This simple trick will improve your strumming right away…

There is a super simple way to develop your strumming & your rhythmic feel.
Based on the principle of “the more you do it, the better you get at it”, it involves spending time strumming your guitar.

That’s right… I’m going for the obvious here.

One thing I’ve noticed is that when students are working on a song, they tend to get caught up in what their left hand is doing & they let their right hand figure out what to do in the realm of their subconscious mind. And this makes sense, because there is often more involved with what the left hand is striving to do- correct finger placement, getting to the next chord on time, playing on your fingertips so you don’t inadvertently mute other strings that need to be ringing, etc.

So let’s simplify things a little. Let’ s take the left hand out of the picture. Well, mostly out of the picture. This way you can devote most of your conscious mind to your strumming hand.

It’s easy. Simply use your left hand to just hold all six strings firm but loosely, thus muting them. Now when you strum, it will make a “thunk” kind of sound. This essentially makes you a percussion player now, albeit a one-armed percussion player.
With our new found ability to focus solely on the strumming hand, we can realize that it’s job is really simple- down strums & up strums.

Now the fun part. Take any song you want… it could be a song you’re working on, or even something brand new you’ve never heard before. Play it on your preferred media device and then strum along with it. You are basically strumming up & down along with the band, or guitarist. You’re not trying to match the guitarist’s strum pattern. You are creating your own. Or just keep it simple & play consistent down & up strums. Or even simpler still & you can do all down strums or all up. There aren’t any rules here except to keep strumming & pretend you’re a percussionist.
The idea is to focus on the sound of the music & how it feels to lock onto the rhythm. Feel the “groove”. (look that word up)

This creates a good little five minute, or so, practice experience where you can just focus on the rhythm of the song and the rhythm of your arm & hand. Think about it… this is what you hand is doing when you strum a chord progression, but now you don’t have to be at all concerned with changing chords & all that involves. You are now a percussionist!

I believe that every human possesses an innate sense of time & rhythm. This simple exercise will help you connect to that inner sense. Many music educators recommend that all musicians study percussion in order to improve their sense & time & rhythm. I agree with this.

This is an activity you can do anytime. You just need your guitar & your favorite song.
Make sure you try it with songs of various tempos… slow to fast.
There will be future articles addressing other things you can do with this practice. For now, go forth & strum!

PS- For those readers who play guitar left-handed, please re-read this blog post & substitute the words, “right hand” for “left hand” and “left hand” for “right hand”. Thank you. As you were.



1 Comment

  • H. Fazlic

    Reply Reply January 17, 2015

    I just tried this with a tough arctic monkeys song and it helped a lot. Thanks Matthew!!

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