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5 Tips to Level-Up Your Strumming Speed

5 Tips to Level-Up Your Strumming Speed

In this article, we are going to inspect 5 tips and a few practice strategies that will assist you in forging a formidable guitar skill known as Strumming.

Strumming is one of the very first techniques that any guitarist learns. But as they move on to learn intermediate or advanced techniques, they forget to advance their strumming skills further. Even if they continue using strumming techniques, lack of motivation and experimentation make it impossible to improve upon them.

How to Hold a Pick

Holding a pick properly is a prerequisite for mastering any guitar technique. The most common way of holding a pick is to curl the index finger first; grip the pick with the index finger and the thumb, keeping the pointy end of the pick along the palm. You can use any other method to grip a pick, but make sure you are comfortable with it and the pick is firmly held. 

5 Tips to Level-Up Your Strumming

1. A Relaxed Hand Is the Key

Being able to relax your hand while playing is a game changer. You will notice a significant increase in speed, although control over those strums would be questionable. 

Gaining control is the goal here. And to achieve that your fingers should grip the pick tightly enough that it doesn't fall off and at the same time loosely enough that your hand and shoulder don’t get tensed. Don't use too much force to hold the pick. 

Performing clean and loud strums require steady arm placement and a loose wrist. With the help of your arm, your wrist should be doing most of the work while strumming. 

In addition, your wrist should not move just up and down. You actually need to rotate your wrist to play strings and have minimal arm movements.

2. Maintain a Short Range of Motion

While playing, we often, unknowingly, exaggerate our hand movements by letting our hands sway too far up or too far down from the strings. It takes us more time to reach back to the strings and mess up the groove.

Practice strumming by making shorter strokes with your hands. As I mentioned before, you do not need to move your whole arm to strum all the strings. You can play all the strings just by rotating your wrist. This will limit your mobility and force you to play within a short range of motion.

You might find it hard to strum all the strings with mostly wrist movements. But slow and deliberate practice is the solution to this problem.

3. Experiment with Strumming Patterns and Utilize Accents

It is obvious that you need to master as many strumming patterns as you can. This will teach your hand to execute two fundamental strumming movements, that is, upstroke and downstroke, in various possible combinations. There will be times when you might need to perform successive down or up strokes. Performing this is particularly challenging at higher tempos.

One overlooked technique for beginner and intermediate guitarists is accenting. Accent is playing a particular note, a set of notes, or a chord with emphasis. This highlights the intended beats, creating a specific metric structure or rhythm.

4. Use a Metronome

I cannot stress enough the importance of using a metronome. While practicing, use a metronome and count loudly, this will improve your internal rhythm. Most of the time, we cannot play the rhythm that we are thinking of. Counting loudly does an amazing job of resolving that issue.

During your strumming practice, try to count with the metronome as you play along. Do this at a comfortable tempo. 

While learning a strumming pattern, try to learn how that pattern fits within a bar. Take notes on which strokes are bunched together and which notes have spaces between them. Now play along with a metronome. As you get used to this method, you will notice a huge improvement in your sense of rhythm.

5. Strum on Selected Strings

Strumming on a few selected strings is a great exercise to increase accuracy and add dynamic embellishment to your playing. 

You don’t have to play all six strings all the time. You can choose a few strings, say the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd strings, and strum only these three strings, avoiding the lower strings as much as possible. Or you can strum on any other string set, avoiding rest as much as possible. With regular practice, you might even be able to play only two strings with strumming.

Incorporating these partial strums into your known strumming patterns is bound to make the sound more intricate and interesting. You will be surprised at how your simple chord progressions transform into groovy riffs just by playing fewer strings.

Practice Strategy

It is often challenging to hold a chord and practice a tricky strumming pattern, as you need to focus on your left hand as well. You can just mute the strings with your left hand and only practice the pattern. This way, you can focus on what your right hand is doing. You will also easily notice how your pick hits the strings. You can adjust the amount of contact your pick has with the strings, which is crucial for a clean and loud sound.

As you get comfortable with the metronome and can execute a strumming pattern without missing a beat, you should start experimenting with triplets and quadruplets. Try to play three strokes within one beat of the metronome (triplet) or four strokes within one beat of the metronome (quintuplet). This will prove to be challenging at first. So start at a lower tempo.

Lastly, always put emphasis on your ear training. Listen to your favorite guitarists and, if possible, watch closely how they incorporate strumming into their playing. This will provide you with ideas for your own playing.

Final Words

Whatever your musical style is, having impeccable strumming techniques will take your overall playing to a whole new level. Even if you are a lead guitarist, mixing some chords into solos will make them sound more than a bunch of notes. Experiment with different styles of strumming as much as you can, and they will be one of your best tools.


Bear Greenholz is a guitar player and the founder of MusicRiser. He has also produced some of his own music and is an accomplished piano player.


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