Learn to Strum a Guitar Correctly: A Guide for Beginners

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How to Strum the Guitar Correctly

Learning how to strum a guitar correctly should be the act 1 goal of a guitar novice. Learning chords is important, but they ’ re barely static shapes .
Learning how to strum a guitar is how we make MUSIC.

In this free guitar lesson you will learn:

  • How to inject musicality and rhythm into your strumming.
  • The step-by-step strumming method that works on every song.
  • 3 posture tips that make strumming easy.
  • The 2 secrets to perfect strumming technique.
  • How to position your wrist, fingers and forearm for effortless strumming.
  • The 5 fundamentals that must be in place for you to learn how to strum a guitar.
  • You’ll also see a video, from the player’s perspective, of what good strumming technique looks like.

sound good ? Let ’ s dive in .
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Why is strumming technique so important?

I ’ ve exhausted over 20,000 hours of my life teaching people how to strum a guitar. It ’ s been a benediction, I ’ ve loved it. I ’ ve learned a bunch about myself and others during those hours. One of the things I ’ ve learned is that everyone gets comfortable with chords in the goal .
( even the most clumsy-fingered people, thus if you ’ re in this camp don ’ thymine worry. )

If you practice enough, chords will not be a problem…

But strumming is a much more nuanced thing. It requires nuance, adeptness and feel .

  • Your chord hand holds a shape.
  • Your strumming hand makes MUSIC.

thus lashkar-e-taiba ’ south be clear about the size of the challenge before we begin :

In many ways, understanding how to strum a guitar IS learning how to play guitar. Great strumming = great rhythm guitarist .

This is how we create rhythm. This is how we bring chords to life sentence and how we create a groove. This is how we make music.
There is a huge reward waiting for you if you get this right ! 🙂
In this lesson, I’ll give you my very best tips for how to strum a guitar correctly.
how to strum a guitar

The fundamentals must be in place

We need to make certain the fundamentals are in put first. ( If they ’ re not, you will never learn how to strum a guitar by rights. )
If you don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate know how to strum a guitar and you ’ ve been playing for a while, you should read this beginning section cautiously as there ’ s obviously been something holding you back therefore far .
You will be tempted to skip this stuff and fast-forward to the ‘ tips and tricks ’. Resist that urge ! The fundamentals must be in place.

Guitar fundamentals: Learn with a suitable guitar

Make sure that you ’ re using a guitar that ’ sulfur well-suited to your body size and form .
For example, if you ’ re petite, you shouldn ’ t be using a elephantine or dreadnought guitar. ( If you want to learn how to strum a guitar, you must be able to comfortably reach over the legal document. )
If your guitar is badly-suited to your body size and supreme headquarters allied powers europe you will find it importantly harder to learn how to strum a guitar by rights .

To learn more about this ( the most fundamental of all fundamentals ! ), read my article :
‘How To Choose The Perfect Beginner Guitar‘

Learn the 12 EASIEST beginner chords with our famous FREE guide

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Learn 12 beginner-friendly versions of every chord .
This is our most popular guide and it will improve your chord ability cursorily .

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Guitar fundamentals: Use extra light gauge strings

If you want to learn how to strum a guitar you better make indisputable you have supernumerary light gauge strings on your axe. They make life a lot easier for beginners .
They help you strum better because it ’ randomness easier to make chords with this type of string. This frees you up to focus more on your strum .
Your local guitar shop will re-string your guitar for you for $ 10 / £10. This is abject hanging-fruit and will make things easier immediately. Do it !
how to strum a guitar

Guitar fundamentals: The All-Conquering Importance of Posture

carriage is the least ‘ sexy ’ element of learning guitar and it ’ s besides the most important .
If there are errors in your position you will never learn how to strum a guitar properly .
I cover this in detail elsewhere, but here ’ s a few agile pointers :

The Thing-You-Sit-On is absolutely vital.

  • Don’t slump down into a cushioned sofa.
  • Don’t sit in a chair with arms. This inhibits your movement.
  • Don’t perch on a stool at the kitchen island. (The guitar will slide away from you as you play.)

What to do with your thighs and arms

Sit on whatever you want, but make certain these things are in place :

  • Your thigh should be at a 90 degree angle to your torso, or angled ever so slightly towards you. This makes the guitar ‘secure’ and reduces the likelihood of it moving away mid-strum.
  • Both arms should be completely free from obstruction. Chord changes become easier when people realize that they need to move their whole left arm and not just the fingers on their left hand.

Your leave wrist should move around as you change chords. Forwards, backwards and side-to-side, as needed, to make your chord transitions easier .

  • Do not tuck your left elbow into your stomach or rest it on your thigh. Your left elbow should be free-floating in mid-air. (This is what allows your left wrist to move around!) If you can’t move your left wrist around you are trying to change chords while tied to a ball and chain.

I see people make these mistakes again and again. These mistakes make learning how to strum a guitar a set hard ( and in some cases physically impossible ) .
cautiously check your technique and watch for these strum-killers creeping in .

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What To Do With Your Strumming Arm

first, have your mighty elbow in presence of the ridge at the lead of the guitar body. It doesn ’ t have to be in front of the guitar body, it fair needs to have passed the ridge on the exceed of the guitar ’ randomness body .
If you want to learn how to strum a guitar your elbow can ’ triiodothyronine sit on top of the roof of the guitar ’ s consistency. That ’ s your main strum hinge ! It must be in front of the guitar otherwise it can ’ metric ton pivot .

Don’t bend your wrist in towards the guitar

Don ’ t bend your wrist in towards the guitar. This swan orchid condition is a bonafide strum-killer because it creates extra points of apparent motion that make it very hard to create a consistent strum .
If you do this you are asking your joints to perform an impossible job .

Your wrist should continue in a straight line, along from your forearm.

How To Strum A Guitar 2

  • Don’t strum from your wrist, or rotate your wrist.
  • Lock your wrist and strum from your elbow.

If you want to learn how to strum a guitar you must learn to strum with your hale forearm. We want bad, bold branch movements from your elbow ( not timid twiddling from your wrist ) .

This is a key point:  If you want to learn how to strum a guitar you must learn to strum with your whole forearm. Straighten your wrist. Lock your wrist. Strum from your elbow .

Use A Pick / Plectrum

Picks and plectrums are the lapp thing. If you want to learn how to strum a guitar you should use a pick.
It ’ s potential to learn how to strum a guitar without using a pick, but I ’ vitamin d estimate it ’ s about 50 % -60 % hard. Using a pluck feels weird for the first hour or so, but it makes everything easier thereafter .

Using a pick is a progress accelerator.

I encourage all my students to learn to play with their fingers besides. ( I largely play with my fingers. ) But in the early days, I encourage them to use a foot as their default option strumming tool .
I sometimes get hard resistance from students when I suggest this. They say “ I want to use my fingers, the peck doesn ’ triiodothyronine feel correctly ”, that type of thing .
well that ’ s all right, do whatever you want ! Just understand that it ’ mho significantly more difficult for a novice to learn how to strum a guitar in a fluid and musical way using fingers .
easy strumming patterns

Common pick errors

A common novice mistake is to use a pick that ’ s besides thick. This makes it harder to strum and is the main reason some beginners reject using a woof .
There ’ s a huge range of thicknesses to choose from. Beginners should use something between 0.65-0.73 .

  • Any thicker than that and the pick will feel too stiff. It will feel too rigid, like there’s a ‘barrier’ between you and the guitar.
  • Any thinner that that and it will be too pliable and ‘flappy’. You won’t feel ‘connected’ the guitar.

We ’ rhenium seeking a happy average that gives you restraint and connection .

In my experience 0.65-0.73 is the fresh spot for beginners who want to learn how to strum a guitar fluidly .

How to hold a guitar pick

Hold the choice between your first feel and thumb. Tuck your other fingers in .
Hold the pick inwards. Your wrist should be straight, running analogue with the guitar neck, but the pick should be aimed in at the strings .
It should look something like this :
How To Hold A Guitar Pick
Don ’ t have your lower fingers outstretched and flapping around. ( They ’ ll catch on the strings and girdle notes unintentionally, but most of all, it ’ s a bad habit that will cause you problems subsequently on. It ’ ll make it harder to do things like palm-muting. )
We don ’ metric ton want bad proficiency taking root. Tuck those fingers in and keep your fist nice and compact !

How to strum a guitar from the player’s perspective

This video recording will show you how to strum a guitar from the player ’ sulfur position. Your strumming hired hand should look something like this :

  • Notice that the wrist is locked and the motion is mostly coming from the elbow.
  • Check out the way the pick is being held too.
  • The whole arm is a pivot. Think of it as a single piece of wood!
  • The pick is like a nail through the piece of wood, at the end. Pointing in, at the strings.

This may all sound very solid and ‘ unmusical ’, but the claim diametric is true. This apparatus gives you an extremely predictable strum proficiency which means you can drench your strumming with right techniques and musicality .

With this consistency of proficiency it becomes easy to stay in time and on-the-beat, to add palm-muting, syncope & deaden. Best of all, it ’ randomness reasonably easy to replicate .
If you want to learn how to strum a guitar, copy the above video!
If your stream strum proficiency is identical different to this, you will initially feel like you ’ ra ‘ dragging ’ the nibble over the strings when you try this. ( And you are, that ’ s the pick ’ s job ! That ’ s what it ’ sulfur mean to do. )
This ‘ feeling ’ can cause a bit of discomfort, but it will pass quickly. 🙂
how to strum a guitar

Avoid ‘Thumb Plague’

If you want to learn how to strum a guitar I flat out forbid you from ever strumming with your thumb!
( This is the most specify bad habit I know of. There are dozens of negatives and literally no top. )
seriously, if you value your future as a guitarist don ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate do this. It will cripple your guitar technique. ( You are not Jeff Beck ! )
If you like the ‘ gentle ’ note from using your ovolo, try using a more flexible pick than you ’ ve used in the past. Or try lighter strings. Or try strumming with your fingers or fingerpicking .
basically do anything other than strum with your ovolo ! 🙂

If you want to learn how to strum a guitar make sure you’re practicing EASY songs.

It ’ s about impossible to truly focus on your strumming when you ’ re struggling with chord changes at the other goal of the guitar neck .
When you want to double-down and learn how to strum a guitar with high gear musicality, you should play songs with SUPER-easy chords .
This allows you to commit maximum attention to your strumming hand.

Read this article that Jack and I wrote :
‘10 Great Songs For Guitar Beginners‘

easiest way to strum a guitar

Understand the huge difference between downstrokes and upstrokes

For lots of people this is a game-changing concept. I hope it helps you besides. 🙂

  • Downstrokes are the main stroke. Downstrokes drive the song forward. They are almost always ON the beat of the song.
  • Upstrokes are ‘filler’ They don’t matter as much as downstrokes. They are usually OFF the beat of the song.

When strumming downstokes you should aim to strum all of the strings that the chord requires ( 4, 5 or 6 strings ) .

When strumming upstrokes you only need to strum the first 2 or 3 strings. (The thinnest strings.)

If you strum upstrokes the like way you strum downstrokes your play will sound identical severe and automatic .
You need to let things breathe more. We create this ‘ space ’ in our strum by reducing ( or omitting ) upstrokes .
We can ’ thyroxine do this with downstrokes, they are excessively crucial, they drive the song forward .

An upstroke is not a mirror image of a downstroke. They are two different things. They serve different roles.

This is mind-blowing for most guitar-learners and you will initially struggle to implement this in your strum because you ’ ll probably be used to moving back and forth over the strings like a piston. Down, up, down, up, same, same, just in opposite directions.

If you want to learn how to strum a guitar then you need to make some changes to your existing technique .
An old bos of mine used to say : “ If you always do what you always did, you ’ ll always get what you constantly got ”. very true !
It ’ s probably that a little surgery is required in your technique. And, this is probably the most fundamental thing you need to change .

You only need to catch 2-3 strings with your upstrokes.

how to strum a guitar

Exploding the myth of ‘the strumming pattern’

One of the most restrict beliefs that guitar learners adopt is the idea that there is a ‘ strum blueprint ’ to every song .

Forget about ‘strumming patterns’.

We want you to develop a sense of musicality and formulation in your play. How does learning a bespeak ‘ strumming form ’ for 1 song help you prepare for a million different songs ?
I don ’ t want you to learn rote. I want you to learn how to be musical. so forget the YouTube guru ( most of whom are guitarists and not guitar teachers ), trust me on this all-important point .
Forget all about strumming patterns and all that ‘ down, devour, up, down up, astir, down, astir, up ’ stuff ! 🙂
The strum pattern is only always : down up, down up.  
That ’ s all it ever is and all it always will be .
surely, we sometimes miss some out, play some louder than others, play more strings than others, but that ’ s all at your delicacy as a musician who is interpreting a song .
You may want to play the birdcall potently, or gently, you may want to treat it as a rock ballad or a fingerpicked folk track .

Forget strumming patterns. They encourage you to learn rote and to learn in a stilted and robotic way. That is the very antithesis of what this should be.

Now for some guitar learners, they don’t want to hear this. They want something concrete they can work to and try to copy. I understand that. I’ve walked through this process with hundreds of people.
For beginners who want something clear they can copy, I recommend they learn my ‘ universal strumming pattern ’. This gets you strumming in the correct way, allows you to sound bang-up nowadays and EMPOWERS you for the future .
Let ’ s check it out .
strumming patterns

Learn The Universal Strumming Pattern

I call this the ‘ cosmopolitan strumming pattern ’ because it works on every song. ( Yes, every individual song ! )
There ’ s four steps to this :

  • Step 1) Identify the beat of the track.
  • Step 2) Play one downstroke on each beat.
  • Step 3) Add an upstroke in-between each downstroke.
  • Step 4) Double the speed. (THIS IS OPTIONAL and not always needed.)

Let ’ s break it down .

Step 1) Identify the beat of the track.

Some people ‘ get ’ this immediately and some people find it super-hard .
If you want to learn how to strum a guitar with fluidity, you MUST be able to identify the beat of a song.
For most people, this explanation will suffice :

“ The pulsate of the song is how you ’ d tap your feet along to the song. Or how you ’ five hundred clap your hands. It ’ s a regular tick. ”

  • The beat of a song is ALWAYS: tap, tap, tap, tap
  • It’s never: Tap, tap, tappety, tappety, tap, tap, , tap, tap.
  • There are no pauses. This is a regular beat. There is the same amount of time between each and every beat.

If you ’ rhenium struggling to find the beat of the song heed to the drums and bass guitar. It may take you a little while, but you ’ ll find it. Listen for the snare drum drum .
The speed of a song ’ second beat is measured with ‘ tempo ’ in BPM which stands for B eats P emergency room M inute .

If all else fails, Google it!

Eg : “ Tempo of Hotel California ”
When you have the tempo in BPM, you can enter it into a metronome. There ’ mho tons of these on-line, but I tell my students to use the smartphone app ‘ Metrotimer ’ .
There ’ randomness dozens of apps that do the lapp caper. You enter the BPM and it plays a suction stop track you can strum along to to stay in time .
I strongly encourage you to try and FEEL the beat and not get too scientific about this process.  We want you to learn how to strum a guitar without using any tools and the huge majority of people achieve this .
however, I ’ ve included the stuff here about BPM and metronomes because I know that about 2 % of people literally have zero sense of time .
The huge majority of people can figure the pulse of a song out without having to forensically break it down as I ’ ve shown here .

even then, going through this serve at least once or doubly will help deepen your understand of music, therefore give it a eddy ! 🙂

Take some time to develop your FEEL of music by identifying the beat of different songs, across different genres.

This is a learned skill and I guarantee you will get better at it as you practice .
Ok, so however you figured it out, you have now identified the tick of the sung. Let ’ s move onto footprint 2 :
learn how to strum a guitar

Step 2) Play one downstroke on each beat.

This is the easiest footprint of all. Simply play one downstroke on each beat. That ’ s it. On every pulse play a downstroke. Strum all the strings the chord requires .
If the BPM of a song is 120, you should strum 120 downstrokes per minute .
Tap your infantry as you play to help ‘ ground ’ you in the timing of the track .
Get this established before introducing step 3 .

Step 3) Add an upstroke in-between each downstroke.

This is the hardest step and the most important moment when learning how to strum a guitar.
Most people find tone 2 slowly, but fall OUT of time when they add the upstrokes in. ( Most people start replacing downstrokes with upstrokes here, but that ’ s not what we want. )
The key point here is this : We don ’ thymine want your hand to strum any fast ( or slower ) than it was in step 2. We aren ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate changing the speed. All we are doing here is ADDING upstrokes in to what was already established in step 2.

We are not replacing any downstrokes with upstrokes hera. We are adding upstrokes .

This will take commit. This is the very heart of the issue. Remember this : when you crack this ( and you will ), the world is your oyster ! You will be able to strum ANY song. This strumming pattern works on every song.
best strumming patterns for beginners

OPTIONAL Step 4) Double the speed.

Most of the time, you won ’ t need this last footfall. But depending on how you identified the beat or what type of song it is ( eg, a family ballad vs a punk rock thrash ), your strum may sound besides boring, or besides sparse .
If this happens you plainly need to double the amphetamine. Don ’ thymine go ‘ a spot ’ faster. Exactly double it. Use the metronome if needs be .

You can tap your current beat into the metronome and it will show you your current BPM. If it tells you you’re currently working to 70 BPM then you know you need to go to 140 BPM.

If potential, I would much prefer you did this by ear and feel. We want you to internalise how to strum a guitar .
For exemplar : “ 1-and-2-and-3-and-4 ” would become “ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ” .

Most of the clock time, you won ’ t need footstep 4 .

Example of the universal strumming pattern in action

I recorded a brusque time for you so you can hear this method acting being applied with a real traverse .
sometimes a real exercise can explain how to strum a guitar better than a thousand words. Hit play !
immediately give it a try yourself. Play along ! 🙂

  • The chords to this track are C#, B, F#, C#, but they will probably be too hard for you to play so we need to make it easier using a capo. (You do own a capo don’t you!? I hope so, these are a beginner guitarist’s best friend. This is my favourite capo.)
  • Put a capo on the 4th fret and play A, G, D, A. (Or if you prefer, put a capo on the 1st fret and play C, Bb, F, C. I think this voicing sounds a bit better.)
  • If you don’t have a capo you can still do the exercise, but it will sound different to the original recording as you will be playing in a different key. Without a capo, you should play D, C, G, D.


You wanted to learn how to strum a guitar and you now know how to strum ANY song !
certain, there will be tons of ways you can adapt and customize your song ( or any song ), but you immediately have something that will at least work on any song .
once you get comfortable with the universal strum practice you can start to experiment and feel free to develop, dependable in the cognition you can ‘ fall back ’ to this as a default safety choice .

Adding a little garnish…

now we ’ ve covered how to strum a guitar systematically, let ’ s look at a couple of ways we can learn how to strum a guitar in a more promote manner .
One of the first things I ’ five hundred indicate you try adding to this is missing out the first upstroke on each new chord .
so alternatively of :
“down, up, down, up, down, up”
You play :
“ down,       down, up, down, up”.
Missing out the first upstroke of each modern harmonize ‘ defines ’ the chord progress and makes your advancement through the song clear and satisfying. Try it. You ’ ll hear what I mean .
Can you hear that it ‘ announces ’ the arrival of a new chord ? It ’ s a insidious thing, but it adds a bit of polish to your strumming. Pretty cool ! 🙂
guitar strumming patterns

A pro tip: “String Grouping” while strumming

Before we finish I want to share a ninja proficiency with you that will help you learn how to strum a guitar with much more musicality .
This may be besides advance for you at this degree, but I ’ d like to at least put it on your radar for future reference .
You don’t always have to play all the strings of a chord.

Think of your 6 guitar strings being in 3 segments: Low, Mid and High.

Pick a 6-string harmonize ( eg, a G or E chord ). And listen to how different the lowest 2 strings sound to the highest 2 strings and the middle two .
These are your RANGE as a rhythm guitarist .
To make your strumming legal varied, expressive, concern and musical you must bring out the full range in your play .
Don ’ t just sock 6-strings, 6-strings, 6-strings, 6-strings, every time. Give us 2-low, 2-high, 2-low, 2-high, then drop 2-mid in there to balance it out .

Within a chord, you have early chords .

You won ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate maestro this overnight, but by being aware of this you can start to emphasise the lower or higher strings from time to time. This is a fabulous direction to learn how to strum a guitar in a more advanced way .

This will give you more range and subtlety and you’ll bring out natural harmonics that are lost when you simply bash 6-strings. This will transform your musicality.

This, along with the early tips we ’ ve covered today, will in truth help you if your play has sounded excessively robotic .
People around you will notice how much better you sound after you implement the techniques we ’ ve covered in this moral. Let ’ s promptly review a few of the key points :

How to strum a guitar – a promptly drumhead :

  • Your posture is KING.
  • The Thing You Sit On is important.
  • Lock your wrist and strum from your elbow.
  • Use a pick. Use a pick. Use a pick.
  • Downstrokes and upstrokes are different things. You only need to catch 2-3 strings with your upstrokes.
  • Use the universal strumming pattern. It works on every song.
  • Use ‘string grouping’ to drench your strumming in musicality.

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Learn how everything fits together cursorily, easily and effectively. We plowshare ninja tips ( for clamant fun ! ) but besides dateless fundamentals that will deepen your understand .

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