In music, strumming is a way of playing a stringed instrument such as a guitar, ukulele, or mandolin. A strum or stroke is a sweeping action where a fingernail or plectrum brushes past several strings in order to set them all into motion and thereby play a chord. A chord is three or more notes sounded simultaneously. Strums are executed by the dominant hand, while the other hand holds down ("frets") notes on the fretboard. Strums are contrasted with plucking, as a means of activating strings into audible vibration. In plucking, only one string is activated at a time. A hand-held pick or plectrum can only be used to pluck one string at a time, but multiple strings can be strummed by one. Plucking multiple strings simultaneously requires a fingerstyle or fingerpick technique.
1 Notation 2 Strumming patterns
2.1 Rock and pop 2.2 Jazz and funk
Notation There are a variety of methods for writing strum notation.
Strumming patterns A strumming pattern or strum is a preset pattern used by a rhythm guitar. For example, a pattern in common time or 4 4 consisting of alternating down and up eighth note strokes may be written:
Rock and pop The pattern most typical of rock and related styles is:
d du udu
The final upstroke is sometime omitted. This pattern is often called "Old Faithful", or when played on ukulele, the "Island Strum". Examples of other strumming patterns include:
Single down strum: d d d d
Elvis' "Burning Love" Kathy Mattea's "What Could Have Been"
Boom-chicka: d dud du
Merle Haggard's "Silver Wings"
Jazz and funk
The simple four-to-a-bar rhythm is associated with jazz guitarists
such as Freddie Green, although they may subtly vary the rhythm of a
chord on some beats to add interest.
A simple eight-to-a-bar (8 eighth notes) rhythm is known as "straight
eights" as opposed "swung eights", in which each pair are played in a
rhythm that resembles the first and third notes in a triplet.
The fretting hand can also mute the strings on the fretboard to damp a
chord, creating staccato and percussive effects. In reggae and ska, a
few staccato "chops" are played per bar. In funk rhythm playing, the
strumming hand keeps a fairly steady motion in 16th notes, while the
left hand, basically holding down a jazz chord damps some of them in a
A slow downstroke with the thumb. This is a sforzando or emphatic way of playing a chord. Light "brushing" strokes with the fingers moving together at a near-perpendicular angle to the strings. Works equally in either direction and can be alternated for a chord tremolo chord effect. Upstrokes with one finger make a change from the standard downstroke strum. A "pinch" with the thumb and fingers moving towards each other gives a crisp effect. It is helpful to clearly articulate the topmost and bass note in the chord, as if plucking, before "following through". Rasgueado: Strumming typically done by bunching all the right hand fingers and then flicking them out in quick succession to get four superimposed strums. The rasgueado or "rolling" strum is particularly characteristic of flamenco. Turning p-a-m-i tremolo plucking into a series of downstrokes. This is a lighter version of the classic rasgueado, which uses upstrokes.
^ Snyder, Jerry (1999). Jerry Snyder's
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Apoyando Carter Family picking Rasgueado Tirando Travis
Maybelle Carter Robert Fripp Merle Travis
Outline of guitars
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