Excellent Strumming Exercises

January 17th, 2011

They say that exercise not only produces a healthy body but also fuels a healthy mind. The same could be said about your strumming habits.

Yes, a lot of guitar guides, courses, etc spend a lot of time on your left hand (assuming you’re a natural right) and what it takes to belt out clear notes, crisp chords, strong bends and the plethora of other skills that you will need to become an advanced guitarist. Although that is all very important, your right hand, the strumming hand is also vital.

Think of it this way. You could be exceptional with the various scales, quick at locating the key note and sharp with even the most difficult chords but if you have trouble strumming quickly or picking the right string, truly all of that practice is in vain.

As a result, you’re very first days on the guitar should be spent with a heavy emphasis on strumming patterns and exercise. Practice this stuff daily because it is one of the core fundamentals of the guitar. However, even an advanced guitarist (assuming that he is wise) should simply take five minutes at the beginning of each session to do a few mindless strumming exercises. Why? Because it does not become “mindless” until you have practiced it a lot and continue to maintain it regularly.

Excellent Strumming Exercises: String Acquaintance

Beginners, your first duty is to locate a reliable guitar tuner (you can also tune by ear, but much more difficult). Then, tune the instrument. Once fully tuned, proceed to touch each string with your pick and name off the string name. If you have no idea what the string is called, reference this phenomenal visual.

It’s important that you not only learn the string names but also the sound. Once you have mastered the names, begin at the top with the low (or heavy) E string. Pluck it once. Listen closely to its ring. This is the correct sound (assuming it’s properly tuned) for what we call the “open D”. Pay attention because every once and awhile you’ll incorporate an open string or two into a chord.

Excellent Strumming Exercises: Open Strings, One Count Notes

The next step in the progression is to be able to switch between strings when needed. This exercise will develop flexibility and control of your plectrum.

Strum each open string four times. Then, move down to the next string and repeat. Begin with the low E and conclude with the high E. Start off painfully slow and increase speed with confidence. Play with a backing track or metronome if preferred.

The goal is to eventually create enough confidence that you can easily switch between strings on the fly.

Excellent Strumming Exercises: Varied Rhythm, Same Note

Next, I want you to place your middle finger behind the second fret on the fourth string (or A). For this next exercise, the note will remain the exact same but you will strum the string at a varied rhythm.

Feel free to mix and match but a good starter rhythm is to strum two full counts (count of four before strumming again) followed by two half counts (count of two before strumming again), followed by four quarter counts (count of one before strumming again).

You will note that the pace of the strumming obviously picks up as you move along. Once you feel comfortable strumming to a varied rhythm like the one above you should attempt to really play a complex rhythm like:

2 half-counts, 1 full-count, 2 quarter counts, 1 half count, 1 full count, etc, etc etc.

The rhythm does not really matter so long as you’re strumming and strumming to a purpose.

Moving forward…

As you can see, you could virtually create hundreds of different strumming exercises simply by changing the strings, notes and/or rhythm. As you become more advanced, so should your strumming patterns. Be sure to practice these daily in order to constantly improve!

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