes is that you don’t need to dig your pick too far into your strings as you strum. You can use just the tip of the pick, otherwise it might be too hard to get through all the strings.

Let’s look closer at the strumming pattern and how it will work. The counting for this pattern is ‘1, 2, and, a’. That means that you’ll have a downstroke on ‘1’ and a downstroke on ‘2’, leaving you with a downstroke on ‘and’ and an upstroke on ‘a’. You can see me play the example of this in the video.

That’s the basic counting pattern for this song. When you get to ‘3, e, and, a, 4, e, and, a’, the pattern will be the same. For this song, we’ll play this pattern through once for each chord.

To fully understand how this strumming technique works, let’s go over the constant strumming technique. The constant strumming technique means you are keeping your arm moving for every count of the sixteenth notes. As you can see in the video, you’ll keep your arm moving up and down through every beat, but you’ll only dig into the strings with your pick on the strumming we talked about. You can follow along and watch me play an example of this in the video.

You can see that my arm was keeping time, but only digging into the strings for the specific strokes needed in this strumming pattern. When you’re learning this strumming pattern, don’t worry about the chords if you don’t want to yet. If you’re having trouble, just mute the strings or stay on one chord as you get the strumming pattern down.

Remember not to lock your wrist because you don’t want to create unnecessary tension. Make sure to keep the honey and feather analogy from lesson seven in mind while you’re strumming.

Once you get this strumming pattern down, you can apply it to every chord in this chord progression. You can watch in the video as I play an example of what the entire progression will sound like.

One trick I have for you when you’re strumming is to hit the upstroke between the G chord and the D chord with all open strings. That gives you an extra moment to change between chords. You can also do the same thing with the upstroke between the D and A minor 7, and same thing between the A minor 7 and C. This trick will be a good stepping-stone as you learn to make your chord transitions smoothly. With time, you’ll want to be able to make those transitions without any hesitation.

Now that you’ve been through the entire chord progression with more musical strumming, I’m going to play through the song again. I’ll add some embellishment so you have an idea of what you can aspire to play.

As you play this song, you can slow it down as much as you need to. Also remember that it doesn’t need to be perfect. If you’re getting stuck on any chord changes, isolate that spot and work on it for a while.

In the next lesson, we’ll talk about where you can go from here in your guitar journey, and I’ll give you a few good resources. If you have any questions about this lesson or playing this song, you can leave them below in the comments.

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