Guitar Strumming Secrets

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“Strumming Secrets” – Jam Session #35

This week’s Jam Session was on a great topic – guitar strumming!  It was suggested by fellow Band member, Chas.  Great suggestion, buddy!  I think we all got a lot out of this one!

First, Steve broke down guitar strumming into it’s most basic components: downstrokes and upstrokes.  These are the only two components to strumming so, if you start to get confused, you can take comfort in remembering that fact.  It bears repeating: there’s only 2 strokes (upstrokes and downstrokes); everything else is just how you are playing those two strokes (rhythm).  🙂

It Takes Different Strokes

Next, we learned how different genres tend to be dominated by one of these two strokes.  Here’s some examples:

  • Rock – down strokes
  • Reggae – up strokes
  • Ska – up strokes
  • Polka – up strokes

So, if you’re learning a Reggae song, for example, keep in mind it probably uses a lot of up strokes.  Also, this is great knowledge to have should you want to compose your own guitar songs.  With this information, you already know that to get that traditional Reggae sound, you’re going to want to incorporate a strum pattern that is heavy on the up strokes.  That’s half the battle right there!

Worlds Apart / Separate Ways

Next, Steve explained how these two strokes live in different “worlds”.  That is, downstrokes live in the world of numbers.  Upstrokes live in in the world of “ands”.  [I know it sounds a bit wacky, but hang in there…it’ll all make sense soon, I promise!]

It helps to visualize it like this…

D  U  D  U   D  U   D

1 and 2 and 3 and 4

Next, Steve gave us a download link to a special PDF he put together exclusively for this Jam Session on guitar strumming.  It’s really cool and gives a visual reference to the various combinations that can be formed from “the kitchen sink” pattern (which is DUDUDUDU).

Guitar Strumming Secrets

Steve goes with the flow while demonstrating a guitar strumming pattern.

So, we start out with “Singles” where we remove just one of the strokes.

Then there are “Singles and Exes” where we remove one of the strokes and we are also muting one of the strokes.  This type of muting where you muffle a stroke of the strings is also called “chucking”, by the way.

Next, we have “Double Ups” where we remove 2 of the downstrokes

Conversely, “Double Downs” is removing 2 of the upstrokes.  One of the “Double Downs” patterns is very common and is known as “The Gallop” as it has this sort of galloping horse rhythm to it.  It’s used in Heart‘s Barracuda (which, incidentally, is one of the original 5 DVD song lessons I bought.  You can read more about that on this page.  I had put if away as it was advanced, but I think I’ll be able to get back to it soon.  Right now, I’m still working on finishing some other tutorials).

Next up, there’s the “Mixed Doubles” (i.e., removing an upstroke and a downstroke) and the “Triples” (removing 3 upstrokes).

This was exciting to learn as it opens up virtually endless rhythms and when combined with all the tone possibilities out there.  I’m now understanding how there’s an endless array of sounds I can draw from when creating my own songs.  It’s just a matter of experimenting!  The idea is to mix and match patterns and see how they sound when combined with the chord progressions and lyrics of my own song ideas.  Eventually, I’ll run across one and know in my heart “that’s perfect for this song”!  Exciting times!

Straight vs Swing

Steve then demonstrated “straight” vs “swing” strumming.  We learned “straight” strumming is when you have a balanced rhythm going…an equal amount of time between the downstrokes and upstrokes.  Swing strumming, on the other hand, is unbalanced.  It’s more like the strumming you’d be playing if you were playing while intoxicated.  This style makes it seem you have a lazy hand or a weight attached to your strumming hand.  The result is that each upstroke is closer in timing to the following downstroke.

I pretty much get the idea behind it, but admit I’m still trying to put it into practice as well as Steve demonstrated it.  It’s just one of those aspects of learning guitar that will take a little practice and patience.

Video Challenge

This week’s video assignment was to post a video of ourselves playing one of 3 different songs using a specific strum pattern: D D D XU D UDUDU.

This pattern is found in songs such as I’m Walking on Sunshine (Katrina and The Waves) and that’s the song I chose.  I recorded it last night and uploaded it to the Jam Space this morning.  It’s gotten a few “Likes” thus far from other Band members.  I’ll post the video and screenshot of the feedback after a few more days.

**Update: Here’s the video and feedback…


Guitar strumming feedback - Walking on Sunshine

Screenshot of the feedback I got in the Jam Space

The Spotlight

As it turned out, we went overtime this week and lots of Band members had to head out and get started with their weekend.  So, there was no “Spotlight” in this week’s Jam Session.

Oh yeah, I also posted a couple “redux” videos into the Jam Space this morning as well.  There were 3 videos over the past couple assignments that needed some work.  So I made the changes Steve suggested as best I could have posted the updated versions.  Fingers crossed hoping there was some improvement.  Will keep you posted!

** Update…

Woo-hoo!  I got some kudos on my progress!  Nothing like some kudos to boost the enthusiasm and motivation levels.  😀  Check it out…

strumming feedback

Feedback in the Jam Space on my latest video posts


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