How to Strum and Develop Good Rhythm on Guitar | Will Edwards | Skillshare

How to Strum and Develop Good Rhythm on Guitar

Will Edwards, Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician

How to Strum and Develop Good Rhythm on Guitar

Will Edwards, Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician

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11 Lessons (26m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Strumming Basics

    • 3. Reading Chord Diagrams

    • 4. Strumming Downbeats

    • 5. Strumming Strong Beats

    • 6. Strumming a 4-Count

    • 7. Transitioning Chords in Time

    • 8. 12-Bar Blues Overview

    • 9. 12-Bar Blues Rhythm

    • 10. Jam Track Play-Along

    • 11. Conclusion

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About This Class

I've been teaching private music students for many years and my favorite instructional message is this: rhythm is more important than anything... even getting the notes right!  This course is a concise way to learn how to think about and practice in a way that reinforces good rhythm and timing.

You'll learn that downstrokes and upstrokes are rhythmic tools.  We'll talk about navigating rhythmic landscapes with downbeats, strong beats and ultimately practicing with a metronome to gain your best timing skills.  If you're a new guitarist and you think better rhythm will help your playing, this course is for you!

Meet Your Teacher

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Will Edwards

Artist. Creative Problem Solver. Musician


I am a full-time professional musician who has broad teaching experience with guitar & bass students in rock, blues, jazz and many other genres. I perform live on bass, guitar and keyboards.  In addition, I perform live electronic music improvisation.  I've devoted over 26 years to my own well-rounded musical education, focusing on a mastery of all aspects of modern music - from music theory to ear training; from live performance to composition and practice routines.

I specialize in bridging the gap between music and technology, focusing on using modern tools to demonstrate all aspects of music.  I compose and perform with Ableton and Push 2 and I have experience with Cubase, ProTools and Logic.  I'm extremely comfortable using web-based to... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Welcome to part 2 of my guitar basics for total beginners course and in this section we're going to be building on part 1. So part 1, if you took the course, it introduced you to tuning, how to use a metronome and by the end you were able to strum some songs and play some basic chords. In this section of the course, so this is part 2, I'm going to focus on strumming and timing. So we're going to be using the metronome to start really strengthening your rhythm and the reason for that is that this part is really designed around kind of preparing to hang out with your friends and jam out songs, or learning chord sheets off the internet, so there's favorite songs you want to learn. Rhythm is absolutely crucial. You have learned basic chords, we are going to get another overview and go a little more into detail into the cowboy chords in this second part of the course. But by the end of this part, you are going to be able to play along, jam along with a 12-bar blues jam check. So let's get started. 2. Strumming Basics: Alright, so in this section we are going to work on strumming, and this is again really basic strumming stuff. But this is for total beginners. So what we're going to do is we're going to look at three chords, G major, C major, and D major. I'm going to show you how to fret those chords, but also had a strum. So we want to talk about strumming in terms of down-strokes and upstrokes, okay? So let's look at a G chord here. I'm going to just demonstrate mainly what a down-stroke versus upstroke it. So a down-stroke is where you actually strum down, and an upstroke naturally is when you strum up. The reason these are important later on as you develop as a guitarist is because they help you keep time. They help correlate to what we call downbeat and upbeats. So this sort of simplistic idea of down-strokes and upstrokes might seem overly elementary or too basic to really be relevant. But actually developing this skill is very much a rhythmic skill. So this would be a good example of just playing a G with down-strokes and upstrokes. In a few lessons, what we're going to do is look at doing this with a metronome. So we're doing the down-strokes and upstrokes in time. In the next few lessons, I'm going to show you how to play a G chord, a C chord, and a D chord. 3. Reading Chord Diagrams: Now let's look at the chord diagram for G chord, a C major chord, and a D chord. I don't really want to spend a lot of time on this because it's very simple to read chord diagrams. I've prepared a chord diagram, cheat sheet, for you that has these common diagrams. Let me show you how to play them. So if we look at the G major chord diagram here, you'll notice that each of the dots correlates to a finger. Each of the horizontal lines correlates to a fret as if you're looking at the guitar hanging vertically on a wall. Then each vertical line is a string. So we've got a finger, we're not sure which one yet, but it is on the third fret of our sixth string. I'm going to tell you, you want to play that with your middle finger. If we look back at the diagram, you've got a finger on the second fret of the fifth string, and we're going to play that with our index finger. Finally, on the first string, you've also got a finger on the third fret. So we're going to go ahead and grab that with our ring finger. Now sometimes you'll see a diagram that looks like this where you actually have a third fret fretted on both the first and second string, in which case you want to use your ring and your pinky for that. Both of these chords are a G major chord, so you don't really have to sweat about which one to use, which one's right or wrong, they're both a G major chord. So now let's look at playing a C major chord. A C, you'll see that there is a dot on the third fret of the fifth string. A dot meaning a finger on the second fret of the fourth string, and then a finger on the first fret of the second string. So we're going to use our index finger on the first fret of the second string. We're going to use our middle finger on the second fret of the fourth string, and our ring finger on the third fret of the fifth string, and it should sound like this. You just want to play the inside four strings. You don't want to play the first or the sixth string on this chord. You can, but it will change its tonal quality. Okay. Well, the final chord we want to work on is the D major chord. You'll see that we have a finger on the second fret of the first string, third fret of the second string, and again the second fret of the third string. We're going to use our middle finger on the second fret of the first string, our ring finger on the third fret of the second string, and our index finger on the second fret of the third string, and we're going to play the bottom four strings close to the ground. We'll play the fourth, the third, the second, and the first in this chord, and it should sound like that. All right, so in the next few lessons, I'm going to show you how to play these chords and practice them in a meaningful way so you can get better at both timing and playing these chords. 4. Strumming Downbeats: Now, we want to start talking about rhythm and strumming. We're going to just use downstrokes for this first lesson, but we're also going to use our metronome. You want to load up GuitarTuna, which is the app we set up in the first section for tuning the guitar. If you look at the bottom of the app on the Tools menu, and you go to Tools, you'll see that there's also a metronome option. Under that Metronome, you're going to see the settings where you can set a tempo. You want to set your tempo to 60 beats per minute or just make sure the number says 60. Then you want to press the Play button. We'll start hearing this sound, and what you'll notice is that there's one beep or click, let's say that sounds higher pitch than the others. We have that's the highest pitch and the other three are the same. I have this set to four, 4 times, we have four cliques in a cycle, and that different sounding pitch represents the downbeat, what we call the downbeat of the measure, or the beginning of a new measure cycles. We would count them like this, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4. Now, keeping time like this is absolutely essential, this is not just some intellectual exercise, keeping time in music and understanding what beat you're on is essential, totally nonnegotiable. So you have to get good at it and metronome is the best tool to use. What we want to do here is we're going to do a downstroke on that one, so on that different sounding click and that's it. Ring the rest of the beats. You want to be able to track that one and do a downstroke. We're going to be using a G chord for this, and you can use your pick or you can use your thumb, it doesn't matter at this point. We'll start our metronome 2, 3, 4, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, only downstrokes. Listening for that 1. That's all we're doing at this point. You want to practice playing along with the metronome at 60 beats per minute, identifying with your ear which beat is 1, which is the click that sounds different. If you don't find that it's happening every fourth click, then you may have your time signature on the metronome mistakenly set to 3, 4 or 6, 8 time or some other time, you want to make sure that it's set to 4, 4, which is written as four over four, almost like it says four fourths. But that should be the default setting is 4, 4 time. You want to practice that and you can feel free to increase your speed as well and practice higher speeds if you want. In the next lesson, we're going look at doing downstrokes on 1 and 3. 5. Strumming Strong Beats: What you probably realized from the last exercise is that it's very simple. This one's going to be simple too, but it's also adding another strum. We're going to be doing a downstroke on both the one and the three. if we turn on our metronome, we have 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, and we want to strum on 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. You want to practice this with your metronome counting the one, again, we identify that because it's the click that sounds different from the others, and play on the three as well, so you won't be playing on two or four. You want to get thoroughly familiar and fluent with this process of counting and playing just downstrokes on a G chord. You can also try a C chord, 2, 3, 4, like this, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, or D chord, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. The main point here is that you want to be able to count the beats, anticipating them as well as you can, and only playing on certain beats and being able to determine that you're playing one and three is a critical skill. Now we're going to continue on with a few more strumming lessons. 6. Strumming a 4-Count: [MUSIC] In this lesson, we're going to be playing every one of the beats. So we're going to be playing down strokes on one, down on two, down on three, down on four. We're just building on this same metronome time, 60 beats per minute and we're now counting one through four, but playing on each beat like this. So we'll start our metronome two, three, four, one, two, three, four so on so forth. You only really want to be doing down strokes and you'll want to be counting out loud, I think it's something I always encourage my students to do. I think it really helps get this idea ingrained. So don't just sit there trying to do it in your head, count, even move your body, tap your foot, all of that stuff really going to help. So get into it, feel the rhythm and it'll really help you play in time. 7. Transitioning Chords in Time: Now earlier in this section, we learnt how to play a G major, C major, and D major chords, and now we're going to actually change through those chords and we're going to play just on the one, so we're going back a few lessons so we're targeting the one and we are going to be playing on a down-stroke. The difference here is that we're going to be changing chords each measure. We'll play G, two, three, four; C, two, three, four; D, two, three, four; G, two, three, four, like that. We'll turn on our metronome, we'll look for that one. We hear it; one, two, three, four;, G, two, three, four; C, two, three, four; and D, two, three, four; and G, two, three, four, just like that, and you want to practice that over and over again so that you're counting and you're changing chords. Now, I want to make clear, because of course, in watching this video, I can transition between my chords. They always sound good. You are likely, as a beginner, to find that transitioning between these chords is not nearly so easy at 60 beats per minute. They'll sound muted and buzzy, you might have, and you can't even get your fingers on there before it switches to the next chord. That's okay, just do your best. Perhaps you'll need to give yourself two measures a longer period of time where you count, one, two, three, four, one, two, before switching. Giving yourself more time like that, that's okay. The main thing is to make sure that you're adhering to some kind of timing, and not just your own timing, not just you counting to yourself, but following a metronome; and of course, if you're a little more advanced, I suppose you could use a drum machine if you're familiar with one. You can play with a drummer or a friend who is playing some kind of percussion. But the point is to learn how to respond to an external input, if you will, for what the timing should be. You want to practice changing these chords from G to C to D, and back to G. Just going round and round those three chords again and again and developing a skill with transitioning between those chords accurately. 8. 12-Bar Blues Overview: So far we've learned about down-strokes and upstroke, we've practiced with a metronome 60 beats per minute playing down-strokes on 1, then 1 and 3, then 1, 2, 3 and 4 and then ultimately going back to just playing one chord per measure on the one but switching between G, C, and D. Now, we're going to actually learn your first tune. This is not a song, this is a formula called the 12-bar blues and the way it's going to work is you're going to play, it's based on 12 bars naturally, the 12-bar blues is based on 12 bars and a bar is the same as a measure. A bar or a measure is equal to four beats. So 1, 2, 3, 4 is a bar or a measure, they're both names for the same thing. This is going to consist of 12 bars and the first four bars you're going to play G. So play 1, 2, 3, 4, bar 2, 2, 3, 4, bar 3, 2, 3, 4, bar 4, 2, 3, 4. Then for bar 5 and 6, we're going to play a C. Bar 5, 2, 3, 4, bar 6, 2, 3, and then back to G for bar 7, 2, 3, 4 and bar 8, 2, 3, 4. Now, in bar nine, we're going to play D, 2, 3, 4 to C, 2, 3 to G, and then we conclude on D. To give you a bird's-eye view I'll just play it for you quickly. We have 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and I'm going to put that up on the screen here for you so you got G, G, G, G, C, C, G, G, D, C, G, D, and that is the 12-bar blues. You want to practice playing it at 60 beats per minute with your metronome and learn again to count and transition those chords accurately. This is a slow process, so don't be discouraged if you find it difficult to keep up with 60 beats per minute and play these chords, especially the last four measures or last four bars or the 12-bar blues. We have to quickly switch from D to C to G to D. Don't feel bad if that is challenging and maybe even impossible to begin with, it will come. You got to as the old saying goes, fake it till you make it. You just try, try to keep in touch with time first, if the chord sounds terrible, let it go, just do your best, even if you have 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3. Even if you have something like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, even if that's what you wind up with, a lot of muting or maybe buzzing chords, you can't get your fingers at the right place, just scramble and do your best. I promise you that's really the best way to do it. Don't pick too much at yourself for doing each step perfectly. The one thing you do want to stick to perfectly is the timing. Get used to tracking your 12 bars, 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, actually start each bar with the number that represents that bar, so I have 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 2, 3, 4, 3, 2, 3, 4, 4, 2, 3, 4, all the way through 10 through 3, 4, 11, 2, 3, 4, 12, 2, 3, 4, back to 1, 2, 3, 4, and so on. That way I always can keep track of what measure I'm on. 9. 12-Bar Blues Rhythm: Okay, so in this lesson, I'm going to give you an overview demonstration of playing that twelve-bar blues that we learned in the last lesson. At 60 beats per minute, all downstrokes, and we're playing the same twelve-bar formulae. This is in the key of G major with the chords G, C, and D. And I'm going to play it with the metronome at 60 beats per minute, we're just going to be playing one chord per measure. In other words, a downstroke on the one beat for each measure and the downbeat for each measure. Let's get our metronome started. We want to listen for the one, which happens right here, two, three and then I get ready. One, two, three, four. Bar two, two, three, four. Bar three, two, three, four. Bar four, two. Now switching to this C two, three, four. Bar six, two, back to G, seven, two, three, four, and eight, two, three. At a D nine, two. To C, four, C, two, three. To G. Now final bar 12 is on D. Then you just repeat back to one, starting with the G, and you start the whole twelve-bar blues cycle again. That's a demonstration which you want to do. You can just play along with me in this video if you want. You can set up your own metronome and practices. It may help to write out the chords G, G, G, G, C, C, G, G, D, C, G, D. Just have it on a piece of paper in front of you. You can of course, download the chord diagrams if you need reminders on how to fret the chords. Earlier in this section, of course, we talked about which fingers to use for which of those chords. The first thing you want to do is make sure that you're tracking time correctly. Believe me, rhythm is more important than correct pitch, correct chords, anything else. You can play the wrong thing at the right time and it'll be musical. If you play the right thing at the wrong time, everything breaks down. Timing is your number one thing. Congratulate yourself if you're staying on time. That is a big success. That's the most important thing here. If you can also make your chords ring out nicely. That's a bonus. That's great for an introductory phase, that's fine. Of course, you'll get better over time. But the thing I want to make clear is that rhythm is first priority. Getting these chord transitions is second priority. That's not necessarily intuitive, but that's true and any experienced gigging musician will tell you as much. Let's continue on. 10. Jam Track Play-Along: Okay now, I want to let you know that I have created a 12 bar blues jam track and you can download it here. It's called G-Major 12 bar blues jam track and you can listen to it and play along. It's basically doing exactly what I suggested you do in the last lesson, which is to play a 12 bar blues at 60 beats per minute and you're playing G, C, and D but you are playing it in the 12 bar blues pattern. The jam track is basically just musical recording of that exact thing happening except there's some drums in there and a little bit of bass, it's a little more fun to play with, so once you download that and try and play along with it in understanding and recognizing that it's a 12 bar blues in G-Major just like we've been talking about. So use that as a practice tool, do your best to track along with it and then come back for the next lesson. [MUSIC] 11. Conclusion: Congratulations on finishing this course. We've talked about downbeats, strong beats. At the beginning, we talked about using downstrokes and upstrokes in order to practice rhythm. This whole part of the series is really focused on rhythm and building good timing. By the end of the part, I'm hoping that you were successful in playing along with the 12 bar blues jam track. I want to suggest that you go forward into part 3 of this course, where we're going to talk about the basics of soloing so you can start learning, well, how do I solo over these chord progressions that I'm learning? So if you're jamming with your friends, you can pull out a little bit of a guitar solo and improvise. That's in the next part. I hope to see you there. Thanks again for taking this course.