Strumming speed improve - how to?

Hello, been learning few months… I can play chord A, E, D, Am, Em, Dm, C, G and Fmaj7. I am not saying all changes are perfect, but I can see its getting better… I tried to learn Wonderwall and Save Tonight… I can do chord changes in time in my speed, but I can see overall the speed of pick strumming is really big problem for me. Like I dont think its that slow, but I cant go faster, so it does not sound that good or it does not sound like that song to me… even when I pick E, A and D changes with Old Faithful… I dont have to watch any arm or concentrate that much, but I cant go faster.
Is there any technique how to improve my strumming speed? Maybe… I have to say I am still not playing with metronome, because thats much harder way for me to learn new strumming pattern, but is it really all about metronome? I would like to have something I can practice few times a day and improve.
I am sorry if there is topic for improving speed, but I could not find one exactly for my problem.

Thanks, Mike

Hi Mike - I think your suspicions about the metronome are on the money. It’s one of the best ways to measure your progress with things like this and you get the additional benefit of improving your timing. The other key element is relaxation - being too tense will slow you down. That will come with more practice.
Lastly, this is normal, and you will get there - like many things guitar (and life!) it just takes some time.


If you consider using your metronome, there is a fun challenge that I set for myself at some point in summer (and that I spent way too much time on… :laughing:): Set your metronome to increase the beat by 5 BPM every minute or every 90 seconds. Test until which BPM you can keep up playing the strumming pattern you are practicing :joy:

For me, everything usually broke down at 120, 140 or 160 BPM… Depending on the different strumming patterns. Really kept myself entertained but I’m bit weird that way :grinning:


Hi Mike,

  1. I would start at the very basics when learning strumming patterns for a song. Just start working on the pattern without any chords. Mute your strings and strum the pattern for several minutes, give yourself the chance to let it sink in. Do that over and over, till you are on auto-pilot. Train with a METRONOME to make sure to be on time. It might be strange and unfamiliar, but it HELPS you to learn feeling the beats.
    When your strumming works well, add chord changes, maybe first just from one chord to another, then a chord progression similar to your song. Try to be precise and accurate, Finally implement your strumming into the song. Start slow and build up speed. It takes time, be patient. Speed comes the more you are focussing on getting it accurate. Build up speed by increasing the tempo of the metronome in small steps.
  2. I can highly recommend Justin’s Strumming SOS Course. It’s a very helpful set of courses with lots of great excercises. I got a lot out of it. And it keeps you on track with that.

Hi Mike

I can’t add much to what @mathsjunky , @Helen0609 and @JokuMuu have said about building speed for strumming. It’s all very solid advice.

The only thing I would add to what they’ve said is to pay attention to the muscles in your arm and shoulder when you are strumming. . .are they tight and rigid??

If so, this may be preventing you from speeding up. . .I know that in the past I have made the mistake of tensing when I had to do something fast thinking that it somehow made my movements more efficient or quicker. . .NOT TRUE. . and have found the opposite to be true. . .keeping your strumming arm and shoulder relaxed and smooth is the key to going faster. . .later on you’ll even want to get some wrist movement in there, but for now focus on your arm shoulder. . .as @Helen0609 said, GO SLOW and stay relaxed. . if you find you’re tensing up, then you need to slow the strumming down to where you are doing a given speed in a way that means your arm and shoulder can still stay relaxed.

And of course, practice, practice, practice. . .hope this helps!!


@mathsjunky well, maybe there is no more time to not play with metronome, because I can see I am stuck here and also my own feelings are heading me to it… I must find the way to use it. I just feel like its enemy and not friend. :smiley:

@JokuMuu that sounds pretty good to me and maybe this is the way how to bring more fun to me with metronome. If I start with metronome, I really should, I am gonna try it. Thanks. :smiley: :slight_smile:

@Helen0609 This is how I am learning new things. Like in Wonderwall it is really recommended… first I learned chords and then I jumped to strumming pattern without chords that was separated to two parts. Then I added chords to 1st part and then to the 2nd. Then I matched it together and it works great, it just took some time and not only one day how I wanted. :smiley: Maybe… I am too greedy. I just wanna play great authentic songs too soon.
Strumming SOS is something I got in my eye, but first I am gonna try methods you all said to me here.

@jgottwals I am trying to be as relaxed as I can… but when I do so my pick is too loose and its not in angle how it should be and it “crisps” too much. So I have to add little bit more strengt so pick does not slip between fingers and also hold it in angle so sound sounds much much better. I mean angle of pick. When its flat to strings it does not sound good, when its in angle it does not do that “crispy” or “cracky” sound. I am using 0.38 pick. I got 3D printer so I can print thinner or thicker, but I dont think its necessary.


Yeah - I totally understand that. Have you tried a drum machine / drum loop? That can feel a bit more fun, but with the same benefits.


From my experience I’d say being relaxed and loose is important, both in the arm and in the wrist or you’ll never strum quickly. If you grip your pick like your life depends on it that will bring tension into your arm. I don’t know what thickness pick you use, but a thin pick will help with fast strumming

It took me an age, I mean months, to get up to speed with Wonderwall - I probably started learning it when I was too much of a beginner. To play along with the record, it’s really quite fast doing 16th notes and an irregular strumming pattern. It’s probably not the best place to start.

When I was learning Wonderwall I practiced a lot with muted strings. Forget about the chords and the chord changes, just try and hit the rhythm consistently and gradually bring it up to speed. Someone who is more experienced and more co-ordinated wouldn’t take as long as I did but it wasn’t easy. Once I could play it on muted strings up to speed, then I tried bringing it up to speed with chord changes as well.

Personally I didn’t use a metronome. If your timing is off then a metronome will help. If you just need more speed then it might be additional information for your brain to process so it might not help.

Be loose!


@mathsjunky do you mean something like this? My friend give me this for few days and it was really something, but it is pretty expensive.

@mattswain yeah I think so… I started too early with this song. Its same with Save Tonight, because these songs are later in Justins learning path, but I just wanted to play “something”. :smiley: But after all… he said they both not that difficult and biggest struggle is speed for me. It sounds so different. :smiley: I am gonna try to be more relaxed… maybe glass of wine gonna help. :smiley:

Mike, I was asked about fast strumming for a different context in the live Club this week.
My answer included the need to not swing your forearm in a big arc but to hold the arm fairly steady and have most of the faster movement coming from a loose and relaxed wrist.
You are not piston-pumping when the bpm gets higher, you are wrist-flicking and gently bouncing onto and off the strings.


I use a phone app called Drum Genius and would highly recommend it. You can use a few (3?) free loops then you have to pay, but it’s quite inexpensive - I think about $8.

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@Richard_close2u thank you for advice. I am gonna jump back to this root and gonna learn it properly… I hope I did not learn this as permanent bad habit. In other post I was asking about my “Wonderwall” and few people pointed on my wrist doing motion and not whole arm. Do I understand it correctly that arm should move but that move is making hand moving more faster because its “loose”?

@mathsjunky Thanks. I am gonna check this app. Maybe this is the way how to force me to use “metronome like” and I woul feel like I am playing some music.

I have just offered a comment in that topic. :slight_smile:

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To strum faster, move your arm faster… :wink:

Okay, that was cheeky. But you do need to analyse “how” you can move your arm faster. From looking at that wonderwall video you posted, IMHO you need to be moving both your forearm and your wrist at the same time. Then forearm kind of whips back and forward like a floppy noodle - an in-time floppy noodle.

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I learned to play chords that way
you set the metronome and you must play a new chords on every beat of the metronome
when each chord is clear and on beat then you can learn a new chord to add to the practice or increase the metronome rythm


Justin’s Time Trainer App is a metronome that has a setting where the speed will gradually increase from a value you set to a higher value you set, over a duration of 1, 2, 5, 10, 15, or 30 minutes. The idea is you set the starting speed at a value where you’re comfortable playing and can strum along with complete confidence, and set the end speed to a value just outside your comfort zone. As the speed gradually increases you also increase your strumming speed to stay in time, until without noticing you’ve done it, you are strumming along at the target speed. It’s one of the few paid apps on my phone, and at £1.99 it’s fantastic value for money (BTW Justin doesn’t pay me :grinning:)


Yeah!!! :grinning: :grinning: :grinning:
Seems my “self-made challenge” over many, many hours in summer wasn’t that weird after all then, if a comparable setting is available in Justin’s app (which isn’t compatible with modern Androids) :grinning:

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