I had a good lesson yesterday with a fingerpicking student of mine who previously HATED strumming.
Recently, we have made some big breakthroughs with strumming, and now she is starting to love it much more.
What we did over the past few months was to fix the important strumming errors that plagued her.
They may well be plaguing you too if you hate strumming. Let’s fix them!
1) Not knowing any set strumming patterns
Some guitarists just like to ‘wing it’ with their strumming patterns, but this just leads to lots of random ups and downs.
You need to know at least 3-4 strumming patterns I’d say as a bare minimum, but about 5-8 is better. Get seamless and natural with all the strum patterns you learn to the point that you can play them in your sleep. Strumming patterns are signature rhythms you can apply to anything – therefore they are super useful in a variety of ways.
2) Strumming the wrong strings
This is a fundamental error and one that can cause your guitar playing to sound messy. Strumming the wrong strings most commonly occurs on a D chord where the low E string is strummed.
This sounds terrible and really makes a guitarist sound like an amateur. Practice with the chords of C A G E D and strum them over and over, but only strumming from the root note.
3) Strumming all the strings all of the time
When you strum every available string within a chord all the time, it starts to grate on the listener’s ear – like Justin Bieber and his whiny pop tunes. It’s so grating on the ear!
Instead, alternate at various points which part of the chord you strum. Mix up hitting just the bass strings (low E, A, D), the treble strings, (G, B, high E) and all available strings at different points. This is done more on down strums and gives us a really cool sound.
4) ‘Harp Strumming’
This occurs when you drag the pick over the strings in a way that creates the sound of a harp.
You want a crisp, fluid strum through the strings. If you use a pick and struggle with this, grab a thin pick (go as thin as 0.4 for now if you need to) and grip it softly. Don’t twist and turn your wrist when strumming as this will make things worse.
5) Having a weak upstroke
Hmm, a common error and the biggest tip I can give you here is to try to focus on just hitting the G, B and high E strings for up strums and leaving the other strings in the chord for the down strums.
This creates a nice little bit of contrast with your down strums. Keep practising up strums over and over on one chord, ensuring you grip a soft pick lightly as stated before.
After systematically fixing the above (some are quicker to fix than others), Christine, my student, really started to enjoy strumming and creating some big, strong grooves that oozed class.
In the past, her strumming sounded stilted and although not terrible, anyone could tell it was a bit “off”. Yesterday, I actually enjoyed hearing it. I love those moments when I can sit back and just enjoy listening to a student play.
Those are nice moments.
For more help with your strumming, my strumming course goes into all of the above in more detail (but in a structured step-by-step way).
This course is NOT to be confused with my strumming book. It is shorter, but it is a video so that can be better for some. It was also one of my earlier sets of video recordings, so it is not as smooth as it could be in terms of production, but it has always had great feedback.
The most important thing is – it does what it needs to – it will teach you how to strum properly, in a step-by-step way, and you will have some fun while learning how.
Check it out below if you are interested. (By the way, if you have bought my Ultimate guide to Strumming book, you will get a discount on this course, more info below).
P.S. This post was originally taken from Dan Thorpe’s private email list. To get blog posts like this sent to you which are full of great tips to make fingerpicking, strumming and learning guitar more enjoyable, (especially if you are over 40) then join Dan’s list. It’s 100% free, HERE