Beginner Lesson V: The Basics

This is part V in my series Beginner Lesson, The Basics. I would like to talk about rhythm and strumming. Once again, please keep in mind, this is the very beginning. There will be no theory, no fretboard work, or ridiculous fingering going on. If you have mastered the first four lessons of this series, then it should go smoothly. Enjoy!

Ultimate Guitar
Hello everyone! How is practice going? I hope you are having as much fun learning as I am writing it! I will be writing one more after this, bringing this series to an end. However, this just means we will be moving on to some really fun stuff. I am really excited! Well there I go talking too much... let's move on! I) Before we begin... In my last lesson I discussed barre chords. So, were there any issues? Questions? Comments? I know that these chords can be difficult at first, but like I have said before, the more you practice the better you will become. When I first show a student a barre chord I get the same look and frustration. I was the same way when I first learned Stairway to Heaven. I was like You want me to what??. This is why I always start slow and use only two stings at a time. Remember the following tips and facts which should put your mind at ease: i) You have new hands. Keep in mind, you are applying pressure onto steel, nickel or brass strings. Your hands and fingers will toughen up. ii) We were all there once! Every musician started somewhere and worked at it until they mastered their craft. iii) Each day you are getting closer to achieving your goal. iv) Take your time and go slow If you haven't noticed already, I do repeat myself. There are some topics worth talking about over and over and over and over. . . You get the point. II) Your Metronome is your best friend In my guitar playing career I have gone through three metronomes. Nothing fancy, just basic Qwik Time metronomes. I also have two drum machines and a Korg workstation with hundreds of rhythms. Actually the Korg is my wife's. There are many kinds of metronomes; some with built in tuners, some that are stand alone, some for your android or smart phone. Just pick one! ( I honestly do not like the metronomes for phones ). As long as it clicks you away into another plane of existence, then you are golden! Why am I stressing this point over and over????? Rhythm and time are very important in music! I stress this to every beginner to develop good habits. As I write this, I am staring at my old friend the Metronome and his side kick, Mr. Stop Watch. They are always ready to go at any moment. Stop watch??? I'm sure you are now wondering why I have this and if you need one. Well, I have one to time every thing I practice and no, you do not need one. Any clock with a second hand will do just fine. Okay, enough of that. . . III) Strumming I have debated on this topic for some time now. How can I explain this technique without visual aide? I have talked about it a little in previous articles, but let's go more in depth. Let me introduce a new word; DYNAMICS! For the purpose of this lesson I will keep it really, really simple. Dynamic: soft, hard, loud and quiet. Simple right? Now let's apply this to guitar playing. Take a deep breath and relax. Strumming is about grace and finesse. Your strumming arm, wrist and shoulders should be loose. I know that if you have never done this before you are most likely thinking that it is going to sound horrible. Nonsense!!!! Like Obi-wan said, You are taking your first steps into a larger world.. Pick a chord, any chord, just one. Angle your pick so that it glides across the strings. Now strum that chord. I am sure your first strum was down. Try going up, angling your pick the other way. Now strum up, down, up, down, up, down. See how easy that was? Before you start critiquing yourself on how silly that sounded, I am just easing you into a comfort zone. Let's try another exercise. We will do the same strum pattern; up, down, up, down, up, down...however this time I want you to start off playing soft and quiet gradually playing harder and louder, then go back to soft. Ready for more? This time we are going to play something a little more practical, but first another awesome exercise that will make you feel silly, but warm and happy inside. Find a surface to tap on. It could be a table, your leg, your guitar, anything. Start tapping your hand on the surface of your choice and count to four. However on the one, it should be harder. i) Tapping Exercise Tap Tap Tap Tap 1 2 3 4 Hard soft soft soft Did that make sense? I hope so. Pick a chord and apply this exercise to your playing. Down, up, down, up. Of course counting and accenting the one. Your strumming hand is not only a dynamic control, it creates the rhythm in your song. See where I'm going? Now it's your turn. I am giving you an assignment for the week. i) Come up with a rhythm using one chord. Experiment with your strumming using techniques I talked about here. ii) Youtube some vids of your favorite acoustic player and watch how they strum. Mimic them. IV) Conclusion This was a huge topic to write about as well as you, the student, had to learn. If you follow the lesson and practice you should have no problem. Here are some tips to remember: i) Experiment ii) Have fun! iii) Take it slow Have a great day everyone and remember you can always email me about anything.I am also posting tips on my blog page. Peace -ancientson

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

    DFKnight wrote: Great tutorial once again!
    Thank you very much!!! Glad you enjoyed it. -ancientson
    DFKnight wrote: Are you going to post the next one anytime soon?
    I usually have them written in advance. I will submit the next one tonight= Thanks for reading! -ancientson
    Isn't it true that when you strum up, you not trying to hit all the strings, just the bottom 3-4 strings(G to high E)?
    mjwrobl wrote: Isn't it true that when you strum up, you not trying to hit all the strings, just the bottom 3-4 strings(G to high E)?
    Very good point! I will be covering that in my next lesson, however for the purpose of this lesson I want you to strum all strings. -ancientson
    Hi there. first, thanks for your effort. I think it would be a good idea to try and tap hard on two instead of one because tapping hard on one is the thing most people do automatically. If you tap hard on two, however, you pay more attention to what you are doing and may learn with more efficiency.
    How can I explain this technique without visual aide? Sir y dont u post a video on you tube Thanks a Ton im really learning alot.
    your lessons would be far better without those errors popping up in your text,it almost looks deliberate