David Southwick's

Trouble Strumming?

Having difficulty learning how to strum? Here are a couple of thoughts for the beginning guitar player.

Probably the majority of songs we play are in 4/4 timing. This means the song’s timing is a series of 4 beats sections, or “4 quarter beats per measure”. Every count of 4 is a measure, and is simply counted like this 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4-etc. The space of time between each number is the same.

Strumming Quarter Beats

Every time we count a quarter beat, we strum “down”. I recommend counting out loud while strumming down once per quarter beat.

Listen to this strumming pattern with the G and Cadd9 chords:

Strumming Eighth Beats

We can double time this by inserting a beat halfway between each quarter beat. Then all the beats become eighth beats. We count it like this 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &, etc. To strum this, we would strum down when we say a number, and we would strum up when we say “&”. Make sure the spacing between each strum stays the same and consistent.

Listen to this eighth beat strumming pattern with the G and Cadd9 chords:

Accenting the First Beat in a Measure

Neither of the above strumming patterns sounds that great. However, by accenting the first beat of a measure, we can improve the sound of the pattern. We can accent the first beat by changing it to a quarter beat and count like this 1 2 & 3 & 4 & … Strum down on the numbers and up on the “&s” — also make sure the first beat is the same duration as “2 &” or “3 &” or “4 &”.

Listen to the G and Cadd9 chords played with an accented first beat:

Three Beats per Measure

Another popular pattern is 3/4 timing (three quarter beats per measure). We can take the above pattern and drop the 4th quarter beat, or the last two eight beats and count like this: 1 2 & 3 & … Again, strum down on a number, and up when you say “&”. Also, make sure the first beat has the same duration as the “2 &” and “3 &”.

Listen to the G and Cadd9 chords in 3/4 time with an accented first beat:

Please leave a comment with any questions you may have.

3 Responses to Trouble Strumming?

  • Hello David. Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge. I have been looking for a summary of barre chords. My search ends at your site.

    I have one question: is there a relation between the chord progressions and the solos in a piece of music?

    Thank you in advance.

  • Hi David,

    I found your Guitar Chord Theory Website ( specially since I am learning now) very useful and easy to understand and hence thought I should write and let you know that I appreciate your content and work that has gone into this site. I am writing to you from Bangalore, India.


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About Me
My name is David Southwick. I began playing guitar in 1979. In 1984 I began applying chord theory to the piano/keyboard. If you would like more information about lessons, or about me click here.
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