Strumming a guitar is a foundational aspect of learning the guitar. Many beginning guitar players don’t take the time to learn strumming patterns or how to strum a guitar properly. Fortunately, if you’re here, you’re not going to make that same mistake.
Strumming a guitar is important because it introduces the fundamentals of rhythm and timing on the guitar which is super important on your guitar journey. This lesson will teach you the golden rule of strumming a guitar as well as some important insights from Tony Polecastro.
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One Rule to Rule Them All
The golden rule of strumming is as follows: downstroke on the downbeats and upstroke on the upbeats. Simple enough, right?
In order to understand what’s going on, you have to understand how to count music first. The most common way to count music is to count the downbeats by counting to four. 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, and it can clarify what we mean when we say downbeats.
For upbeats, we’re going to count the space in between the downbeats. We’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
To apply the golden rule of strumming, we’re going to show you this simple exercise.
Learning how to strum a guitar:
- 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. However, as a beginner, the golden rule will serve you well for learning timing, strumming, and how to play rhythm guitar.
Take this one step further and add rests to your strumming and you’ve got yourself a great recipe for how to practice rhythm guitar.
If you’re looking for more exercises for learning how to strum on the guitar, head on over to the 30 Days to Play Challenge. We’ll be covering strumming pattern exercises, as well as combining chord transitions with strumming patterns in a couple of different exercises. You don’t want to learn the guitar the wrong way. Start the right way and join the 30 Days to Play Challenge to start living your best acoustic life!