A Guide To Guitar Chords

Guitar Strumming

What about the right hand?

A good question, there's no avail in learning chords without producing any sound. There are two main techniques for the right hand: strumming and finger picking.

You will learn the following in this series of guitar lessons:

    Guitar Strumming Basics (this page)
    Strumming Patterns (with video)
    Finger Picking Basics
    Travis Picking

1) Strumming

Strumming is a technique in which you play the notes of a guitar chord (almost) simultaneously by stroking the strings with a pick or with your finger.

Using your finger sounds the warmest in my opinion. Use the nail of you index finger to strum the strings. Support your index finger with your thumb.

A guitar pick produces a clear sound with a lot of treble in it.  The hardness of the pick is important: a very hard pick can make your sound too harsh while a very soft pick produces a 'flappy' sound. A medium thickness gives the best results for strumming.

You can use a lot of different rhythms for strumming. Let me give you some basic examples of guitar strumming patterns:


Keep the strumming very simple in the beginning with this technique called four to the bar. Start counting from 1 to 4 and strum the chord on every count with a downstroke.  A down stroke means you stroke from the thickest to the skinniest string with a pick or your finger. Make sure you play only the strings that are marked with a black or white dot (on the chord diagram).  Failing to do this will make your chord sound bad.

In music notation it looks like this:

gutiar strumming pattern

    Rhythms are written between 2 vertical lines (bar lines):

    |                                      |

    This is called a bar. Each bar has 4 counts.

    strumming: this is the symbol for a strum. Each strum like this has a       duration of 1 count.

    downstroke  : the upward arrow tells you that the strum should go from       the thickest to the skinniest string. This is called a        downstroke.

Try this basic strumming pattern on some of the chords. If you succeed in doing this go to the next step:

Now we put an 'and' between the counts: 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1 and 2... On the counts you strum with a downstroke (), on the 'and' you strum with an upstroke (: from the skinniest string to the thickest).

It looks like this:

strumming pattern 2

    half note : this means that each strum has the duration of a half count. If a couple of these follow each other, the tail is connected:

      -in groups of 4: strumming patterns

      -or in groups of 2: strumming patterns 2


Here are a few more strumming patterns:

strumming pattern 3

strumming pattern 4

In this last example you see a curve between the 2nd and the 3rd count. This means that those 2 notes are played together, so the 2 half notes become a whole note.


strumming pattern 5


strumming pattern 6

Now start practicing these strumming patterns on some easy guitar songs.

    Click for More Strumming Patterns (with video)...

The following lesson is about fingerpicking, another right hand technique. If you don't know how to play guitar tabs, read this tutorial first: how to read guitar tabs