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How do you play the down and up strums for syncopated strumming for the guitar? Like can you start the bar with an up strum even without the rest mark? Or if the bar ends on a sixteenth note down strum, do you go back to a down strum or pick from the next bar, or do you lead with an up strum for that bar?

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    Welcome 470ronin. It looks like you have two particular questions - why not edit this question to ask about strumming, and ask another question about syncopation? – topo Reinstate Monica Feb 8 '17 at 7:59
  • There is no single right way to do what your brother is asking, but if he can give you a specific example of what he's looking at with either sheet music or audio you find or put online, you'll probably get a pretty good specific answer. In the meantime, these two questions have some relevant info. music.stackexchange.com/questions/30075/…, music.stackexchange.com/questions/52964/… – Karen Feb 10 '17 at 18:08
  • I have edited your question to clarify the key point you are asking about, and as topo suggested, you should ask the specific syncopation bit as a separate question. Karen't links, though, should have all you need. – Doktor Mayhem Feb 11 '17 at 19:31
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How do you play the down and up strums for syncopated strumming for the guitar?

There are various ways a rhythm pattern can be constructed. But if you are having trouble with a particular pattern, my recommendation is to start with a strict down up movement of your strumming hand. So yes, I would play each syncopated strum as an upstroke. Here are some practical examples:

  1. The default eighth note strum would look like this:
     1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(or) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
     D U D U D U D U
  1. If we edited that into a syncopated strum it might look like this:
     1 + 2 + 3 + 4 +
(or) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
     D   D U   U D U

(This is a classic pattern for several Eagles songs, for example.)

Here the syncopation is the missed downstroke on the third beat. In theory you could create the rhythm pattern using only downstrokes, but this would have some challenges. First, you are moving your wrist at two different speeds, which means you have to track the beat in your head, rather than feeling it with your hand movements. Secondly, you will have to play the eighth notes at twice the speed, which depending on the overall speed of the music might be difficult. So my advice would be to begin by learning the above rhythm pattern and focus on the missed beat three downstroke. The result will be two consecutive upstrokes at beat 2 and a half then 3 and a half.

Like can you start the bar with an up strum even without the rest mark?

Yes, you can start a strum pattern with an upstroke. (It's better to talk about starting a strum pattern than starting a bar. The bar in your example starts with no strum at all, because the first beat is a rest note.)

A good example is the introduction to classic rock and roll songs such as Rock around the Clock. This rhythm starts on beat 3 and a half, leading into the lyrics ("One, two, three o'clock…") on beat 1 of the following bar. I would strum it as follows:

1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + | 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 
          U D     D 

Even more than that, if I was still finding it hard to get the timing right, I would go back to beat 1 of the first bar and begin with 3 air downstrokes, so that the initial sounded upstroke was correctly positioned.

 1  +  2  +  3  +  4  +  | 1  +  2  +  3  +  4  + 
(D)   (D)   (D) U  D       D 
                         "One, two, ....

Or if the bar ends on a sixteenth note down strum...

The bar won't end that way if you construct the strum patterns as I have suggested. A strum pattern with 16th notes is simply a double up of the 8th note structure above, and the final 16th note in the bar will therefore be played as an upstroke.

...do you go back to a down strum or pick from the next bar, or do you lead with an up strum for that bar?

That depends on the sounded rhythm you want to construct. The wrist movement will always be a downstroke at the beginning of the second bar. But if you want that first beat to be a syncopation, you will create it by an air downstroke on the first 16th, and a sounded upstroke on the second 16th note.

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