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

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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.

Strumming for me is bad i keep missing the strings. I don’t know what i am doing wrong i have watched all Justins how to videos on strumming. i can cover the strings and practice ok but when i strum cords i will keep missing the strings. I have used metronome and use Justins song app. I practice for hours every night i don’t want to forum any bad habits because it hard to change once to have practice wrong. I guess i will give it a few more weeks then private lessons here i come.

What thickness pick are you using Roger? I find if I strum with a thick pick I try to brush the strings lightly to prevent the pick digging in. That results in me missing some of the strings ocassionally. A thinner pick allows me to “dig in” harder which means I don’t miss strings. I use a Jim Dunlop 0.6mm orange nylon pick on my acoustic. I use the same pick or a 0.88mm nylon on my electric, depending on how I’m feeling. Since you only started a few weeks ago, I’d suggest something even thinner, like the Jim Dunlop white 0.46mm nylon pick.

Don’t get too stressed about it. It can take years to get good at strumming. I’m a couple of years in and I’m not there yet.

@roger2113, I see you have posted about this problem in 4 different topics over the last several days, so it seems you are not getting the help you need.

I hate to see someone struggle (because I spent so many years struggling myself, I guess).

Many possibilities here. I suspect the arc of your strumming hand is not parallel to the strings, but without actually seeing you play, it’s very difficult to diagnose.

If you don’t get an answer that addresses is the problem in the next couple of days, I would strongly strongly strongly suggest you post a video.

Actually, two videos. One from the front and one from the side zooming in on your strumming hand.

Alternatively, as you suggest, taking lessons is a good idea. But I would do that sooner rather than later. If you wait weeks, you will probably just end up getting more frustrated.

A question…

Are you missing all the strings, or just some of them?

If some of them…the thicker strings or the thinner strings?

Hi Roger,
It is always a good idea to get a music teacher if there are good ones available in your area (here are 2 moderators (Richard an Lieven) who also teach music lessons approved by Justin, a big advantage is that they are familiar with these lessons here on this site)

But I read in your biography that you are just 3 weeks into it, be nice for yourself, after 3 weeks I was happy that I no longer almost smashed my guitar in half or the skin of my fingers :grimacing: or hit zero strings and still after a few months well… kuch :roll_eyes:

Stay critical of yourself and look for good help on time, you indeed really don’t want to acquire bad habits but don’t despair now after such a short time, find the strummings lessons on the site and I wish you a lot of fun :sunglasses:

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It’s just hard, a few weeks isn’t any time enough to not be struggling.

Playing guitar is a lot about subtlety detail and muscle memory

It’s not something you can git gud at overnight.

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lol some time all of the strings. I am using a 0.46 pick its only when i am trying to play if i have the strings muted just strumming i hit them a lot better. i think to much going on at once when i am playing.

just practice strumming. dont even touch the fretboard.

set a metronome or something slow tick tick tick tick and strum up/down up/down until it feels natural then start working on from there