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Strumming 101: 5 Exercises To Lock in Your Strumming

Practice Habits| Effortless Expression
February 04, 20232 min read

Strumming 16th notes on the guitar is a crucial skill for any aspiring guitarist. The key to mastering this technique is to understand how to practice and lock in the rhythm with your strumming hand. At first, it may seem daunting, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to play any 16th-note-based rhythm with ease. In this week's blog post, we'll dive into the world of strumming 16th notes and provide you with five exercises that will train your strumming hand to play downstrokes and upstrokes with confidence. These exercises are for guitarists that are just starting and guitarists that have been playing for a while. If you already are familiar with 16th note rhythms you can practice these exercises at a quicker tempo.

So, what exactly are 16th notes? In a 4/4 time signature, there are four quarter notes in a measure, and for each quarter note, there are four 16th notes. To count the 16th notes, you'll say "1 e & a 2 e & a 3 e & a 4 e & a", with the "a" sounding like "ah".

Let's get started with the 5 exercises.

Step 1: Muscle Memory - To get started, set your metronome to a tempo between 50bpm and 60bpm. The goal is to get used to alternating downstrokes and upstrokes in your strumming hand, so the "e" and "a" are always upstrokes.

Ex. 1

16th notes 1

Step 2: Dynamics - Once you're consistent with your strumming, start focusing on dynamics - the volume of each strum. Try to make the first 16th note of every group of four as loud as possible and the rest as quiet as possible. This takes some practice to get right, so take your time and take frequent breaks to avoid fatigue.

Step 3: Accents - In exercises 2, 3, and 4, you'll focus on accenting different 16th notes. In exercise 2, you'll accent the "&" of each beat (the third 16th note of every group of four) with a down strum. Practicing with a metronome will help you get a feel for the rhythm and develop your independence from the beat.

Ex. 2

16th note 2

Ex. 3

16th notes 3

Ex. 4

16th notes 4

Step 4: Making it Permanent - The final exercise is a bit challenging but will help you lock in the 16th note strumming for good. You'll accent every third 16th note, but it's important to stay in rhythm with the downbeat of the metronome or a drum groove.

16th notes 5

Step 5: Songs - Finally, practice playing songs with 16th note rhythms, such as funk tunes. If you've worked through the five exercises, you'll know when to play downstrokes and upstrokes, and all that's left is to lock in the rhythms and make them feel good.

Be patient and work on them every day and before long you won't have to think about how you are strumming, and you can focus on the music. Click here for a demonstration of step 4.

strumminghow do I strum the guitarRhythm guitar
freteleven founder

Andrew Gingerich

freteleven founder

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