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Back to 4 Skills Course Outline

Lesson 1: Overview of 4 Skills

Lesson 2: How Frets Work, Fingering Notes

Lesson 3: Picking Simple Melodies and Scales

Lesson 4: Your First Chords

Lesson 5: Strumming Technique - Songs in C and G

Lesson 6: More Chords - Am, E, Em, B7

Lesson 7: Two More Strum Patterns

Lesson 8: Chord Summary - G, C, D, E, Em, B7

Lesson 5: Strumming the Guitar

In this lesson we want to look at strumming.

Strumming is the term normally used to describe striking across a number of strings at once, usually in a rythmic pattern. It's what most guitar players do most of the time. They play "rhythm guitar" to accompany singing, or fill out the rhythm in a band.

Simple Strumming Technique

Just about all strumming is built on the DOWN stroke. This is the stroke that hits the lower strings first, and finishes on the higher strings.

When you strum you should aim to hit the correct string first. To make things a bit simpler, in the exercises here we are just playing on 4 strings. So your job is to hit the D string (4th) first.

Try hard not to hit the two bass strings when you strum. When you hit them without fingering them correctly they sound out of tune and mess up the chord.

Keep the Beat

When you strum your job is to "keep the beat" - to be accurate in your timing.

It is really important to strum in time with the tempo of the music you're playing to. The other musicians you are playing with are counting on it.

In the exercises and songs here we begin with a simple 4-beats-per-bar tempo. So we're starting with what we call the 1-2-3-Rest Strum as in the video. Resting (not playing) on the 4th beat gives you a chance to change chords as smoothly as possible.

Choose a tempo that is not too fast - you could use a metronome, or play along with a simple song as in the examples below.

Why Play on Fewer Strings

There are two reasons you often play on fewer than 6 strings. First, it is often not possible to finger all the strings at a suitable note. In that case certain strings are "muted" or simply not played.

The other reason is that it often sounds better to play just 4 or 3 or even just 2 strings. This is especially the case with electric guitars. Chords involving 5 or 6 strings can sound muddy. But using just three or four strings allows you to highlight certain notes within the chord.

Another example of this is the so-called "power chord", used to great effect in a lot of classic rock music. Think of "Smoke on the Water" for example.

Strumming on 4 Strings

Let's begin by strumming down strokes on 4 strings. Just to get the feel for strumming smoothly you should practice strumming across the top four strings (the thin ones) while playing a simple 4-string G chord. That means you only have to finger the high E string at the third fret.

You need to hold the pick firmly enough that it does not slip out of your fingers when you strum the strings, and hold the pick with a bit of downward angle to help it glide over the strings. In time you will learn that strumming requires a "soft" touch. Don't fight the strings with the pick. Let it glide nice and smoothly.

Play Along Songs

Achy Breaky Heart - C - See music with chord changes

Rivers of Bablylon - C - See music with chord changes

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star - G - See music with chord changes

Achy Breaky Heart - G - See music with chord changes

Rivers of Bablylon - G - See music with chord changes

Next Lesson: AM, E Chords