Strumming chords is essential “bread & butter” technique for accompanying songs with the guitar, and yet it is suprisingly hard to do well. Here’s a short checklist you can run through each time you practice to ensure that you’re getting the best possible sound.
Are all the desired the notes ringing cleanly?
- Keep fretting hand fingernails relatively short.
- Aim to place the fingertip of each finger just behind the fret.
- On 3-fret chords like G7, C and , ensure you stretching you hand sufficiently.
- Check that you aren’t choking any of the thinner (treble) strings with the sides of your fingers? This often occurs with open strings next to fretted strings (e.g. in an open C chord, the high ‘E’ next to fretted 1st fret C on ‘B’ string). Keep fingers relatively vertical around first knuckle.
Do the chords sound in tune?
- Always tune your guitar each time you practice or play!
- Watch out to avoid dragging any notes out of tune by accidently pulling them towards the floor? Direct finger pressure pressure directly into the fretboard, and avoid pulling the string downwards.
Can you change between the chord quickly and smoothly?
- If any changes are giving you difficult, practice changing between each pair of chords as quickly as possible (1 second on each chord) – around 50-100 times
Are you playing the right chord sequence?
- It helps to have memorised the sequence that you’re playing!
- Learning music theory can help you memorise chord sequences more easily by identifying commonly occuring patterns.
Are you playing the correct strumming pattern in time?
- Practicing with a metronome is a great way to develop your timing!
- Practice the strumming pattern repeatedly on one chord at a time before attempting the changes
- When you apply the strumming pattern to chord changes, make sure they are sufficiently practiced
Are you strumming unwanted bass notes?
- Avoid playing the low ‘E’ string on any chords other than E or G
Are you strumming all the strings you want to hear?
- Include the root of the chord (e.g. the open ‘A’ string for an A chord, the 3rd fret C on the ‘A’ string for a C chord (but watch out for playing an unwanted open ‘E’ string!)
- Watch out for cutting your downstrokes short and not playing all the treble strings!
- It’s less important to play all the bass strings on upstrokes, but make sure you catch the 3 treble strings!
Are you getting a smooth and fluid strumming sound?
- Watch out for dragging the pick and yanking the strings when you strumming. Aim to have the pick glide speedily across the string, using more speed and finesse than brute force
- Hold pick firmly, 2/3 or of the way down, nearer the tip, and point pick tip towards soundhole
- Allow as little of the pick to touch the strings as possible, like the edge of a knife cutting something
- Rotate the bones in the strumming hand forearm, clockwise as you strum downwards, anti-clockwise as you strum upwards
- Good strumming takes a lot of practice. Watch a few videos of people strumming well and then practice alternate strumming on a single chord, aiming for consistency of speed and fluidity. After a couple of hours you should get the hand of it.
By this point, you should appreciate that there’s more to simple strumming than meets the eye. It’s really a case of it being simple, but not easy! Hopefully This list will help you identify and fix all the sticking points one by and and achieve a great sound strumming technique!