The Learning Curve of Various Styles of Guitar (Part 2): Strumming & Singing

Being a “strum & sing” player is pretty much the entry level for being a guitar player.

I have to say that the first time I knew I needed to play the guitar was when a family friend showed up at our house with her guitar. I watched her move her fingers around the neck (chords) and make the sound with her other hand (strum) and it was the most magical thing I had ever seen. I knew I had to learn how to do that. I started teaching myself from a book, and practicing two to three hours a day. I learned it rather quickly.

This ability to strum and sings is what I call “first base” in guitar. Anyone can get to first base, but not everyone can get there by themselves. Many folks do need the guidance of a teacher to learn to strum, sing, and most importantly, change chords smoothly.

However, many students, even though they take lessons, fail to learn how to strum and sing, and changing chords smoothly without losing the beat. This is because of incompetent teachers… teachers that simply do not know how to deal with someone who seems to be completely unable to move their fingers into the necessary shapes of each chord and move them in time with the beat. The problems always has to do with excessive tension generated in the large muscles of the shoulder and upper body from improper attempts to utilize undeveloped finger and hand muscles. “Correct Practice” is the key to eliminating this tension.

Another overlooked problem for beginners is this: it is exceedingly difficult to sing a rhythmically complex melody over chords that are being played to a steady, basic beat. Teachers take this skill for granted and do not appreciate its complexity, and do not break it down in the proper way for students. I do this very thing in my book, “The Path Level One: Chords & Rhythm”.

I want everyone to know that they can learn to strum and sing easily if they practice correctly. The methods I have created in “The Principles” and “The Path” work for everyone who uses them; no exceptions. There is no longer any reason for anyone to not learn to strum and sing well. The only reason for failure now is simply not knowing about, or not properly using these methods.

When we understand how to practice, becoming a “strummer & singer” can be accomplished in about 3 – 6 months with about 20 min to a half hour a day practice time.

If you are having trouble getting to first base with guitar, I strongly suggest you watch these free videos. They will explain to you why you are having trouble getting somewhere with guitar, and what to do about it.

Free Videos to watch:

  • Intro to The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar
  • Your First Perfect Lesson
  • The Secret of Changing Chords

The Bottom Line on Strumming & Singing:

Time Required: 3 – 6 months with about 20 minutes-30 minutes a day of Correct Practice.

Tools Required: the basic first position chords, basic strum patterns

Recommended Resources:

Advanced Strumming & Singing:

After learning the basic chords that are played in the first position on the guitar, many players are happy to just keep learning more songs that use those chords. However, sooner or later they will run into songs that require more complex chords, and many of those will be some type of bar chord played up the neck.

Learning these bar chords presents a new technical challenge that stops the progress of many players. Again, ineffective teaching and practice methods are to blame. The correct and best way of learning bar chords is given in my essay “Easy Bar Chords”, which for many who have read it, has enabled them to do bar chords for the first time in their lives.

If we practice bar chords correctly, we can handle them easily with another 6 to 9 months of reasonably consistent practice, spending 20 min to a half hour a day. After that period of vertical growth, we have the possibility of continuous horizontal growth afterwards, learning more songs and using the same chords and strum patterns. Other techniques such as bass runs and hammers and pulls will make our playing even more attractive.

Whether we stick with the basic chords, or continue on to learn the more complex chord shapes, once we learn them, we’ve got them. Like riding a bike, once you can do them, you do not lose your ability to handle chords as time goes on even if you do not play for awhile.

Oh, one more thing – there are two ways to go about learning the advanced aspects of strumming and singing. You can do it alongside learning to read music, or you can work from tabs. Obviously, working from tabs is quicker, and learning to read will give you more musical understanding as time goes by.

I recommend you do both if you have the time. If not, go with tabs. Just make sure your technique is good as you learn these new and more complex movements. Your left hand should be trained with the Left Hand Foundation from “The Principles” (see video). Once you can do the movements taught here, all bass runs and other types of scale work will become easy.

The Bottom Line on Advanced Strumming & Singing:

Time Required: A year or so beyond the initial start up time to reach “First Base Strumming & Singing”

Tools Required: the basic movable (barre chords) basic strum patterns, bass runs.

Recommended Resources:


If we wish to expand our abilities to include fingerpicking as well as strumming our chords, that is much more demanding. Players who have acquired too much tension in the arms and hands from bad practice will find it nearly impossible to control their fingers as they try to learn fingerpicking.

The right hand exercises in “The Principles of Correct Practice for Guitar” will give you real control and independence in each finger, which will open the door to real power and speed with the right hand fingers. From there, the “Guitar Principles Classical/Fingerstyle Course” will give you a wonderful foundation in all the basic right hand techniques and patterns you will need. Then, you can easily learn whatever you wish, and will be able to effectively use all the other resources for fingerstyle/classical guitar on the market.

If we know how to practice correctly, wonderful fingerpicking ability can be gained in 6 months to a year with about 45 minutes to an hour a day.

The Bottom Line on FingerPicking:

Time Required: 6 months to a year, 45min -1hr a day

Tools Required: ability to control each finger independently of the others, keeping hand and arm tension to a minimum. Learning a number of standard picking patterns and runs to use between chords.

Recommended Resources: