Guitar Instruction - How to Strum a Chord

Guitar Instruction - How to Strum a Chord

While the Concept is Simple, Playing Crosspicking Up-To-Speed is Very Challenging

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Guitar Instruction - How to Strum a Chord

If you have not done so already, please review and master the correct way to place your right and left hands on the guitar. View the lesson Links Below for Articles You will need to master for this Lesson. You can allow find tabulation related to this page on the drop-down menu below.

Guitar Instruction - The Basic Strum:

Form the chord you want to strum (for instance a C chord). Take the pick and start from the lowest string and swipe your right hand downward in one even motion, with a firm grip on the pick.

Guitar Instruction - Basic Strum Variation:

A variation on the basic strummed chord is to end it with a slight up-pick. In other words, strum it with a firm down-stroke of your right hand and immediately after, use a up-pick to pick or just "flick" one or two the the highest strings (the E only or the E and B together).

The secret with this method is do not change your right hand position when you complete the up-stroke. A common error is to change the pick position to accommodate the up-pick motion, but this is too much wasted motion and is not necessary. Just remember not to "dig" the pick into the strings too far and you will be fine.

Guitar Instruction - Alternating Bass and Strum:

With this method, we usually use all 6 of the guitar strings for our chords. There are some chord where we will use 5 strings or even 4, but these are not nearly as effective with this method.

How to Strum a Chord

Guitar Instruction - Alternating Bass Notes

By picking alternating bass strings you bring much more variety into your chord strumming. We start by playing a C chord.

Refer to the illustration above, the second chord (labeled C Major). The first bass note you play is the Root of the Chord or the "C" on the 5th string. Don't know what a root of a chord is? Click HERE to find out.

The typical and very simplified alternating bass chords are the following pattern:

    Pick a bass note
    Strum the chord
    Pick a bass note
    Strum the chord.

The above exercise represents 4 beats or one measure in 4/4 or common time. This is more clearly indicated as:

    Pick C (5th string bass)
    Strum the remaining 4 strings below the bass
    Pick G (6th string bass)
    Strum the remaining 4 strings below the bass

Wait a minute, what about the 5th string on the second strum? The answer is to mute this string with your left hand third finger when you reach for the G Bass on the 6th string. Seem difficult? Not really when you get used to it.


Guitar Instruction - The Order of Bass Notes:

How do we know the order to play the bass notes?

    The Root of the chord is always the first bass note or the "C" for a C chord.
    The second bass note will either be the 3rd of the scale or the 5th of the scale, depending on whether the second note is played on the next higher or the next lower bass string.
    For the C chord it is the G or 3rd of the scale.

Let's do the same with a G chord. The two basses of the G chord would be:

    G (the root) 6th string
    Strum the remaining 5 strings
    C (the fifth) 5th string
    Strum the remaining 4 strings.
Guitar Instruction - Common Chords

Here are some common chords with the associated bass notes. The number 1 above the note indicated the first bass note played or the root. The number 2 indicates the second bass note played.

C Major
1 - 2
G Major
1 2 -
D Major
1 - 2
A Major
1 - 2
E Major
1 2 -
1 2 - -
1 - 2 -
Guitar Instruction - The Bass Run Variation:

This is similar to the alternating bass variation above, but somewhat more embellished. Usually this method is combined with the basic alternating bass method to provide variety and provides a bridge to changing chords - although not always.

Guitar Instruction - Ultimate Guitar Tab

I will show you some tablature here to better illustrate my point. (if you don't know how to read tablature, click on the drop-down menu at the beginning of this article for a quick tutorial). Or Click HERE to go to the Alternating Bass and Bass Run Tabs

Guitar Instruction - Some Key points to remember:
    Always use alternating picking with with flatpick.
    Keep your right hand movements as minimal as possible, don't let your right hand bounce up and down to pick the notes.

Some of the crosspicking in the above Tab is moving from the "G" on the 6th string to the open "A" on the 5th. You have to play the "G" with a down-stroke and catch the "A" with an up-stroke - this is crosspicking.

Another one would be moving from the "C" on the 5th to the open "D" on the 4th. There is an up-stroke on the "C" and a down-stroke on the "D".

Play this scale forward and backward until you have it mastered, all the crosspicking is technically correct and you are smooth and clean. Only then can you go for your speed.