Saturday, 6 May 2017

Basic Strumming Patterns for Beginners

There are two things you need when you want to learn to play songs on the guitar: Chords and Strumming patterns.
A chord is a set of notes played on the guitar that will give you a particular sound and color. Many popular songs consist of only three or four chords.
A strumming pattern is a preset pattern of down and up strokes played with your fingers or a pick against the strings. The strumming pattern will determine the rhythm for your music.
Mastering the basics of strumming is the first step in becoming a competent guitarist.
You can strum with either your fingers or with a pick.
Strumming with your fingers
There are several ways to strum with your fingers. Here is one that is commonly used: Place your thumb against your index finger and hold them like that. This gives you a decent support. Strum down with the nail of your index finger against all the strings and strum up with the nail of your thumb.
Strumming with a pick
Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger. Place the pick on the top side of your index finger and clamp your thumb down on top of it. Hold the pick firmly.

Strumming Tips

Before you can start strumming away, make sure that you follow these tips:
  • Learn how to hold the guitar properly. Your right elbow should rest on the body of the guitar, giving your arm a complete range of motion over the strings.
  • Hold the guitar pick properly. The pick should be nearly perpendicular to the strings. I personally like to hold the pick at an angle of around 110-120 degrees against the strings.
  • Play directly over the guitar’s sound hole (if you are using an acoustic guitar). Once you master a few strumming patterns, try playing closer to the bridge or the neck. Did you notice any changes in the pitch and ‘thickness’ of the produced sound?
  • Ensure that each string is ringing correctly. Don’t worry about playing chords while you practice basic strumming patterns. Just make sure that you hit all the strings.
  • Learn to keep time. The most basic time signature is 4/4. That equals to four beats every movement (these are music theory terms. Look them up for a better understanding of rhythm).
  • Keep your wrist free and relaxed. The picking motion depends on the flexibility of the wrist, especially for more advanced rhythms. Practice playing with just a motion of the wrist without moving your arm.

How to Read Strumming Patterns

For the purpose of this tutorial, we will follow these conventions:
DownstrokeThis is the motion of the pick in a downward direction, the way your hand would naturally move while playing the guitar. This is represented by a green downward arrow.
UpstrokeThis is the opposite of the downstroke – the hand moves up against the strings. This is represented by an orange upward pointing arrow.
Beats are written as numbers. Since most songs use the 4/4 time signature, there will be four beats, which are written as four numbers – 1 2 3 4. The appropriate stroke on a specific beat is shown beneath it.

Strumming Patterns for Beginners

Pattern 1
This is the simplest pattern you will ever learn – it is made up entirely of down-strokes. We just saw this pattern above, but we’ll repeat it here for the sake of clarity:
What does this exactly mean?
Start counting numbers up till four out loud. Every time you say a number, strum the guitar in a downward direction. Once you hit four, go back to one and repeat the process. Do this a couple of times and you should have a basic rhythm going.
To do this like actual guitarists, instead of saying the number out loud, try tapping your left foot in rhythm with the down-strokes.
Let’s move on to something more challenging.

Pattern 2
This is the exact opposite of the previous strumming pattern – instead of going down with each beat, we will go up. This can be a little difficult at first; the upstroke doesn’t come as naturally as the down-stroke. Don’t worry if you get the rhythm wrong at first. The point of this exercise is to get you familiar with playing the upstroke. G
So this was fun, let’s take it up a notch by combining down-strokes and upstrokes.

Pattern 3
This looks challenging – and it is! It will take you a few tries to get the pattern right – down-stroke on the first beat, an upstroke on the second, another down on the third and an upstroke on the fourth. Once you get it right, you’ll realize that this pattern sounds much more ‘natural’. Spend some time with this pattern – it will form the basis of the more advanced patterns we will try below.

Pattern 4
This is where things start complicated. Instead of counting to 4, I want you to say this out loud: “1 AND 2 AND 3 AND 4 AND” with emphasis on the ‘AND’. When you say a number, do a downstroke. When you say AND, do an upstroke. Do it slowly and take your time with each stroke. Don’t worry if it doesn’t come right immediately; it’s not the most intuitive of patterns. But once you do get the hang of it, you’ll realize that you can use this pattern across a huge variety of songs.
What we’re doing here is basically breaking the measure down into not four, but eight beats. In other words, we are squeezing two beats into the time where we were using just one beat before. More importantly, by placing emphasis on the AND rather than the number, we are making sure that our upstrokes sound more ‘prominent’ than the downstrokes.
Guitar strumming is all about this: mixing and matching emphasis on different beats. Don’t bang your head against the wall if you don’t get it at first; this is something you’ll grasp naturally the more you practice.

Pattern 5
Did you see what we did here?
Removed a stroke from the 3rd beat. This means that when you play this pattern, instead of doing a down-stroke when you say the number 3, you will nothing.
But here’s the thing: instead of stopping your hand when you get to the third beat, I want you to continue your hand motion over the guitar strings. Pretend that you are playing air guitar; your hand will hover over the strings without striking them.
This can be very tricky at first. You have to move over the strings without breaking rhythm. Your hand must continue moving as it would move if you were actually playing the strings on the third beat. You must then strike the strings on the AND with an upstroke in the same rhythm.
Practice this pattern a lot. Master the art of not striking the strings. This will be the principle in virtually every pattern that you use.

Pattern 6
We’ve now taken the principle we learned above and upped the ante by removed not one but three strokes.
This will be difficult even if you took your time with pattern 5. You will have to glide over the strings three times in a measure – on the AND after 1, on the number 3, and on the AND following 4. The last bit – the AND following 4 – is the hardest part for most beginners, so make sure that you give it plenty of practice time.
This is pretty much the gist of guitar strumming patterns. There are countless patterns out there, and while you must learn the most basic ones as a beginner, don’t rely on them too much as you advance in skill. Instead, play what feels ‘natural’ to you. Following a pattern too closely can make your playing sound mechanical and dull. Don’t be afraid to change up the rhythm if you feel it fits the song.

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