05 March, 2009

HOW TO know which strings to strum for which chords

This post will be about learning which strings to strum for the different chords you play. Basically, you have to focus on the 4th, 5th and 6th string. For the sake of this post, I will refer to these strings as the bass strings.

As you all should know, the standard tuning for a guitar is EADGBE. the 6th, 5th and 4th string corresponds to the E, A and D note accordingly. REMEMBER this because it will play a part in knowing which strings to strum depending on which chord you play.

Now, let's go through the chords and I will explain why you have to strum only certain strings etc.

Note: I will be writing the chords numerically. It is to be read from left to right. The extreme left represents the 6th string, the extreme right represents the 1st string. "x" means you don't strum/play that string. "0" means you strum/play that string free (without pressing any fret). And of course, the numbers "1,2,3" etc, represents which fret to play.

The A chord written numerically looks like this - x02220. Notice the "x" on the 6th string. Now, recall the bass strings I referred to earlier on. The 5th string is an A note. That is basically why when you strum an A chord, you strum from the 5th string down.

The same can therefore be said for chords like E and D. So, for your E chord, you strum all 6 strings because the 6th string is an E note, and for D, you strum from the 4th string down because the 4th string is a D note.

The other basic rule that you can apply is that whatever your finger presses, you play. So, lets take the G for example. It is numerically written as 320033. So, we strum all 6 strings because your finger presses the G bass note (3rd fret of the 6th string)

Another example would be your C. It is written as x32010 numerically. Notice the "x" on the 6th string. It is not played because your finger is on the 3rd fret of the 5th string (which is a C note), so you strum from the 5th string down.

Yup, so that's sort of the basic rules for strumming different chords. One thing I note is that when beginners learn to play the guitar, they usually end up strumming all 6 strings. So, I hope this post has been informative. Remember, you don't have to strum all 6 strings for every chord.

If there's any chords you need to clarify which string to strum from, feel free to ask in the comments section.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

If you are playing a song how do you strum quickly while making sure that on chords such as d and c that you leave strings silent?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, it just has to be a conscious effort to not play the 6th string when you strum a C and not play the 6th and 5th string when you strum a D. You will eventually get used to it.

Anonymous said...

Can I mute it using my thumb? I've been playing for 1 year. I always mute the bass strings with my thumb. I've been practicing your only hope instrumental.. i'm now at 1st chorus. :]]

Anonymous said...

what about b which strings do you strum?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

For the B chord, there are a few ways to play it, but let me give you 2 examples on how to play a B.

1. x24442 - you have to mute the 6th string because if you play it, you will be playing an E bass note, not the B bass note (which is 2nd string 5th fret).

2. 799877 - you can strum all 6 strings because the 7th fret of the 6th string is a B note.

Anonymous said...

Hi there! I think your website is extremely useful as I literally just started playing the guitar and have no idea which strings to strum when, so I was wondering if you could tell me which strings to strum for which chord for all chords . Like

A chord - x02220
C chord - ......
Em chord - ......
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All the chords
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Thanks!

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am glad that you have found this post to be useful. The good thing is that you can probably search any guitar website and it will show you for which chords, which strings you should strum.

I will probably do a post in the future which will show a list of all the chords I know/can think of.

Be sure to check back to see if I have posted it up.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi hi (: Me again! Thanks for replying so soon! Actually, Ive been looking all day long to find numeric chord charts which show the chords like you have, example : x0987x
but I havent found any. I was thinking maybe you could recommend a website which provides them for all chords to me? And Im really looking forward to seeing your list because your very talented and a good teacher (:

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

you can try this site: http://www.gootar.com/folder/guitar.html

It might not be in numeric format, but at least it shows you graphically.

Anonymous said...

so just to clarify for the a minor chord you strum all chords except the top string?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous, yes, for the A minor chord, you do not need to strum the 6th string (top string).

Anonymous said...

Do you strum all 6 chords when playing F?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

yes, you can strum all 6 strings when playing F.

melany said...

Ive been playing on and off but just learned frm you about the pattern for strumming.this helps a lot. im interested more on plucking.is it same pattern also like strumming for the chords?thanks

daniel said...

Hi Melany, for plucking, there are also certain patterns. You can read this post for an example: http://basicsofguitar.blogspot.sg/2010/03/plucking-exercise.html

and

http://basicsofguitar.blogspot.sg/2010/03/different-plucking-patterns.html

Anonymous said...

so im kinda confuse...so by knowing just the chords you are able to play any song???

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

this post is more of knowing which strings to strum when you play a chord. For example, if you were to play a D chord, you should not strum all 6 strings, instead, you only need to strum 4 strings.

As for your question, if you do know how to play all chords, technically, you can play any song. You just need to figure out which chords the song is using.

Anonymous said...

Hey hey!! I would like to know, if you can help me! I struggle a lot with the ryth of any song. All my songs sounds the same! Any advice? Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Can u explain me how the notes work like the half note and all that please ...

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am not sure what you mean by half note. Perhaps you are referring to semitones?

moeed ahmed said...

can we strum only last 4 strings for A min and A maj?

daniel said...

hi moeed ahmed,
you should play from the 5th string down when you are playing an A or Am. The reason is because the 5th string is an A note, so it should be included when strumming.

Anonymous said...

can we strum only last 4 strings for Amin and A maj?

moeed ahmed said...

thanx. just want to clarify one thing. is it a rule to use all the strings mentioned on chord diagram like 5 for amin and 4 for dmaj? eg if we shift from dmaj to amaj, sometimes the A string is missed out while strumming and playing just the last four strings gives almost a similar sound. can we miss the open fifth and sixth string while strumming?

daniel said...

Hi moeed ahmed,

if you miss out the 5th string while changing from the D to A chord, I guess it's still alright as it won't sound bad or anything.

However, if you were to strum all 6 strings for the D or A chord, it won't sound too good.

I know it can be hard to know which strings to strum for which chord, but trust me, with practice, you will get the hang of it.

Anonymous said...

This is really dumb but I'm just starting out on the guitar and I wanted to ask, when you strum upwards how do you avoid hitting unwanted strings or do you just strum all of them when strumming upstrokes?

daniel said...

Hi Anonymous,

what you can do is that when you strum upwards, strum only the 1st few strings. You do not need to up-strum all 6 strings.

For myself, I usually only up-strum the 1st 3 strings.

Hope it helps!