Stuck at strumming


I have been following Justin’s beginner course for a few weeks now. It’s been a blast so far but I just feel I’m not making any progress on strumming, mainly the sound of it. When I try to play songs the rythm and chord changes are going okay-ish (at least I feel like I’m improving) but the strumming sounds kind of awkward.

Is this something that you just have to practice or am I doing something wrong?

In the example I’m trying to play Working Class Hero by John Lennon

Practice Working Class Hero - John Lennon

Hi Jeffrey,
Welcome here, and yes, as far as I’m concerned it’s quite normal that if you’re just starting out this is a very common “problem”… Still after more than 2 years i don’t find rhythm guitar with a plectrum in many songs sound absolutely delicious…practice is the only cure…watch a lot of lessons from Justin where he explains this and then learn to play songs where this is used…He is a master at explaining rhythm guitar , so take heart , it will be fine … feel free to record a video of yourself and place it in AVOYP section , then the tips will flow to you ,But if you follow the course step by step, everything will pass in the rigt order… I wish you all the fun in the world… :sunglasses:.
Greetings ,Rogier

Hi Rogier,

I guess I’m a little bit afraid of practicing wrong since it keeps sounding bad and it would be wasted time.

So thanks for your confirmation this is just a practice thing and I’m not necesarily doing anything wrong, that’s a relief to hear

Groetjes Jeffrey :stuck_out_tongue:

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Strumming definite takes a lot of practice. I think it suffers because teachers like Justin have been strumming so long and so smoothly for so long it feels like we should be able to as well.
Watch Justin try to demonstrate a poor strum, he can hardly do it! To darn good.

Slow down and spend some time just trying to make the strum smooth and uniform. Feel how your pick or fingers touch the strings and try to make it all as even and possible. Strum with a metronome.

Justin has a strumming course which is excellent as well. Highly recommended.

Mostly though, you need to strum, a lot, with intent and often with muted strings because trying to learn all this strumming at the same time as you are trying to learn cords it too much at once. Divide and conquer.

It took me AGES to get the “Old Faithful” strumming pattern down…like weeks of practice before I started getting comfortable with it. Just take it slow, mute the strings while practicing, and you’ll eventually find yourself nailing it.

It does take time - give yourself that luxury. Record yourself playing the same song or even the same strumming pattern over a few chords – it can be quite encouraging to hear yourself N months ago and see that you really have made progress - perhaps not as much as you would like to, but progress none the less!

Other suggestions (all made by Justin in various classes, and others in this wonderful forum):

  1. Practice with a metronome. Practice one pattern at a time.
  2. Practice a pattern with muted strings, perhaps while listening to a song. As a beginner I would speed up and slow down, and exercises like this helped me focus on one thing at a time, without having to worry about changing chords on time, fretting properly etc. As @jamolay said - divide and conquer.
  3. Work on timing – Justin suggests counting/tapping to a song while listening to it (i.e. you can work on timing even when not playing guitar);
  4. This suggestion is out of sequence with Justin’s classes, caveat emptor! If the sound is bothering you because it feels repetitive but is otherwise ‘right’, try working on dynamics, or vary the number of strings you hit to get a different sound on some strums.
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Hey Jeff,
Welcome to the community mate. Start of a great journey! Much good advice here already.
Agree that a few weeks in, everyone’s stuck at strumming. Its a foreign movement at the moment, but time is your best friend. Follow Justins tuition closely, and down the track a bit I would too recommend Justins Strumming Techniques course, which is about rhythm.
For now, I’d just conentrate on doing it as much as possible, ensuring to keep the hand moving at all times.

All the best.

Cheers, Shane

Some great advice here already, I’d also add try to keep your strumming arm relaxed. I think beginner strumming issues can come from feeling robotic because they’re too tense. Go for a relaxed feel. Like others said it’s practice and repetition!

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Hi Jeff. That’s your answer right there. Learning guitar is a long haul. Follow Justin’s course diligently and you will get there!

Lots of good advice given above too. Are you following the online lessons or the app? Justin covers every aspect of strumming in the online website lessons. And they’re free! :smiley:

Edit. I’ve had another look at your strum pattern for this song. The song has a 3/4 rhythm which is a little unusual as that’s 3 beats to the bar. The strum pattern should be 1 2+ 3+ (D DU DU).
You’re playing D DUD.

Edit 2. Justin has a lesson for this song here.

Hi Jeffrey,
t also seems a bit that you hold your pick a little too relaxed, that’s how it sounds at least a bit, the advantage is that it sounds a little less (“lomp”) / unnecessarily too loud … but your index finger seems to point straight down…but I can’t see very well…how to hold a pick…will give the answer, or someone else with better vision.Or yourself of course…I only just realized that you had already posted a video of yourself … well done, you could have had the first
Groe,…eetings, Rogier

Hi Jeffrey,

Welcome to the community.

If you have only recently started learning it might be best to focus on the strumming as @sairfingers points out:

Practice that strumming pattern with muted strings to a metronome. I would start off with 60 bpm and gradually increase the tempo until I reach the bpm of the song.

I would leave out the picking off the bass notes for the time being and focus primarily on strumming pattern Justin teaches at the start of the song lesson.

As @sclay recommends the strumming techniques course is fantastic.

you may also want to revisit Justin’s lesson on holding the pick. Not sure if its the camera angle but it looks like your pinching the pick rather than holding it like Justin in the below image:


As I said it may just be the camera angle and my eyes but thought it would be worth pointing out as @roger_holland made a similar observation.

I would go with what the others are saying, try with a metronome. It sounds to my ear like your timing is off, remove the in-between notes and keep the rhythm flowing with the up and down movements. Once it feels like you’ve hit it, then add the extra notes. It’s hard as a beginner because you want to run before you can walk - been there, done that - it’s best to make sure you’ve got the basics down before trying to add more complexity. Pick another song, maybe, one that’s purely strumming.