Morning all! As I’m in that betwixt and between stage of completing grade 1 and beginning grade 2 there is one aspect of my playing that is still nagging me a bit. I’m finding it challenging to have consistent sounding up strums especially at tempos over 70bpm. I’m fairly decent on strumming patterns as a whole, at least enough to pass grade 1, but when I up strum I’m inconsistent when playing the bottom two or three strings. Sometimes I get it right and it flows with what I’m playing but more often than not I’m only hitting the thinnest string or I’ll miss it entirely and hit the middle strings and in my ear it causes the music to sound choppy and disjointed. I have found the right pick and pick angle that just glides across the strings when I’m strumming but can’t seem to get that technique up to where I want it to be. It’s not frustrating enough to discourage me from playing, far from it actually, as I’m resolved to master it and move on. I just wanted to sound off with the community to see if anyone else may have had the same challenge and what you did to make it better. Thanks in advance!
Well the key to consistency is to slow down and get it right. Work up to the tempo it starts to go pear shaped, then back off say 5 bpm. If you are good there, stay there as a max for at least a few days if not more. Then go up a couple of BPM and do the same
Kevin, for me this is a constant area of attention. I am just finishing Grade 2. I thought I had strumming down solid when I moved on from Grade 1, but then as l concentrated on learning new stuff, I neglected the advice @TheMadman_tobyjenner gives above. Now I am taking a break from my consolidation to revisit certain strumming patterns at a very slow pace. Go slow and implant the muscle memory you need to hit the strings you want when you want.
Kevin, do you hold the guitar the same way all the time, specifically is it perpendicular to the ground. If the body is angled in towards you to see the neck sometimes that could effect your strumming.
Do you have a consistent anchor point for your strumming arm on the body. I think keeping that consistent as one learns will help in developing your strumming.
Strumming in the nice smooth consistent way we see Justin and other strum is hard. Repetition, intent and practice.
Spend some time going really slow and thinking about your pressure, attack, swing, pick grip, pick angle and so on. Try strumming hard, try strumming really gently. Dynamics.
Also look at this:
I have jumped back to one minute changes and strumming practice because I was hitting limits trying to play songs. Time to revisit some basics and improve them.
Thank you all for the tips - it’s never hurt me or anyone to slow down and go back to the basics and there’s only the benefit of getting things right. @DavidP I’ve not really paid too much attention honestly to that aspect but I will be going forward!
@kdickson519 that’s a great attitude. As suggested by @Jamolay the Strumming Techniques Course is excellent value. I found Sections 1-31 of Part 1 to fit nicely with the consolidation of Grade 1. Good luck with your strumming but I’m sure with the positive attitude you have you will master those up strums.
@kdickson519 I posted the same question (not the same words though) couple of years back. I’m in IM 4 now. With time, it should go away, promise. Watch Justin’s lessons on strumming again. If you feel there’s a technique issue, maybe record yourself and post here for feedback.
Here’s what I tried and it helped - kind of smoke testing. Remove all elements of strumming and start strumming while muting all strings with your fretting hand. If up strums are clean then add the next element - strum holding just one chord that you’re comfortable with. Did the problem surface? If no, then add next element - chord changes. So on and on. Hope I’m making sense.
At some point the problem will surface and that’s your answer. From there figure a routine for 5 mins to include in your practice.
However, I’ll say it again. With time, practice and learning it should go away. Keep moving forward.
Great advice so far -
I would add to it all that you add to it muted percussive strumming.
Forget about chords sounding out, wrap your fingers loosely around the neck and touch the strings to dampen them all.
Start off with a slow-ish tempo, a drum backing track or something.
Begin with four down strums to get into a groove.
Then wind it up a bit and play 1/8ths all four downs and all four ups.
You should really be feeling very rhythmical by now.
Just enjoy the guitar as a percussive instrument.
Drop some down hits but keep the ups.
Always keep the down hit on the count of one though.
This is not a magic bullet.
It could improve your confidence, feel and vibe for the upstrum.
Now I’m watching the clock to get off work and go practice!
My up strumming has improved with diligence and patience, just stay the course. Now I am finding it fun and rewarding to vary the angle of attack, speed, and strings up strummed to add a degree of dynamics to go with consistency.
I would add two more points, out of my experiences. I had the same issue in the first year of learning, but I already feel much better in my second year now:
- don’t get too concerned about this little imperfection. Play as many as songs you can, it will go away without even being noticed.
- try to do simple string picking instead of strumming with the same rhythm pattern, this may help to improve the feeling of where the strings are under your pick.
I have been practicing 16 to the bar strumming (1e&a), just trying to keep a steady rhythm and accent the numbers a little, but at anything over 60 bpm I just loose complete control of the pick.
How do you hang on to the pick? If I grip tighter, I dig in and lose the smoothness of my strum, but if I stay loose, I will start losing picks!
I am sure the answer is strum a million more times. I do much better without the pick at all.
@Jamolay - do you have picks with a grippy texture to help keep hold?
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I do, I have more picks of so many types. It is not a failure of equipment, I would think.
It may be a factor of my right hand, since I am lefty playing righty. I bet I just need to focus on it for a while. Maybe a little more than average.
I also really do prefer playing without a pick. But I also think I need to learn both. I may have set myself back with the pick by not using it much.
I remember with OMCs, early on thinking it would be impossible to get over 30 changes of any cords, but now I am well over that even with the dreaded F barre, with some easy changes getting close to 100! I can get there strumming too!