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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: How to Use a Capo

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.

First, a note of caution. Strumming is not just slapping at all the strings. It involves playing chords. Those chords don't have to include all six strings. In fact they usually DO NOT.

When you strum you should aim to hit the correct string first. Sometimes that will be the E string, but just as often (perhaps more often) it will be the A string, and sometimes the D string. In fact, many chords such as a C Major and D major usually do not include the lowest bass string (low E).

In other words, it is perfectly acceptable - and often sounds better - to strum just four, or even three strings. When you're strumming your first job is to hit the "correct" string first. As I've said, sometimes that is the A string, and sometimes it is the D string. It probably is not the low E string.

Why Play on Fewer Strings

There are two reasons for this. 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 while playing a simple 4-string G chord. That means just fingering 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.

The other thing you will have to learn is to strum iin time with the tempo of the music you're playing to. Try a simple 1-2-3-rest stroke as in the video. 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.

100's more play along songs with chords HERE

Play Along Songs

Achy Breaky Heart - C - See music with chord changes

100's more play along songs with chords HERE

Rivers of Bablylon - C - See music with chord changes

Three Blind Mice - G - 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

100's more play along songs with chords HERE

Next Lesson (6): More Chords - Am, E, Am, B7