View Full Version : strumming ^ v ^ v help

11-25-2003, 01:39 PM
Hello everyone, greetings from Norman, Oklahoma! Home of the SoONErs!

First I want to say that I have been browsing this board for a couple of days, and I have found literally TONS of very helpful information. Thanks!

My story:

I have been playing the guitar for about a year now. I should preface this with I have no music theory, background - (except the recorder in the 3rd grade, about 25 years ago) and I am entirely self taught. Read: not very good yet.

Anyway, I have the baics down, I know quite a few chords, including the biggest revelation I had with Barre chords a few months ago, which made the guitar FUN!

I have both an acoustic and an electric, and am s - l - o - w - l - y improving. I am learning the fretboard (Fretboard Logic I and II) and just started learning about intervals (about time eh?) and modes and scales. I found a lot of good information on this site alone at the recommendation by several of the resident experts.

I have a few weak areas which need improving, but let me just start with one that is really bothering me.

Strumming Strumming

My feeling is that this should be pretty easy to settle into, but it is working the opposite direction. Almost to the point where i have to concentrate so much on the right hand, that I lose my left hand dexterity, smoothness and timing.

I can tell you guys this. My wrist and arm are tense when I play, whether I am fingerpicking or strumming. I don't know if it because I am feeling rushed to get the next beat, or feel as I have to use a lot of force to hit the strings, or some other reason. Anyway, as you can imagine, the buzz, and tense sound that comes out when I play is not as smooth or sultry as I would like it to be. (can I end a sendtence with a verb here? :)

Is there anything that I can do to relax while I strum, maybe some sort of exercise (phycal or mental) ? Or some kind of position change that migh thelp?

Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated.

11-25-2003, 02:01 PM
Hey! Welcome to IBM!

1. You can end sentences with verbs here...lol :)

2. Id recommend you sit down and fret a say Am. Set your metronome at about 70 bpm, and strum in 4ths for a while. Focus on your arm being relaxed, dont worry about your left hand. When youre comfortable with that start strmming 8ths alternating a strong strum and a soft strum. Once you master this switch over tro triplets alternating a hard, medium and soft strums. ALWAYS focus on your arm being relaxed if you feel any tension, stop, strech and try again. Set the metronome at any tempo you feel comfortable.

3. Try sitting and holding the guitar classical style (support it on your left leg) this works for some people.

Hope this helps,

11-25-2003, 07:02 PM
Hi "c.h" and welcome !

This might sound a little stupid but,.........breathe
It's common to get a little too intense, when your focusing on learning some of these techniques. This is something I've noticed, myself.

An old friend of mine, an accomplished "shredder" said that this was one of the most important lessons he learned. It's, apparently common to tense up and even hold your breath when first trying to learn some of the "speed licks"- (others here would know better than I about this). His teacher told him to breathe regularly during practice, to help avoid getting to tense.

This does help me when I'm trying to "get something down"

Best o' luck

11-26-2003, 01:06 PM
mjo and koala,

Thanks for the tips. I hadn't realized that I really wasnt breathing in a relaxed manner, almost to the point I would hold my breath until I felt comfortable with the current hand position. I guess learning how to breathe is going to be like learning how to tap that foot. VERY difficult at first, but eventually it taps anytime there is music on :)

As for the 4ths, 8ths, and 3rds, could you explain this a little bit?

Do you mean something like this:

down up down up rest down up down up rest?

Bear in mind I am an Okie!

THanks again for the tips, started using them last night!

11-30-2003, 12:36 PM
By 4ths, 8ths, etc, what Koala means is this:

4ths is quarter notes. So if you're playing in 4:4, you strum like this: 1 2 3 4 1 2 ... (count it aloud if it helps) All down strums.

When Koala said 8ths, that means notes that are half the length (and hence strumming that is twice as fast) as quarter notes. So now it's 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and... You still strum down on the 1 2 3 4, and you strum back up on the "and"s.

From there, you can do 16ths if you want (twice as fast again). Now it's 1 e and a 2 e and a 3 e and a 4 e and a 1 e.... Because you are strumming twice as fast, you strum down on 1, up on "e", down on "and", up on "a". If it's too fast to get this going, just turn the metronome down a bit.

Koala also mentioned triplets. This is where you play 3 strums in the duration of a quarter note. So with quarter notes, you have 1 2 3 4 and with triplets, you have 1 2 3 2 2 3 3 2 3 4 2 3. The emphasis, or strong strumming is on the bold notes. Bear in mind you're now playing an odd number of strums per beat, so you will strum down on the first beat, up on the second, down on the third, up on the forth.

Hope this helps out

12-01-2003, 03:36 PM

Very clearly put (read: i can understand). I have been down and out with a chest cold for the last few days, and haven't even picked up mah guitar, but this makes it very easy to understand.

Tonight, since I actually can talk without coughing for 20 minutes, I am actually going to try to put this advice into practice! I hope it goes well!

12-04-2003, 03:14 PM
Thanks for the pointers guys, this has definitely helped the cause. However I am experiencing a slight problem with my timing.

I start my metronome, and then start my foot a tapping (sometimes my right, sometimes my left, but I don't know if there is a correct foot to tap with for a right handed > guitarist < term used loosely). They pretty much stays in sync, until I start my strumming.

When my strumming starts, it feels as if my foot has to match my arm motion rather than the beat from the metronome. (Yes I realize that it should all be in sync somewhat, but I get the hurry-upsies teh longer I strum.

Is this something that is normal, and will go away with more exposure/repetition/practice?

Or are there some 'exercises' that I can do to forget about my foot tapping, or make it less conscious?

Thanks again guys,


12-04-2003, 08:02 PM
Completely normal. Just keep tappin. I dont think it matters which foot, etc. Just whatever is most comfortable. I have only been playing for a year or so and I thought I would never get that foot to tap while I was playing but eventually it started tapping without even a thought while playing and listening to music. Just tap to every song you hear and tap while you play. Eventually it wont even require thought so you can focus solely on playing rather then tapping.

12-10-2003, 06:35 AM
Well i dunno if i'm missing something here but... whats the point of foot tapping?. I've seen a few other guitarists doing it but never saw the point myself? I'd guess its something to do with keeping time which i've always been able to do well enough in my head

12-11-2003, 10:13 PM
ok! after a few rather boring weeks of strumming (chord changes get sort of 'old' after a while if ya know what i mean) i am starting to 'relax' a little more. I still find myself trying to "make sure I don't miss the beat" and hurrying to my up stroke or down stroke causing a little tension in my strum. just can't seem to shake it.

anyhoo, i have another question for you guys (and thanks in advance!)

i am mostly comfortable with strumming, although after a few minutes, i break, then start up again for a few minutes, so altogether i practice in 3-5 minute strums with about the same about of rest time, while i either read a music theory 'article' (great reading by the way by the authors and posters here), or reading a miscellaneous piece i found on the internet that day, or just chillin.

So I think I am ready to start to tackle scales.

My music knowledge is limited and I just received a keyboard as a present to 'encourage' my music development (i think a hint by the littlewif to get better :).

I think the best place to start mught be the C Major scale as it is the easiest for me to see on the piano (linear) and the guitar (spatial) at the same time in my head. I think the use of both aids in my music progression, but i don't know much.

Sooo, I guess mah question is:

How do I go about practing the C Major scale?

I understand the concept of a Major Scale, (in that I mean w-w-1/2-w-w-w-1/2 concept is familiar), but I am still learning what those intervals actually are for each note). So playing them on the fretboard is a very conscious effort.

Are there patterns I should play?

And when I play these patterns or scales, what should i be doing inside my head?

Saying the name of the note, hearing the pitch of the note, or both, or something else? Should I also consider counting the steps?

Well, I guess I better make that it for now, because I have a feeling it will start to become very deep...