Strumming Patterns With Ups

I’ve got two rhythm patterns with up-strums for you to practice here. What I’d recommend when focusing on a strum pattern is to do just that – focus on the strum pattern! Don’t worry about fretting any chords, and certainly don’t worry about switching between chords just yet.

To start off, mute your strings and just practice the strum patterns.

Practice playing these patterns on one chord, and once you are good with that, have a go at playing them using two chords that you're comfortable switching between.

YOU MUST NOT STOP THE STRUMMING. If you can't do your chord changes fast enough to keep the rhythm steady, don't try and apply this to a song as yet. Don't expect this to be easy, either! Changing chords while strumming is going to take some practice, so be prepared to dig in. Also, pick a tempo that feels comfortable for you. You want your arm to feel like a pendulum – nice, steady, and reliable. If you pick a tempo that’s too slow or too fast, you’ll likely run into some problems.

Some Extra General Advice About Strumming

Strumming is one of those things that trips up beginners more than anything – more than counting, more than fingerings and chords – and it’s crazy because on the surface, it doesn’t seem like it’d be that tricky! But as much as we like to break down something like playing an instrument, at the end of the day, it’s still an art form, and art only gets better with more and more (and more!) repetition.

Probably the most important thing to learn about strumming is to just keep going, even if your fretting hand has gone completely wonky. As soon as you stop strumming, you're basically waving a big flag that tells everyone in your audience that you've just screwed up. Even non-musicians will know right away that something is wrong when the rhythm stops, but most people won't notice a wrong or slightly wrong chord.

Another very important factor is to RELAX. Make sure you keep your strumming arm as relaxed as possible. Of course, it needs a little tension to move and hold the pick, but otherwise, keep your whole body as relaxed as you can. Try and learn to let the music flow, rather than forcing it. I know it can be hard to relax when you struggle with something and it's ironic (and unfair) that sometimes that tension is exactly the thing that's messing you up in the first place, but just do your best to push past it and take mental breaks as often as you need to.

Also, I've noticed on the forum that a few people were worried about the exact angle of the strum over the strings. This is not important at this stage. The angle will change depending on what you are doing, so beware of analysis paralysis! Don't think yourself into a mental block. At these early stages (especially if you follow my advice), you won't develop any bad habits that can't be fixed a little later.

Lesson 3: The Am & Em Army!