I saw a video in youtube where they told us to play only the bottom 3 strings while upstroking and all 6 strings while downstroking. The reason given was that the upstrokes will sound slightly higher pitched compared to all the downstrokes and that difference makes it sound good. (Of course which strings we actually play depends from chord to chord, but in general this is the recommendation that was given).

Since I am new to playing guitar I don't know whether this is the correct way to play or not. Is this a recommended way to play the upstrokes?


The short answer: It depends on how you want to sound, what you are playing, and the tones you are looking for.

The long answer: Upstrokes hitting a varying number of strings is really a matter of creative preference. If the sound fits the song, then play it. Think of it like this: when you play a 'power' barre chord you only play the root, fifth, and the octave. You get that specific trio every time--which is pretty versatile across any backing melodies you want to compose. When you start adding more strings to the barre, you get more tonal options and voicings. When you play an upstroke you could potentially think of it the same way. You may only want three strings of a particular chord, or four, or even more to add color to what you are playing. It's by no means restricted to a steadfast rule.

I'll shut up and let someone more knowledgeable in theory take over and give you a better explanation, but that's more or less how a self-taught guy (me) thinks about it.


For about anything with guitar, there are no "right answers". There are just actions and results. If it doesn't get you the right result, then try another action.

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings play so that she's strumming and mostly hitting the low and high strings, much like you talk, while he plays the melody and harmony lines on the D and G strings in the middle, and this is how they keep out of each other's way.

So, I say it's as good as any and better than most.


There are many different styles of strumming. The standard country/bluegrass "boom-chicka-boom" (bass note, downstroke, upstroke, bass note....) tends to only hit the upper strings on the upstroke.

Folkie-style up-and-down stroke without hitting any single strings tend to involve more strings...


The key is that unless you are trying to sound exactly like someone else or in a style, you play however you want and whatever sounds good.

For me, it totally depends on a number of factors. In a full band, I will typically play the D, G and B strings, because we have a female singer a lead who plays higher on the neck and a bass so I need to keep the middle tones full as well. If I'm trying to add strength to the melody, I will play what ever string has the root in it.

Try playing around with the same chord and seeing how even just a simple chord has a different feel when playing different parts in different patterns. The number of ways that you can strum is way larger than the number of chords you can play.

Have fun!

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