By Guest Tutor – Chris Ward
An Introduction to Strumming Patterns
Welcome to my first blog post for ‘Guitar Ninja’, hope everyone on the site is doing well and getting on with their grades. For today’s post we are going to look at simple strumming patterns to get you started with playing guitar.
First of all, it’s worth setting up a simple chord so that you get used to your fretting hand on the fret board while you’re strumming, as well as making the exercise sound nicer as a result. The chord we’re going to be using for now is an E minor 7, which you can see tabbed out below:
The easiest way to play the chord is by using your first finger and placing it on the second fret of the A string. make sure that the rest of your hand is clear of the strings to avoid getting any muted strings. With that out the way let’s get into some strumming.
When strumming through the strings it’s important to have a relaxed hand and strumming arm. The only place you should be applying any tension is where you are holding the pick. Also, try not to drag the pick through the strings. I can guarantee it will glide through every time. If you allow your arm to relax and drop nicely through the strings it sounds a lot better than trying to force the pick through.
For the first example you just want to get used to doing down strokes through the six strings of the guitar. All you need to do is just let the arm relax and play through the strings and bring it back up again (not touching the strings as you come back up) then repeat. The idea here is not only get used to strumming down but also to help you get used to string spacing and how the guitar feels when you are holding it and strumming. You should do this for about 5 minutes a day as it will help you get used to holding and playing the instrument for a long period of time.
In the next example we’re going to do nothing but upstrokes, avoiding the guitar strings as we come back down to help us get used to strumming in the opposite direction. Keeping that arm nice and relaxed, trying not to drag the pick through the string still. This can be made a little bit more difficult as you’re fighting against gravity but with 5 minutes a day spent on this example, strumming up can become as easy as strumming down.
Stepping it up a bit
Once your arm is comfortable with both these examples you should try playing along to a metronome to help you keep time. Start at a slower tempo (60-70 BPM is always good) and try playing a strum for each beat in a bar and counting “1, 2, 3, 4” as you’re playing. It’s worth doing both the down stroke and the up stroke example to get used to both. As you gain more confidence and get used to keeping time it’s then possible to raise the tempo of the metronome so that you can play the examples a little bit faster each time.
The last strumming pattern in today’s blog is using ‘alternate strumming’, where your arm moves constantly down and up across the strings in order to get used to playing things that are faster. When playing this example it’s important to stick with the things mentioned earlier in the blog so that you can play with the least resistance.
Once you’re used to the alternate strumming, once again it’s worth practicing along with a metronome. This time though you are aiming to play one down stroke and one up stroke per a beat, this should give you eight strums in a bar in total. You may have to slow the metronome down again in order for it to feel natural, but don’t worry we all had to start in a similar way. As you count through a bar using alternate strumming you want to count it as “1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &” as this is the most common way musicians count this particular 8th note rhythm.
Thank you very much for checking out this blog post regarding strumming patterns, if any of you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact me on the following:
A word from the Ninja
Chris has been a friend of ours since before our launch in August 2018. With experience teaching guitar both for himself and others. If you have any questions about his blog please e-mail him or as usual you may contact our head tutor Rorz on: