How to Strum a Guitar

Now that You have bought your guitar there are some techniques that you need to learn. And some basic principles like, how to strum a guitar. Today I am going to give you some tips and techniques. That by the time you have read this, you will be able to strum and have a better understanding of the technique of strumming.

So if your looking to learn more on how to strum a guitar. Look at what you are going to learn in this lesson.

  1. Keep Your arm moving at all times.
  2. Strumming Technique
  3. Hold the pick Proper.
  4. Strumming the whole note.
  5. Half Note strumming.
  6. Quarter note strumming.
  7. Adding Chords into the mix.
  8. Bonus – Video Tutorial “Strumming Patterns for Beginners”

If your ready to learn how to strum your guitar. What are you waiting for? Grab your guitar and lets do some strumming!

Holding Your Guitar Upright

Holding Your Guitar Upright is a Good place to start this conversation. I know your thinking “well Da” I have seen and know how to hold a guitar. Yes you probably have, but hear me out. A lot of new guitar players start out with bad posture. Meaning they are not sitting up right. And then also they want to look at there fretting hand. The only way they can do this is by angling the guitar. Which will only become a bad habit.

So instead of starting out doing it the wrong way and having to make corrections down the road. Which will be even harder than just learning it the correct way from the beginning.

Correct way

Wrong way

As you can see the proper way to hold a guitar is to hold it in close to your body. You are sitting up write, not slouching. Your strumming arm is holding the guitar. And your fretting hand is loose on the neck. Mostly your strumming arm is balancing your guitar. You need your other hand free to move the chord positions. I also use a foot stool under my right foot to help. For me it is more comfortable, instead of propping my right foot on top of my left one.

Pro Tips

Another thing to think about is where you are sitting. Two thoughts; The first one is, when you are practicing you want to have your own practice space. Away from interruptions and so that you are not interrupting others. And then the second thing to think about. What kind of chair are you sitting in? You want to be in a comfortable position. But not just that if you have a chair with arms on it. Then your playing may be hindered, due to the arms on the chair. I have some really good chairs that are wonderful for playing your guitar. You can see them in the Gear and Resource page.


Keep Your Arm Moving at All Times (Strumming)

When you are strumming you want to keep your arm moving at all times. Your arm should be like a pendulum. You know like on a Grandfather clock. Just a swinging! Keep it moving, but not just moving. You want the same distance from the beginning of the strum. From the sound whole to the bottom of the sound whole. Or if you go past the sound whole that’s fine. But you don’t want uneven strumming. So when you are strumming be conscious of the distance of each strum.

In other words don’t strum a little past the sound whole. Come back up and then the next time you strum down. Your arm goes past the body of the guitar. THIS IS Not the way to strum.

Also you want to keep your arm and wrist relaxed when you are strumming. This is a task in itself. Your arm naturally wants to tense up. But when you strum you want a consistent smooth back and forth motion. And the best way to obtain this is by keeping your arm and wrist relaxed.


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Strumming Technique

  • Place the guitar proper on your lap.
  • Keep Your Arm moving (don’t stop).
  • Stay relaxed when strumming.
  • Strum the same distance up and down.
  • Hold the Pick properly.
  • Count when strumming.

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Hold the Pick Proper

There are a couple of things that make your guitar sound the way it does. And I am talking about an acoustic guitar. The size of the guitar and type of wood. A bigger bodied guitar is going to have a bigger richer deeper sound. Than a smaller body guitar. Then you have the strings. They will give you different tones brighter or more bass would be a thicker tone. And then there is the pick hitting the strings.

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The Type of pick you use will also change the sound of the guitar. When you are starting out I recommend a thinner pick as it will be easier to use when strumming. Another thing to remember is how to hold the pick. Yes there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the pick. If you are not sure about it check out this article on 10 things every beginner guitar player needs to know.


Strumming the Guitar

In music there is a beat or a pulse. And this beat is measured by time. Most songs that you hear on the radio are in 4/4 time some Country songs you will hear 3/4 timing like a Waltz. But 90% are in 4/4 time. And for this lesson that’s what the discussion will be based on.

When we are talking 4/4 time the beat is measured 4 times. 1 2 3 4. In one measure of music there is 4 beats. What you can do is grab your guitar. Mute the strings just for a minute with your fretting hand. This way you don’t have to worry about play chords. Just lightly place your hand over the strings. This will mute them. Then with your strumming hand I want you to strum down and while your strumming down count out loud.

Count the Beat and you want an even pulse. The strum should be at the same time and distance each time you strum. Then also counting the beats as you go. READY? 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4. Counting out loud will help when your playing guitar. In the beginning count out loud then later you will be counting in your head. Remember the strumming techniques. Take your time, it is better to go slow and get it right.

Also on the down strum tap your foot. This will help you internalize the beat. And help you keep the timing.

Try strumming using an Em chord. If you need help knowing where to place your fingers. To make the E minor chord look at the chord diagram below.


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Link to Fretwire

Strumming the Em Chord Finger Position

  • Your second finger is placed on the 5th string. At the second fret.
  • Put your third finger on the 4th string. Also at the second fret.
  • When strumming the Em chord you can play all the strings.

Now grab your guitar and let’s strum the Em chord. You want to count out loud. One, Two, Three, Four. One, Two, Three Four. And remember tap your foot, this will help your timing.


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Strumming the Whole Note

We said that we have a measure of time. The whole note takes up the whole measure of time. When you strum a Whole note the strum rings out for the whole measure. Okay so play the Em chord and strum with me. Your going to strum down one time. But don’t forget to strum. When you strum down, this is one, and you are still counting 2 3 4. And then you would strum again. Counting the one on the strum and count 1 2 3. So the Strum is ringing out the whole measure.

Okay lets add a chord into the mix. The A minor chord. If you want to learn how to read a chord chart. Look at this quick reference How to Read Chord Charts.

Here is how to position your fingers for the Am chord

  • Place your first finger on the 2nd string. The B String, at the 1st fret.
  • Put your second finger on the 4th string, (D string) at the second fret. Then your third finger is on the G string, (3rd string) at the second fret.
  • Strum from the fourth string down.

Practice strumming the Am and Count out loud. Strum 2 3 4. (1) 2 3 4. Once your comfortable playing the Am. And there are techniques for your fretting hand too. That will help prevent string buzzing and muting of the strings. If you need help with that check out 10 tips for learning chords.

Now practice strumming the Em and then play the Am chord. So now it becomes a little bit harder. First your strumming the Em strum down counting one two three four. Then switch to the Am chord. Strum down one time and count to 4. If you are having difficulty moving from the Em to the Am. Try starting the move to the Am position sooner.

Instead of waiting till the count of 4 and struggling to get there in time. Think about it and start making your move at the count of three. Also visualize where your fingers are going. What string they are going on and what fret. This is half the battle, if not more.


Get the Basic Open Chord PDF

Half Note Strumming

Okay we covered a whole note so lets look at how to play the half note. Just like a cake or pizza you have a whole pie. But if you cut it in half then you have two pieces of the pizza pie or Cheese cake. Now you have two half’s. Two half notes equal one whole note. How are we going to strum this on the guitar?

What you want to do is still keep counting the beat. But you are now going to be strumming two times. You will strum on the 1 and the 3 Beats. So when your counting it will be 1 2 3 4. Try this with the Em chord. Strum on the One two Three four. Count out loud and tap that foot.

Practice the half note strum, going from the Em to the Am chord.


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Quarter Note Strumming

With the Quarter note you have to share the cheese cake. We had the whole cake. Then we cut the cake down the middle to have two half’s. Now we are going to slice the pie across the middle to end up with 4 slices. Which is what we have when you talk about quarter notes. It takes for quarter notes to make a half note. And two half notes to make a whole note.

Okay how are we going to strum this?

Now your strumming on every beat. So when you are counting to 4 each number you will be strumming on. Which this may be a little bit harder since you are doing a lot more strumming. But go at your own tempo. 1 2 3 4.

And start out with the Em chord first. When you feel comfortable strumming that. Try going from the Em to the Am. Which may be a little bit hard in the beginning. But everyone starts out the same way when learning to play. And that is not being able to play. But with practice you too will be able to master strumming.

If your getting it add another chord. Like the D chord. Check out how to play the D Major chord below.


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Strumming with the D Major Chord

  • Place your finger on the 3rd string. The G string. At the second fret.
  • Put your second finger on the 1st string. (E string). Also at the second fret.
  • Then your third finger is on the 2nd string. (B string). At the third fret.
  • Strum from the 4th string down. Don’t play the 5th or 6th string.

Counting 1 2 3 4 play the Em chord. Then go to the Am chord and then after the 4 beats move to the D chord. If you want to learn more about chords and how to move between the chords. And learn the secrets to move around the fretboard. Also learn guitar techniques that will fast track your playing then check out the Guitar Bootcamp Course.


Related Questions

How Do You Strum a Guitar for Beginners

There are some basic techniques to strumming. Keep your strumming hand moving. keep an even strum the distance of the strum should be equal from top to the bottom. Try and keep your arm and wrist relaxed. Also holding the guitar properly and the pick will make strumming a lot easier. When you strum don’t hack at the strings. You want a nice smooth strum. It doesn’t have to be a loud strumming noise. It can be nice and soft. Which will take some practice. According to string Kick with proper technique strumming will be easier and infinitely better. source

How to Strum a Guitar With a Pick

The biggest thing when using a pick to strum is how you are holding the pick. This will effect the sound and tone you are going to get. To get a grip on the pick and keep it in your hand take a look at this article how to strum a guitar with a pick.

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