All About Up Strums

I get a lot of questions from beginners about up-strums, but they’re really not as difficult as people seem to think they are. In the previous lesson, we learned about “and” counts, and seeing as how those are usually played with up-strums, these two lessons go hand-in-hand.

One thing I strongly, strongly recommend before we get started with this – GET A THIN PICK! It makes a world of a difference. For instance, the one I’m using here is a 0.38mm pick. A thicker pick will make your strumming much more difficult - in the future, you'll find a thicker pick might be better but you have to hold it a lot softer which is very difficult for most beginners.

So, as previously mentioned, the up-strums happen on the “and” counts, which fall right between the down-strums on the beat.

Up Strum Practice

Before worrying about your fretting hand, work on just your strumming hand. Strum the strings on muted strings, working on keeping your hand steady and moving on the beat. Hit all of the strings on your way down and all of them on your up.

Realistically, though, we usually don’t play all of the strings on the up-strum. We usually just play the thinnest three or four strings on the up-strum because it really just sounds better. It’s got a better groove to it and it doesn’t sound so thick as it does when you hit all of the strings. Once you’ve practised strumming all of the strings up and down, try pulling off and away from the guitar a bit on your up-strums to avoid hitting the thickest strings.

One of the key things you'll want to pay attention to is to make sure those four down-strums stay even throughout. Play along with a metronome to help you do this. When you're practising, your up-strums will fall right between the metronome clicks.

Try setting your metronome somewhere in the range of 60-100bpm, 80bpm is probably a good place to try first. Some of you will find it harder to play at a slower tempo (60bpm) and others will find a faster tempo (100bpm) more difficult. Start with whichever is easiest for you and slowly work your way toward whichever is hardest. In the end, you want to be able to play this and every other pattern you know at a range of tempi.


Module 3: The Am & Em Army!