It is surprising how many guitar players really don’t know how to strum a guitar. This sounds like some kind of contradiction, but it isn’t. Sure, they can play the songs they know and have practiced, but often are unable to accompany another player who is doing something just a bit different. Find out more…

strumming a guitar

Learn how to strum like Tony Rice

I know, because for a long time, I could not strum a guitar, even though I could play quite a few songs and could finger pick. Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Donovan and classical songs were what I had learned–all in a finger picking style.

Many players, especially teenage boys, want to play fast leads or really cool riffs like their guitar heroes. They hear a Led Zeppelin or Nirvana intro and learn to play it, but once that part ends, so does their song!

Another common practice that keeps a person from learning how to strum a guitar is by only playing finger-style or finger picking guitar. You really don’t have to strum very much, but it really limits your playing.

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As much as I still love finger style playing, it just does not have the volume to be effective in many settings. Sure, you can play along with your fingers in a jam or at church, but chances are nobody will even notice or hear you.

It’s amazing and rather disappointing, but you can play an awesome finger style tune that took months to master and hardly anyone appreciates it. Then along comes an average player who begins strumming up a storm and soon everybody is swaying and tapping their foot!

how to strum a guitar

John and Randy on the porch

Learn how to strum a guitar by going slow

Here is a little lesson will assume that you are using a flatpick, though you don’t have to. You can also do this with either an acoustic or electric guitar as well.
Pick a song or tune that you like and that is not too fast.

Try to find something with a good melody that you can hum or sing along to, as this will make it easier to master strumming. You don’t want to pick something you don’t really like, you won’t have fun and won’t practice as much. Also, make sure it is a simple song with few chord changes.

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Play this over and over again, by yourself, along with a CD, a YouTube video, or even better, another musician. Get in a private place so you are not self-conscious and keep at it until you can play and sing it.

Songs to learn how to strum a guitar:

Bury Me Beneath The Willow
Silent Night
Happy Birthday
Colours, by Donovan
Take It Easy, the Eagles
Heart Of Gold, Neil Young

One great way to learn how to strum a guitar is to play along with a CD. You will need a tuner so that your guitar is in tune with the CD, and you probably will need a capo. Sometimes you see sheet music for popular songs that is written in very weird keys that nobody ever plays on a guitar. The capo solves this problem quickly and painlessly.

Once you learn the basic chords on a guitar, you can play all kinds of songs, just by moving the capo and playing in your familiar key, using chords that you have mastered. You can  get a good capo here.

Probably the best way to learn is to play with other people at jams. Jams are great because you can watch and learn. By observing some basic jam etiquette, you will be able to quietly play along, watch those who know how to strum a guitar and then go home to practice, practice, practice.

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Use a metronome to learn to strum a guitar

Few things are as maddening as trying to play along with someone who cannot keep time. They play fast, then slow, then in-between and soon you see that nobody is playing along. It is quite easy to develop bad habits when you practice alone without a metronome.

These little devices can be quite annoying, but they really make a difference. Set the tempo to a slow beat in the beginning and find a speed that you are able to keep up with. Gradually you will find that your ability will grow and you will be playing up to speed sooner than you could have imagined.

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