No matter when you start playing the guitar one key element of playing any song will be strumming. The best time to learn and perfect strumming patterns for the guitar is when you first begin playing but if that is not the case, it’s time to start today.
Ever wondered why some people sound boring when they play a song? This seems to be the way at amateur concerts. I don’t know about you but it makes me want to run away, even when I care for the performer. It’s said that variety is the spice of life and it definitely is when someone performs a song. You need to mix it up and give it passion and joy.
Let’s break down a song into two parts, the singing, and the guitar. If you are only playing the guitar part then you need to give the singer a solid rhythm to sing to, create a steady tempo that they can rely on. If you are singing and playing you want the two parts to blend into a pleasant foot tapping performance. To do this you need to work on the parts separately.
Tune-Up and Get Started
Nothing teaches you better than a live lesson and Justin is one of the best in the business. I’ve loaded his classic video lesson below so that you can keep referring back to it as you learn. In this 16 minute, YouTube Justin describes and shows you pretty much all of the possible strums and how to create your own.
Don’t be frightened to get creative and find out what works for you! Only one big suggestion. If you want to sound professional, do what they do. Practice with a metronome, please!
If you can hear that a musician is keeping the beat I can guarantee that they practice regularly with a metronome. The sooner you start and make it part of your practice the sooner people will be applauding you for the joy you bring their lives.
Make a Commitment to Practice
Once you begin to see progress in your playing you will become addicted to the practice. Consequently, the sooner you decide to play for 15 minutes a day the easier it will be to make the time.
The funny thing about time, you can never find time but you can make time. It’s all linked to desire and how badly you want to learn that skill and how quickly you want to become really good at it.
Recently, I went in search of why some people learn things easier and wondered if you really needed to be talented to become good at any skill.
I tripped over a book called The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and it was fascinating. It changed my whole viewpoint of learning. You don’t need talent just dedication. If you would like to read about learning skills here is the link to my post.
Choose Two Strums to Perfect
One thing that I have learned over the 40 or more years of playing guitar is that you need to learn in bite-size pieces. Therefore, don’t hesitate to choose just two of the strums in Justin’s video to practice. You can come back in a week and choose two more or maybe you might change which ones every two days. It will all depend on how fast you learn and there is no perfect way.
When you first start playing and thinking about each strum, up and down, you may find it frustrating, especially if you have been playing for a while. Be kind to yourself and understand that the frustrating feeling is how your brain grows.
The more you struggle the faster you will learn and remember. Pace your learning times. You may only be able to focus that hard for 10 minutes and this can seem a long time when you are thinking so hard. Take heart, you will succeed.
Tune-up and place your metronome in front of you ready to start. Open the video and play along. Stop the video. Practice what you just learned. Take a break and rest your mind and hands. Now do another 10 minutes.
I even set an alarm for the ten minutes on my phone. It always surprises me how long it feels but if I really focus on the learning I jump when the alarm goes off.
Now you know your learning!
Play Along To Songs – Context
Practice without application is pointless, so keep your ultimate goal in sight. You want to be able to relax and strum in time to the beat without strain or thought. Once you have reached this level you will find that you are ready to step up and add even more variety but without breaking the heartbeat of the rhythm.
When I say heartbeat I mean it, this is where the joy of music lives. That is why it isn’t necessary to play every single beat as our minds supply each beat, not our ears.
Even on your very first practice find a song that you want to play, it doesn’t need to have hard chords, in fact, simple ones will help you to concentrate on the rhythm.
Put on a recording of the song, either an MP3 or a YouTube (I personally enjoy playing along to the YouTube so I can sing along with the great stars.) Find the chords in Ultimate Guitar or look them up on Google and check that they match the key of the recording.
Play the chords first to make sure your fingers know where to go. Grab your metronome and work out the beat time and key it into your unit, so that you can practice the timing without the music playing. Try out Desperado for girls here!
If you are ready to upgrade your guitar to something special now that you have been practicing, check out these awesome guitars and gear.
Now you are ready to really practice. Enjoy!
Every guitar star you have seen playing solo or in a band has paid their dues with the metronome and working out which strums work for them. It is worth the effort and can turn out to be a life long hobby.
I know I spend hours every week learning new songs, breaking down how I will play it, learning the lyrics and molding them together to make a polished performance. The pleasure of knowing that you have shared a moment of joyful music with others will always be worth the time.
You will meet many people who say that they wish they could play or sing and give some great excuses but in the end, it comes down to how badly you want to be really good at these skills. There are masses of YouTubes and tutorials available online, it’s only a matter of finding what attracts you and doing a little bit of practice every day.
Talent is practice!
Wishing you joy with your music.