In music, strumming is a way of playing a stringed instrument such as a guitar, ukulele, or mandolin. A strum or stroke is a sweeping action where a finger or plectrum brushes over several strings to generate sound. On most stringed instruments, strums are typically executed by a musician's designated strum hand (typically the musician's dominant hand, which is often responsible for generating the majority of sound on a stringed instrument), while the remaining hand (referred to as the fret hand on most instruments with a fingerboard) often supports the strum hand by altering the tones and pitches of any given strum.
Strums are often contrasted with plucking, as a means of vibrating an instrument's strings. In plucking, a specific string or designated set of strings are individually targeted to vibrate, whereas in strumming, a less precise targeting is usually used. Compared to other plucking techniques, any group of strings brushed in a single sweep by a plectrum could be considered a strum due to the plectrum's less precise string group targeting (however, a plectrum might simultaneously pluck a small group of strings without being considered a strum). In contrast, a musician could utilize a technique with more precise string group targeting (such as a fingerstyle or fingerpick technique) to pluck all the strings on a stringed instrument at once and this would still be considered a pluck, not a strum.
There are a variety of methods for writing strum notation.
The pattern most typical of rock and related styles is:
The final upstroke is sometime omitted. This pattern is often called "Old Faithful", or when played on ukulele, the "Island Strum".
Examples of other strumming patterns include:
A simple eight-to-a-bar (8 eighth notes) rhythm is known as "straight eights" as opposed "swung eights", in which each pair are played in a rhythm that resembles the first and third notes in a triplet.
The fretting hand can also mute the strings on the fretboard to damp a chord, creating staccato and percussive effects. In reggae and ska, a few staccato "chops" are played per bar. In funk rhythm playing, the strumming hand keeps a fairly steady motion in 16th notes, while the left hand, basically holding down a jazz chord damps some of them in a syncopated pattern.
Some of the many possible fingerstyle strums include