Your Last Strum can Suck

When beginners are learning to play a chord progression, it can be difficult to move your fingers to get to the next chord in time. This is especially true if it necessitates a large movement in the fingers, like open position chords (as opposed to barre chords).

A little trick I like to suggest to students is to fudge the last strum of a chord so that your fingers can get to the next chord in time. What this means is that the last strum ends up being strummed as mostly open strings while your fingers use that time to transition to the next chord.

There are a few warnings that come with this trick though. One is that the song shouldn’t be too slow or the open strings may cause a dissonance that lasts too long and is noticeable. In this case, the song should be slow enough that you wouldn’t need the extra time to get to the next chord. Just play it as it’s meant to be played, no tricks. You can do it. Another precaution is to try and avoid this if the fudged strum lands on a stronger beat. For example, if the chord change happens as a rhythmic anticipation, like say on the “and” of beat 4, the botched strum might be played right on beat 4. Depending on the context this will rhythmically accent the strum and may become too noticeable.

I just want to say that I discourage relying on this trick too heavily and being lazy about learning how to do the chord changes properly. I generally teach this trick so that students don’t lose motivation early on while learning chord progressions.

Guys like Kurt Cobain did this frequently in his guitar playing! It’s especially noticeable on his clean guitar playing. If he can get away with it, so can we.


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