By Janus Buch
Strumming is an essential discipline to all guitar players. Yet it is often taught in an unmusical way. Often is it taught by saying something like “down, down, down up, down”. This is of cause referring to the movement of the are, but it doesn’t really tell you anything about what your arm is doing in relation to the music, and this is often a very big problem. Learning to tap your foot along with and having it work as your internal metronome will not only make you a much better guitar player and musician, but strumming complex patterns will also become much easier.
Don’t Count With Your Strumming Hand
As a full time guitar teacher I meet a lot of experienced players who play reasonably well, but when I ask them strum on one of the off beats everything falls apart. The reason for this is, that when they started playing they also started counting with their strumming hand. This is not a problem as long as you only play on beat one, two, three or four or play something that aligns with these beats. But when you all of sudden have to play on the “2 and” beat of the measure, things tend to break down – especially if you’re asked to play with a downstroke. The reason for this is the fact that the hand is in a wrong position to play the “2 and” beat because it has been counting the previous “2 beat” as well. In other words the strumming hand is actually trying to do two things that are mutually exclusive at the same time. That is why we need to divide the two role. The counting needs be moved to the foot and the strumming needs be handled by the strumming hand. You could also say, that the foot counts the big beats(just like kick drum on a drum set) and the strumming hand handles the subdivisions.
Tapping The Foot
This part can be very difficult, but the main thing to be aware of is the fact that it the beginning when you start to practise this, it will feel link there is a struggle going on between your foot and your hand. In the beginning the the hand will set the tempo and the foot will kind of “follow”. You know that this is the case if your foots stops tapping when the strumming gets harder. If this happens your know that your foot a is actually not setting any tempo, but is simply trying to tag along with everything happening on the guitar. The way you change this is by always starting your strumming by having a couple of measures with only the foot tapping and nothing else. This will force the dynamic to change between hand and foot to change as it is suddenly the hand who is forced to “tag along” with the foot and not the other way around. By doing this consistently you will in time learn to count with your foot and also get this automated so you don’t have to think about it consciously. This will ground your musical timing in your body in a much better and more natural way, than you have been used to and it will also free up some mental capacity that is very much needed when the strumming patterns become more complex.
About the author: Janus Buch is a professional guitar instructor offering guitar lessons to beginners as well as advanced students. He specialises in bringing big results to his students as fast as possible. So if you are interested in taking your guitar playing skills to the next level and you are living in Horsens or Bredballe, Janus is the man to see.