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Precision Strumming (Guitar Lesson)

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Mark Lincoln

Precision Strumming

Today, Mark takes in depth look at strumming. He explains pressure and positioning among other technical aspects.

Taught by Mark Lincoln in Basic Guitar with Mark Lincoln seriesLength: 23:57Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (02:47) Strumming
- Warm-up the hands.
- Stretch the wrists.
- Play the major and minor open chords.
- Warm up your strumming muscles by relaxing the wrists and letting the pick flow over the strings.
- Play the E major chord in the "new" way and play the type 1 barre chords.
- Play the A major chord in the "new" way and play the type 2 barre chords.
- Practice the "slanting A" technique.
- Practice the type 1 minor barre chords.
- Practice the type 2 minor barre chords.
- Play all of the type 1 mini-barre chords.
- Play all of the type 2 mini-barre chords.
- Review and practice quantitative and qualitative techniques.
- Review last week's exercises.
- Practice "wrist warming."
Strumming is a rudimentary part of playing the guitar, and learning some of the various ways to go about it can make you a more diverse and well-rounded guitar player over time. When most of us start out, we have the tendency to strum all of the strings regardless of the chord we're playing. This is a natural tendency in lieu of the fact that we're in the process of learning so much information at once, that inevitably the accuracy of our strums might fall by the wayside. Nevertheless, it is important to become aware of the sound that we're producing from our guitars and make the necessary adjustments to our strums in order to create the most beautiful and refined sound as possible. In today's lesson, we're going to take a closer look at strumming and some techniques that will hopefully help you become a more precise and consistent guitar player.

What is strumming? Well, in its most simple and fundamental form strumming is the act of brushing one's fingers or pick across the strings of an instrument e.g. the guitar, right? But as you know by this point in your musical education, there’s a lot more than meets the eye to strumming effectively!
Chapter 2: (03:41) Under Pressure Under Pressure
Perhaps one of the most important facets of strumming the guitar and making it sound "pleasing" is the pressure one applies to the strings as one strums. Too little and you can’t hear it, too much and you may be crashing across the strings and producing an undesirable sound. So how do you find the right balance of pressure? Simple! Practice and experiment! Only by playing will you be able to find the appropriate amount of pressure necessary to produce the optimum sound from your particular guitar and your particular gauge of strings. Yes, the amount of pressure can change as a function of the instrument and strings (and style of playing too for that matter) especially if you use lighter strings. Lighter strings require more sensitivity. Ultimately though, it is of the utmost importance that one does not over-strum in order to produce the most refined sound that the instrument is capable of producing.
Chapter 3: (09:45) Positioning Exercise 1
Play Cadd9 using the "down-down-up-down" strumming pattern.

C add 9

Make sure to stretch your wrist first (see previous wrist relaxation exercises) and strum from the wrist. Yes, your forearm will be moving, but the bulk of the movement should come from the wrist itself. Watch me in the video for more on this. Relax your fingers and wrist and allow the pick to flow over the strings. Hold the pick so that it's comfortable and loose in the fingers, but not so loose that the pick falls out. There is a balance that you will need to find for yourself, and part of that balance is finding the right pick for you. Some people do better with light picks, but most of the veteran guitar strummers I know use medium or heavy picks. I like the Jim Dunlop medium gray picks, because they tend to be easier to hold, yet are malleable enough to accommodate the strings. This is an extremely important point, because the pick is the only tool between you and the strings! If the pick is too hard (hard picks are generally better for picking, leads etc.), you may be prone to crash over the strings and loose the subtly that you need to produce a sweet sound. A pick that is too light may not produce the volume you need, and you may continually break picks in an attempt to increase your volume. So, pick selection is important!!! Experiment with different thicknesses until you find the pick that works best for you.

Alright, so assuming you've got a hold of a pick that suffices, at least for the moment, strum the Cadd9 chord. Focus on playing softly and listen carefully to the sound that you are producing from the guitar. How does it sound? Are you getting a nice sound from the instrument or does it sound as if your pick is grating and sliding over the strings abruptly? Some people have problems playing an upstroke in a particular rhythm and sometimes this can be caused by not allowing the pick to play on its alternate side. In other words, once the pick finishes its journey downward, the other side of the pick should be pressed against the strings. Both sides of the pick should be employed. In the video, I'll show you in detail how this should look and how to effectively use the pick so that both sides of the pick are used equally (in a down-up strum or snap-strum). Holding the pick more loosely between your fingers can help to remedy the problem.

As I've mentioned in numerous previous lessons, how you position your strum hand will dictate which strings you strum as well as the accuracy and finesse of the strum itself. And once you have a good handle on playing chords, you will hopefully be able to focus at least a little more on your strum hand and the manner in which you position it in relation to the strings. Of additional import is your pick work and your ability to manage the pick effectively as we discussed in the previous page. All of these facets combined will help you to become a better strummer and subsequently, a better guitar player. Check this out!

In the next series of exercises position your strum hand specifically in relation to the strings that are being held down in each chord. Focus on keeping your strum hand in place and in control so that only the strings indicated are being strummed.

Play the A5 chord:

Exercise 2
Place your strum hand right at the D-string with your pick resting on the string itself. Keeping a minimal amount of distance between your pick and the string(s) you intend to strum can help to eliminate error and sloppiness in your strums. Using the strum from Exercise 1, strum only the D and G-strings. Hopefully you noticed that I indicated that only two strings should be played. Yes, a power chord is only technically a diad and not a full chord. Make sure that you are only strumming the two strings indicated and strumming primarily from the wrist. Keep your forearm motion limited and focus on relaxing and playing from the wrist. Play the strum slowly at first until you get a good feel for strumming only two strings at a time. Then, increase the tempo as you get more comfortable.

Exercise 3
Play this Asus2 chord:


Place your strum hand again right at the D-string with your pick resting on the string. Strum the D, G, and B strings. Since you will be strumming a downstroke first, it will be helpful for you to keep the pick in proximity to the string that you are striking first - in this case, the D. If you were starting your rhythm with an upstroke, you could rest your pick on the G or B strings. It's always good to have an awareness of your starting point in the strum sequence so that you are in close proximity to the strings. Again, limit your arm motion and focus on fully relaxing your wrist.
Chapter 4: (07:44) Circles
Exercise 4

Play the open A major chord:


Repeat Exercise 3. Now however, you are free to strum all of the top four strings: D, G, B and E. Try to avoid strumming the A and low E strings if you can by keeping your strum hand in close proximity to the high strings. What have you noticed so far about these exercises? Have you been able to control your strum hand and keep it from straying away from the strings that you are targeting? Control of the strum hand comes with practice and focus. Also, as you gain more control over your strumming hand, you become free to focus your attention on nailing chord changes with your fretting hand.

Exercise 5
Go through the same process outlined above. This time, use a series of C chords:




Start by playing only the A and D strings and work your way up to playing the A, D, G, and B strings. Remember to relax your wrist and really focus on allowing the pick to flow over the strings. Gradually expand the distance that you are allowing your strum hand to move to accommodate the number of strings you will be strumming. Try this exercise with other chords as well, and see how you can apply this technique in other scenarios.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Supplemental Learning Material


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

socalrockrsocalrockr replied on March 6th, 2015

Great lesson on double string strumming ala Stevie Ray Vaughn>Soul to Soul.You are dead on>practice,practice,practice,go slow..then build up your speed once you are able to develop ones' accuracy,pitch.I'm there,thanks to you and JamPlay.BTW chord substitution(going from A to Asus2)opens endless doors whatever chord you are playing.Awesome instructer.

mennomenno replied on September 28th, 2011

I still strugle after 3 years with the strumming. especially on electric, it sounds harsh and to loud. I wish there was a better way to learn this quicker. not sure what iam doing wrong

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on October 6th, 2011

Hey Menno! Please read my articles on the site under the titles Guide to strum Mastery and also tune in to my chats if you have the chance....I know I can help you:) ML

kerryokiekerryokie replied on August 10th, 2011

Thanks for this lesson. Strumming is hard for me. I have to remind myself time and time again to relax my wrist. I especially have trouble with the up motion. Thanks for helping me clarify these important concepts. This is a lesson I'll repeat

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on August 20th, 2011

Thanx Kerry great to hear from you:) ML

patsendpatsend replied on December 10th, 2009

Bravo Mark tout en finesse (all very precise and adapted). keep goin on. merci

marie115marie115 replied on September 22nd, 2009

Thanks for a great lesson Mark! I have been looking for right hand lessons. The exercises are just what I needed.

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on September 24th, 2009

Hi Marie how are you? I'm really glad that I and Jamplay can provide the stuff you need to progress and be a better guitar player....keep it up and rock on! Tahnks! Mark

anmol100anmol100 replied on September 22nd, 2009

i love this lesson it helped me alot!!! You are one of my favorite teachers!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on September 24th, 2009

Hi Anmol thanks for the great feedback and for the're one of my favorite members! Rock on my friend! Mark

eguitardudeeguitardude replied on September 20th, 2009

Great lesson Mark...This is the info I have been looking for!

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on September 20th, 2009

Hey Dude what's up? Thanks and great to hear from you brother! Rock on!!! Mark

mritalian55mritalian55 replied on September 17th, 2009

Good lesson as ususual. Thanks Mark

Mark.LincolnMark.Lincoln replied on September 18th, 2009

Hey Rit thanks and great to hear from you! Mark

Basic Guitar with Mark Lincoln

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Learning the basics of the guitar, the building blocks if you will, is an extremely important step in learning and mastering the guitar. This series is all about the basics.

Lesson 1

Guitar Basics

This lesson is all about the basics. Mark explains guitar parts, holding the guitar, and more.

Length: 13:12 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Tuning, Gear, and Chords

Mark begins by discussing equipment every guitarist should own. Then, he introduces chords and proper tuning methods.

Length: 17:28 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Chords and Strumming

Mark finishes his discussion of the "open" chords. He applies these chords to basic rhythm and strumming concepts.

Length: 17:33 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Minor Chords and More

Mark reviews the major chords and introduces the minor chords. He also covers strumming techniques in greater depth.

Length: 25:48 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Expanding Chords

Mark introduces a few more minor chords. He also provides a monster chord exercise.

Length: 16:36 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Strumming Exercises

Mark Lincoln continues his discussion of chords and strumming. He introduces several new exercises in this lesson.

Length: 19:30 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Music Theory and Barre Chords

Mark covers several topics in this lesson. He explains scales and barre chords. He also demonstrates how to find notes on the fretboard.

Length: 21:45 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 8

E Shape Barre Chords

Mark Lincoln covers E shaped barre chords in greater depth. Mark refers to these chords as "Type 1" barre chords.

Length: 15:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

A Shape Barre Chords

Mark covers the A Shape / Type 2 barre chords in greater depth.

Length: 17:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Minor Barre Chords

Mark introduces minor barre chords that utilize the shape of the "open" Em chord.

Length: 13:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 11

A Minor Shape Barre Chords

Mark introduces minor barre chords based on the shape of the "open" Am chord. He refers to these chords as "Type 2 Minor" barre chords.

Length: 12:36 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Mini Barre Chord

Mark demonstrates abbreviated versions of the "Type 1" and "Type 2" barre chords. He calls these "mini barre" chords.

Length: 17:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 13

A Shape Mini Barre

Mark teaches the "mini barre" version of the A major shaped barre chord. He also explains dissonance.

Length: 20:29 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

Minor Mini Barre Chords

Mark Lincoln applies mini-barre chord concepts to minor chords.

Length: 12:28 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Guitar Technique

Mark Lincoln explains essential components of guitar technique.

Length: 15:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 16

Guitar Dynamics

Mark Lincoln explains how dynamics can enhance your playing. He covers topics such as volume, tempo, rests, and more.

Length: 27:48 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Transistion Strums

Mark Lincoln explains more about guitar technique. This time around he introduces "transition strums" and continues his discussion of liquid chords.

Length: 26:12 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 18

Harmonic Technique

Mark Lincoln explains what harmonics are and how they are played.

Length: 15:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Expanding Liquid Chords

Mark Lincoln expands on the concept of liquid chords. He explains new chord variations and how they can be changed in mid-strum.

Length: 16:21 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Spicing up Chords

Mark demonstrates how chord progressions can be spiced up by adding hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Length: 12:21 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 21

Chord Fingering

Mark explains how chord fingerings must be altered when applying "liquid chord" concepts. He also provides a few new "liquid chord" exercises.

Length: 11:10 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 22

Precision Strumming

Mark returns to the land of chords. This time around, he provides an exercise that contains four variations on the A chord.

Length: 14:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 23

D to D in Six Steps

Mark provides a chord progression that shifts from one D chord to another in six steps.

Length: 15:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 24

Chord Voicings and Construction

Mark delves deeper into chord construction and alternate chord voicings.

Length: 13:36 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 25

Quantitative and Qualitative Changes

Mark tests your guitar knowledge with a pop quiz. Then, he discusses quantitative and qualitative changes.

Length: 22:54 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 26

Quantitative and Qualitative Review

In the 26th installment of his basic guitar series, Mark reviews the quantitative and qualitative changes he presented in lesson 25.

Length: 17:34 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 27

Rhythm and Guitar

Mark provides exercises designed to make you a better rhythm player.

Length: 0:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 28

Expanded Rhythm Exercise

Mark Lincoln expands on the rhythm exercise from lesson 27. This time around he incorporates several C based chords.

Length: 14:31 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 29

Hand Structure

Mark discusses proper playing technique. He provides a few exercises that facilitate right hand mechanics.

Length: 17:02 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 30

Cadd9 and Dsus2

Mark provides an exercise that features two new chords - Cadd9 and Dsus2.

Length: 0:00 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 31

Finger Glue and Flexibility

In the 31st lesson, Mark discusses his "finger glue" technique. This technique improves speed and accuracy.

Length: 21:31 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 32

Reviewing Chord Changes

Mark takes a step back in lesson 32 to explain how to make quick and accurate chord changes.

Length: 22:14 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 33


Mark explains how to use the slide technique between chords.

Length: 19:24 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 34

Keeping Time While Playing

Mark reviews qualitative and quantitative changes. He explains how to keep time while performing these changes.

Length: 21:17 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 35

A Minor Progression

Mark discusses qualitative and quantitative changes within an A minor progression.

Length: 19:56 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 36

Chord Transistions

Mark Lincoln discusses several techniques that can be used when transitioning between chords.

Length: 21:43 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 37

Chord Transistions Revisited

In this lesson, Mark once again covers the subject of chord transitions. This time around, he focuses on barre chords and includes several helpful exercises.

Length: 23:25 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 38

Playing Individual Notes

In lesson 38, Mark discusses how playing single notes rather than chords can spice up your playing.

Length: 22:56 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 39

Rocking Out

Lesson 39 is all about rocking out. Mark discusses some tips to take your playing to the next level.

Length: 18:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 40

Slash Chords

Lesson 40 takes a deeper look at slash chords. Mark discusses why they're called slash chords, and how they are formed.

Length: 14:42 Difficulty: 2.0 FREE
Lesson 41

Strumming from the Wrist

In lesson 41, Mark reviews the warm-up section and provides new tips on playing adequately from the wrist.

Length: 22:09 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 42

Raising the Barre

Mark builds further on barre chord techniques and liquid chords.

Length: 17:24 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 43

Building on Your Chord Knowledge

In lesson 43, Mark discusses additional skills related to learning and playing chords, specifically "liquification" of chords.

Length: 20:42 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 44

Experiment With Playing

Lesson 44 is all about trying new things. Mark discusses experimenting with your playing in order to take it to the next level.

Length: 17:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 45


In this lesson, Mark once again talks about changing up chord derivatives to create a more unique sound.

Length: 20:56 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 46

Shaping the Hands

In lesson 46, Mark explains how to maximize your options by maintaining chord shapes while playing.

Length: 21:44 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 47

Precision Strumming

Today, Mark takes in depth look at strumming.

Length: 23:57 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 48

Shine Like the Sun

Mark Lincoln teaches an original song entitled "Shine Like the Sun."

Length: 18:59 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 49

Changing Chords : Accuracy and Speed

Mark teaches some useful information on how to mix postures, "finger glue," and techniques to make your chord changes speedy and more effective.

Length: 30:56 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 50

Play Along with Mulitple Chord Voicings

In this lesson, Mark guides you through the world of alternate chord voicings. He teaches several shapes and shows how they can be used to enhance your playing.

Length: 23:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 51

Understanding Liquified Chords

Mark brings us a very appealing aspect to better understand the guitar. With his explanation of "liquified" chords, mark will explain how to move up and down the guitar to create different chord voicing.

Length: 25:32 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only

About Mark Lincoln View Full Biography Mark Lincoln was born in S. California but was raised near Portland Oregon in a town called Beaverton. When he was twelve years old, he began his journey into the realm of the creative by composing poetry and was later published in a journal called "In Dappled Sunlight." He wrote for four years until his older sister blessed him with his first guitar, an old beat-up nylon stringed classical guitar. Mark played that guitar for five years, continuing to compose his own lyrics and starting the process of matching his own words with chords that he was learning on the guitar. He learned to play chords from his friends and from music books that he both bought and borrowed. Mark cited his four biggest influences, at that point at least, as The Who, Led Zeppelin, Jethro Tull, The Rolling Stones.

Mark cites his most current influences as Radiohead, U2, older music by REM, and Peter Gabriel amongst others. He performs with two acoustic guitars, one being a six-string M-36 Martin with a three-pieced back for increased bass response, and a Guild Twelve-string which is his most recent acquisition. Mark is fond of saying that the twelve-string guitar is better because you get two guitars for the price of one, but he still plays his Martin equally as much and with the same passion.

Mark ended up in Fort Collins Colorado where he currently lives, works as a Marriage and Family Therapist, and continues to write, teach and perform music. He currently performs with a group called "Black Nelson" as well as with a number of other seasoned professional musicians including his cousin David, a virtuoso lead-guitar player. Mark has performed in many of the smaller venues in Denver and Boulder, as well as some of the larger ones including the Fox Theatre, The Boulder Theatre, Herman's Hideaway, and also at The Soiled Dove where he opened for Jefferson Starship as a soloist. Some of Mark's originals are also available for your listening pleasure on MySpace.

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