One of my first guitar influences was the band, Jars of Clay. Jars of Clay had a very unique sound, and their music had distinctive strum patterns. Shortly after learning to play guitar, I also discovered the Dave Matthews Band. Dave’s stuff on the acoustic guitar blew my at first, but it challenged me to learn it and become a better acoustic player. What blew my mind with his playing style is how he would play those difficult rhythms and still sing at the same time. Later on, I saw how learning to do what Jars of Clay & DMB did helped me play at a higher level.
Strumming is what sets the rhythm guitar apart from lead guitar, and acoustic rhythm is even different from electric rhythm. In this post, I’ll give you some philosophies and techniques that will help you be a better strummer on the acoustic guitar.
Where to Start
Let’s start with why. (Shout out to Simon Sinek …)
Strumming is foundational to the acoustic guitar. Once you get past one-string songs, you strum chords to play songs. When you learn the art of strumming, you will exponentially expand your toolbox on the acoustic guitar. If you compare that with soloing or fingerpicking, there are a lot fewer opportunities to use solos and fingerpicking in songs. Strumming is the key. It’s a fundamental building block of the acoustic guitar — especially in worship.
I think we can all pretty much agree on that. If not, leave a comment at the end of this post, so we can discuss it 🙂
Let’s move on to “how”…
How to Strum
In blog post format, I’m limited to what I can express with words, but I am up for making some demonstration videos if anyone is interested. Just leave a comment at the end of this post to let me know what questions you have.
At any rate…Here are some of my strumming philosophies:
Start small & build from what you can already do. If you’re a beginner, just start with quarter note down-strums (1, 2, 3, 4), then add on the 8th notes on the up-strums (1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &). After that, you can add 16th notes between the 8th notes (1 ee & uh 2 ee & uh 3 ee & uh 4 ee & uh). The difference-maker here is the 16th notes you strum and (more importantly) the ones you don’t strum.
A simple way to think about rhythm is that it is broken down into equal “chunks”, but not all the chunks get accented. So many times in music, the expression comes when you don’t play something. You have an arsenal, but you don’t want to use all of what you have all the time every time.