As I learned to play guitar, I did so playing mostly on an electric guitar. I’m not sure what it was, but I was drawn to chords and different strumming patterns. Some of my first influences were Jars of Clay and Dave Matthews Band. In addition to those “professional” music influences, growing up learning to play guitar while my brother was learning to play drums has also given me a percussive perspective of the acoustic guitar.
This post is the first in a series of “Acoustic Guitar Fundamentals” posts I’ll be doing as I build out my first course in the Acoustic Worshiper Community. In this post, we’ll go over some of the fundamentals of strumming.
So let’s dive in… 🙂
What’s the Goal?
The purpose of the acoustic guitar is to make music. That may seem basic, but this is about fundamentals, after all. So the goal of any single instrument in music is to add to the overall mix of the other instruments. That’s what music is. It’s a bunch of sounds coming together to make one sound. The whole (music) is greater than the sum of the parts (instruments).
When it comes to strumming, you basically just don’t want to get in the way of the song. There are ways you can add to the mix, but most of the time, you’re going to be there to support it. One of the biggest mistakes by acoustic players is strumming to their own rhythm and sticking out like a sore thumb.
Since I learned to play guitar while playing with a drummer (my brother), I learned at an early stage to play WITH another musician. It’s hard to quantify with words, but one way to grow your skills in this area is to listen more than you play. Just like a conversation, the more you listen, the more you learn about what the other side is saying.
You Try It
Listen to the other musicians you’re playing with, and try to mix in and mirror what they are doing. Snare hits can be accented in your own strumming patterns. If the electric guitar is doing only down-strums and the drums are building on the floor tom and snare, you should strum the same way.
The more you do this, the better you’ll get a picking out how you should play.
Be on the lookout for Part 2, where I’ll talk about the other hand – the fretting hand.
In the meantime, leave a comment below if this post has made you think about your playing style differently. That’s why I’m here and why I make these posts. I want to help YOU get better and play in a way that brings glory to God.
So join in on the conversation, and let me know if you need anything from me.
I’m a beginner. I learned a couple chords and can play some songs with or without barre chords. I’ve been feeling this fire in me that keeps pushing me to join the worship team but I am a little bit reluctant since I am just a beginner. One of my friends told me he learned to play the guitar at church and that encouraged me a little bit but I would like to know how I can improve my playing. Should I still ask to join the worship team and learn from them or should I learn by myself and join when I feel more comfortable? If I should wait, what sources can you direct me to as I improve my playing?
I tried shaking off that thought of joining the worship team a couple times but it keeps coming back to me and sometimes it’s just so overwhelming. I emailed the worship director and I am supposed to meet him this week but I am freaking out since I don’t really know how to play.
Hi Clara, I hope this get to you in time for your meeting this week. First of all, you’re on the right track! You are looking for ways to serve God even if it’s a little uncomfortable for you. That’s all you can ask for as a Worship Director. The other thing I’ll say is that whether or not you are able to join the team is going to be up to your director. You’re doing the right thing by meeting with him. There’s probably a certain skill level that has to be met in order for you to join the team, but really all worship teams will be different in this area. The only way to know is to ask and find out what the expectations are.
You also asked about how to get better on the acoustic. That’s a GREAT question, and it’s why I created this site. I want to resource those who want to get better at the acoustic on their worship teams. Practice, practice, practice 🙂 There’s no shortcut. Without getting into too many specifics, here are some areas to think about as you continue to practice: chords, rhythm (strumming), and dynamics. Reply back if you have any specifics on those areas. You can also browse the Blog section of this site to find some posts on those topics.
Lastly, you mentioned joining the worship team and “learning” while you’re on the team. If your Worship Director has the bandwidth to help you learn while still leading the team, that is a great way to learn. Playing with other people will sharpen your skills faster for sure. I grew up playing with my brother, who is a drummer, and that changed the trajectory of my playing.
I hope this is helpful. If you have more questions, let me know. If you have specific things you’re struggling with, contact me here through the site Contact page or just send me an email: brad [at] acousticworshiper.com — I’ll be glad to make a video to help out with a topic if I can.
I hope your meeting goes well. Praying for you!