Three Basic Strums for the Cuatro

Course: Cuatro Rhythm and Strumming Lessons



There are three basic strumming techniques for the cuatro, a traditional Venezuelan stringed instrument. Each of these techniques involves using different parts of the hand and fingers to create unique sounds. These three basic forms of strumming with the playing hand are necessary for all cuatristas. These should be dominated with perfection.

The descending & ascending strums are found within all rhythms in Venezuela and most international forms of music. They are fundamental to learning how to play string instruments. In the most basic form, the accented strum helps us diversify and give a special touch to any given rhythm. This accented strum can be performed with all fingers in the playing hand. There are several kinds, such as the “floreo” which can be seen in other lessons as you progress.

These strums are defined below with the arrows illustrated. You will find these arrows as you continue with the lessons and familiarize yourself with the rhythms.

Rhythm Rhythm Rhythm

Downward Strum

The first technique is the downward strum, which is executed by using the index finger to strum the strings in a downward motion. This technique allows for fast and accurate playing. To perform a downward strum, turn your wrist in the direction of the strings and let your hand follow through using its own weight.

Upward Strum

The second technique is the upward strum, which is done using the thumb and a turning movement of the wrist. The thumb should be pointing upwards and using its nail to play the strings. Cuatro players commonly use this technique.

Strum Using All Fingers

The third technique is the strum using all fingers. To execute this technique, line up all of your fingers so that the fingertips are at the same level and strum the chords. This creates a powerful and vibrant sound. You can do this by first lining up your pinky finger and having the rest of the fingers follow. Make sure to keep your fingers curved as if you were holding a baseball, with the exception of your thumb.

To practice these strumming techniques, you can try playing the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords of B Minor in an Up-Down-Down fashion (the final down being a strum using all fingers). You can also choose to do this with open strings instead of marked chords. With a little practice, you’ll be able to master these basic strums and add some flair to your cuatro playing.

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