Strumming On The Beat

For many beginners, strumming rhythms are one of the more tricky things to learn, so we’re going to start very, very simply to help you build a solid strumming foundation. This might not be the most exciting lesson I give you, but it will really make a difference in your playing if you spend some time getting this right!

What you want to focus on, specifically, is keeping the timing as consistent as possible.

Theory and Jargon

A bar is a great place to have a drink. It’s also a musical term that we use to divide time in music.

Each song has a specific number of beats per bar and this usually stays consistent throughout the entire song. Within the bar, the beats can be subdivided to create more complex rhythm patterns, but for now, we’re keeping it as basic as possible.

All I want you to worry about is four beats per bar, or 4/4 time. This is, by far, the most common time in music, and the counting is simply, “1, 2, 3, 4.” Each count is called a “downbeat.”

Good, so far?

It’s all down from here…

For this strumming pattern, we’re going to do one down-strum per downbeat, so you’re going to strum four times per bar.

Start out with muted strings – don’t worry about fretting any chords for this exercise.

You’re going to multitask a bit! To practice, strum once beat while tapping your foot on the beat and counting “1, 2, 3, 4” out loud. You want to get everything nice and synced up. It should start to feel natural over time, to the point where you don’t even need to think about coordinating your strums to your foot taps.

Counting along as you play helps you to keep track of where the bar starts. When we start playing songs, you’ll find that we nearly always change chords at the start of a bar, so it’s very important that you know where “1” is.

We’ll be getting into harder rhythms later, but until then, try to get this very simple rhythm pattern deep in your mind (deeper than muscle memory!) so that you just do it naturally. Again, the goal is to keep the rhythm and your strums consistent as you play.

Next Steps

Once you’re comfortable with four down-strums per bar, you might want to practice strumming on just beat 1, or maybe on beats 1 and 3. If you do this, be sure to keep your arm moving even on the beats where you’re not hitting the strings. This will help you keep everything consistent. In music, the quiet moments between the notes are just as important!

Lesson 2: The E Gunn