Learning how to strum a guitar is an important skill. Whether you’re playing around a campfire, in your office, or at an open mic, you need to know how to strum a guitar.
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In the world of online guitar lessons, it can tricky to learn how to strum a guitar. There’s tons of advice, lessons, and teachers. Which one do you choose?
Fortunately, I’ve helped thousands of guitar players have fun while learning how to strum a guitar.
In this lesson, I’ll show you how to strum a guitar while giving you strength and confidence in your strumming hand. Additionally, I’ll go over the golden rule of strumming, as well as a couple of different strumming patterns.
This guitar lesson will give you the confidence you need to start playing songs and putting those chords you’ve learned to good use. Just remember, it takes practice to learn the guitar. Learning how to strum a guitar is no different.
If you haven’t had a chance to go through the other parts of The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar, I suggest you start on my guitar essentials primer.
Additionally, if you need more help or a place to interact with thousands of other guitar players taking the same journey you are, check out 30 Days to Play.
It’s an awesome online challenge that will take you from zero to guitar player in just thirty days. I’ll talk about that later, but for now, let’s get started on the golden rule of strumming.
The Golden Rule of Strumming a Guitar
I’m not a huge “rules” guy — with the exception of guitar rules for strumming. There are certain rules on guitar that I think every beginner should adhere to, at least for a while.
The golden rule of strumming is as follows: downstroke on the downbeats and upstroke on the upbeats. Simple enough, right?
You may have noticed how I’ve been counting beats in previous lessons. The most common way to count music is to count the downbeats by counting to 4.
So, the first beat would be 1, the second 2, and so on.
Once you hit four, you return back to 1, which would end the first bar of music. This is a simple way to start counting music. When I count numbers, those are downbeats.
For upbeats, we’re going to count the space in between the downbeats.
I’ll denote this by saying “and” in-between each beat. If you’re saying it out loud, it’ll sound like this:
“One and Two and Three and Four and…”
From there, you’re on to the next bar and you start over again. In short, a downbeat is a numbered beat and an upbeat is an “and.”
Guitar Strumming Exercise (for the Golden Rule!)
To apply the golden rule of strumming, I’m going to show you this simple exercise.
- Grab a G chord on your guitar.
- Play downbeats with downstrokes on a moderate tempo (100 bpm).
- While playing just the downbeats, start thinking about the upbeats (the “and” beats).
- Now, start playing the upbeats with an upstroke as well.
- Keep the rhythm steady and the volume of the guitar consistent between each strum.
This strumming exercise introduces how to count music as well as how to properly strum chords in accordance with the beats of the music.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the golden rule, especially as you learn more and more strumming patterns.
Not every strumming pattern is created equally. However, when you’re learning how to strum a guitar, you can count on the golden rule of strumming to improve your strumming technique.
Boom Chick Guitar Strumming Pattern 101
The boom chick guitar strumming pattern is in country, bluegrass, rockabilly, and countless other genres. It’s a fun, percussive strumming pattern that will increase your strumming vocabulary.
The basic premise of the boom chick pattern involves a single note followed by a strum. In a way, you’ll be playing both simple bassline and chords!
As with all elements of the guitar, it may take some time to be competent at this strumming pattern. Make sure to practice the boom chick guitar strumming pattern slowly at first. There are a lot of moving parts.
Don’t hesitate to play along with the video lesson, too!
To start learning this guitar strumming pattern, follow along with this exercise.
- Grab a G chord. If you aren’t sure how to do this, check out our guitar chords lesson here.
- On the 1 and 3 beats, you’re going to be hitting a single note. For beat 1, you’ll play the low E string, and on beat 3, you’ll play the D string.
- On the 2 and 4 beats, you’re going to strum the guitar. When you strum, play through the entire chord.
- Start playing through this boom chick pattern at a slow tempo. You’ll only be playing downbeats, so make sure each beat is a downstroke.
This exercise is all about feeling comfortable on the pick mechanics. Hitting the low E string, strumming, and hitting the D string can be difficult.
I don’t expect anyone to master this strumming pattern is just one day. Be sure to start on a slow tempo, and gradually work your way up to faster tempos as you feel more comfortable with it.
Before we go on to the next strumming pattern, I want to go back to a topic I brought up at the beginning of this lesson.
Specifically, I want to give you some more details on the 30 Days to Play program.
If you need more help learning how to strum a guitar or the boom chick strumming pattern, there’s no better way than joining 30 Days to Play.
Not only will you get access to all these videos, but you’ll also have access to guided backing tracks where you can play along with me beat-by-beat.
The 30 Days to Play Challenge is designed for YOU. I cover everything from strumming patterns to playing your first solo. If you’re ready to start living your best acoustic life, you NEED to join the 30 Days to Play Challenge. Sign up today to get started!
Now, if you want to stick to the Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar, the next part is another popular strumming pattern. It builds off of the previous pattern, so make sure you have practiced the boom chick strumming pattern first.
The Boom Chicka Strumming Pattern
For a more sophisticated and lively version of the boom chick pattern, look no further than the boom chicka strumming pattern. The boom chicka strumming pattern is a foundational strumming pattern — hands down.
When you are looking to learn how to strum a guitar, you NEED to learn how to do the boom chicka pattern.
The boom chicka strumming pattern combines a bass note and two strums for a surprising effect.
On beat 1, you’ll pick the root of the chord. After that, you’ll strum the full chord on beat 2 and the “and” of two (the eighth note in between the beat).
Then, you continue the pattern and play a bass note on beat 3 while strumming the whole chord on beat 4 and the “and” of beat 4.
When thinking about pick direction, keep in mind the golden rule of strumming: downbeats have downstrokes and upbeats have upstrokes. Simple, right?
This means that the bass note will have a downstroke. Following that, any time you play a numbered beat, you’ll use a downstroke. Any time you are playing on the “and” of a beat, use an upstroke with your pick.
This is the basic breakdown of the boom chicka rhythm, but remember that there are many variations you may come across on your acoustic guitar journey.
Some of these variations include faster patterns, expanded bass lines, and fingerpicking — which is a whole other topic I’ll cover in another lesson. Oh, and you can’t forget about chicken picking either!
Boom Chicka Strumming Pattern Exercise
For an easy way to practice the boom chicka country guitar rhythm, we made up a fun exercise that involves 2 chords: the A minor chord and the E minor chord.
This exercise is going to sound a little spooky, which should be a fun sonic palette for you to experiment in!
- Make an E minor chord by placing your middle finger on the second fret of the A string and your ring finger on the second fret of the D string.
- Play the single E string for beat 1.
- Play the entire chord, starting on a downstroke, for beat 2 and the “and” of 2.
- Strike the single D string for beat 3.
- Strum the full chord on beat 4 and the “and” of 4.
With that, you have the beginnings of bluegrass and country guitar rhythm.
To continue the exercise, transition chords to an A minor chord. As far as the bass notes for the A minor chord. Use the open A string and then the D string (your middle finger should be on the second fret of the D string if you’re playing an A minor chord).
How to Strum a Guitar, Why it’s Important, and Your Next Steps
Learning how to strum a guitar is a lifelong journey. There are hundreds of ways to do it. Today, I showed you some popular strumming patterns that you can use to impress your friends and family.
More importantly, these strumming patterns are so much more musically interesting. Instead of just strumming kumbayah till the cows come home, you have some rhythmically interesting strumming patterns.
Learning these strumming patterns will help you become a better guitar player while making the music you play more fun.
And if there is anything you take away from this, it’s that I want you to have fun while learning the guitar. Learning proper right arm techniques is how you go from struggle to fun.
If you need more help or community support, just know that you don’t have to learn the guitar alone.
I helped create a community of thousands of guitar geeks that you can be a part of. By signing up for the 30 Days to Play Challenge, you get access to this community along with more video lessons and backing tracks.
But, if you want to finish The Ultimate Guide to Learning Guitar first, make sure to go to the next lesson on soloing by clicking here!