Happy Spring, Time for music

Strumming and Rhythms

A detailed look at Strumming the Strumstick, making up interesting rhythms, Free Strumming, and Syncopation.  Audio, Video, plus written instructions below video.

Also see our Quick Bites Videos for many Strumming Tricks and Special Effects.

And here are some Audio Files:
Strumstick Strumming (Basic Technique)             
Strumstick Basic Rhythm
Strumstick Advanced Rhythm              
Strumstick Accenting

More About Strumming and Rhythms

Rhythm simply means how your notes or strums are related in time. You have a few strums, you have some chunks of time in between them, those are our building blocks. You can create marvelously interesting music with some simple instructions on how to create rhythms, and that is what this section will address.

What you are going to learn to do is make up interesting rhythms as you go play. We call this "Free Strumming." Instead of learning one specific rhythm for this song, and another specific rhythm for that song, memorizing, memorizing, you will be able to make up changing rhythms as you go along. You will be improvising, and varying the rhythm within the song, eventually. That makes a rich, interesting sound, is easy to do, and develops your rhythm sense in a very useful way.

Note: COUNTING OUT LOUD IS VERY USEFUL WHILE LEARNING THIS. You have been using your voice for many years, but have only been strumming a Strumstick for a short time. Counting out loud gives you an audible reference for what you are trying to do. Counting in your thoughts does not help anywhere near as much as out loud. You want your ears involved, and your voice, so it is tangible. You DO NOT necessarily have to count while you strum; count BEFORE you strum to set the pace, and establish what you are trying to do.

1. The Steady Beat

2. Adding Offbeats

3. Random Offbeats

4. Leaving Out Beats

We are going to leave out a downstrum (producing an empty space). The beat for that "missing" downstrum will still be there, there will just not be any noise at that beat.

Try that until it's smooth. Now, count out loud "1, fake, 3, 4 " several times, then strum "down, fake, down, down". To add an empty space, just do a fake!

5. Altogether Now!

Now, count out loud "1 space 3 4 +" several times, then strum "down, fake, down, down-up". We added one offbeat (upstrum) at the very end.

When you get comfortable with a rhythm, try moving your left hand around while you strum. If you are playing a song, adding offbeats will make it more interesting, and add a background rhythm. The bottom line is, you can add any upstrums you want to, and leave out any downstrums you want to. Return to the steady beat from time to time, it "clears the air" for whatever you will do next.