In Strumming vs Out Strumming

All strummers welcome!

In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby Rose K » Thu Sep 28, 2017 1:31 pm

Hi, I got my first MD 11 days ago. I have a very basic question regarding strumming. Are there any reasons to favor in strumming vs out strumming or vice versa? TIA

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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby MikeSz » Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:05 pm

Honestly, for me, I don't think it really matters which way you begin the strum pattern; in or out - whatever is most comfortable/natural. For me, I always begin a strum pattern by strumming out (strum away from me). Many pieces will suggest a strum pattern, but in the end, it's whatever works best for you. Try experimenting with both ways and see which seems to 'fit' the tune best. Just my two kopeks worth
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby dholeton » Thu Sep 28, 2017 2:17 pm

Wow, 11 days ago. Congratulations, now you're on your way to learning all things dulcimer

As for strumming, for me, I try to strum out or at least hit the melody strings (or strum out hitting the melody strings first) when it's important to hear the melody note. If I'm just playing all three (or four) strings as a chord (and don't need to hear a melody note), strumming in or strumming out is just how I feel at that moment in the tune.

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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby KenH » Thu Sep 28, 2017 7:09 pm

Welcome to our wacky and wonderful world!

For something over 30 years, I was an "outie-only" strummer. Then one day I accidentally back strummed and repeated it; and I now strum probably 40% in-and-out, and 60% out-only. Whatever works for you and the song you're playing.
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby Karenb » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:20 am

Hi Rose. Welcome to the dulcimer. I wish you the same years of pleasure as it has given me. Know there is no one way to play the dulcimer. I agree with the other posters re: doing what's comfortable. One observations that has guided me over the years...I am typically an out strummer. But the ear tends to hear two things more clearly: the last note played, and the highest note played. So when an important melody note comes up--particularly when it is held for more than one beat, I often choose to strum in to take advantage of the ear's tendencies.

My best advice is to experiment and play what sounds best to your ear. Enjoy!
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby strumelia » Sat Sep 30, 2017 2:50 pm

I'm dominantly an 'in strummer'. But whichever direction you choose to make your dominant notes/beats, you will get GOOD at it with practice and time. The other thing is that as you get better, you'll be able to adapt your strumming rhythm to take advantage of both in strums and out strums. Songs don't always have the same types of rhythms, and some really interesting songs will have syncopated rhythm- and you'll need to be nimble with your in/out strums to smoothly play such fun rhythms. Don't get stuck in a rut where you can only play a standard bum-ditty bum-ditty rhythm. Try playing around with your strumming rhythm, and your emphasis on alternating in/out strums in various ways... it can be fun to experiment and it will really help your playing get better quicker!
Here are some suggestions for playing around with strums and rhythms in a fun and easy way:
https://dulcimer-noter-drone.blogspot.com/2010/02/many-new-players-understandably.html
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby Rose K » Tue Oct 03, 2017 2:23 pm

Thanks to all for the advice. I will experiment with which I like better.

I have a couple of follow-up questions. When you play a song, should all the strums on the beat be in the same direction? Also, when playing a syncopated rhythm, can you just pause before strumming or should you keep your pick in constant motion and air strum when you don't want to hit the strings? https://youtu.be/wb0toI2i9_I?t=7m19s
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby Acmespaceship » Tue Oct 03, 2017 4:16 pm

Yes to the constant motion and air strumming. It helps you keep the beat. As you get used to it, it really does help to avoid those moments when your brain short-circuits and you forget what direction you're going. Not that I've ever done that! :oops:

Out-in, out-in, out-in, out-in... (or in-out, in-out, in-out, in-out...)
1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and...

Now and forever. Unless it's a waltz in which case count 1-and-2-and-3-and...

If you think about it, you can't only strum out (or in) because you have to bring your hand back into position for the next strum. Your hand always keeps moving back and forth over the strings; the only question is when does it touch the strings.

There's a whole other school of thought that says strum on the notes (like you're singing) and not keep a steady rhythm. That's up to you. I think it can sound lovely on a slow ballad, but it'll never drive a dance tune. Best to learn both.
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby GrantOlson » Tue Oct 03, 2017 5:06 pm

Strumming should feel natural:)
I agree with everything that has been said. Strum direction is really up to your preference. Also you can use it to help with accenting whichever string has the melody. I think it's worth noting that in strumming is, as my teacher has said, the more traditional way, as it was played in the mountains. I think more people now do the out strum probably because it's similar to how guitar chords are strummed.
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby Robin the Busker » Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:14 am

GrantOlson wrote:Strumming should feel natural:)
I agree with everything that has been said. Strum direction is really up to your preference. Also you can use it to help with accenting whichever string has the melody. I think it's worth noting that in strumming is, as my teacher has said, the more traditional way, as it was played in the mountains. I think more people now do the out strum probably because it's similar to how guitar chords are strummed.
Grant


I agree with you Grant (and your teacher). The out-strum lead is the more prevalent way of playing today. Many folks come to dulcimer having played guitar or uke etc and the out-strum lead is more natural for them. Also, the most watched youtube teaching videos are of out-strum lead players. For chord melody playing from DAd I tend to use the out-strum lead. However, for noter drone playing, particularly when using a quill or still wooden strummer, I use an in-strum lead. There are subtle differences in timbre between using an out-strum or in-strum lead and also subtle differences between the two in terms of the rhythms you can generate. The in-strum lead has another advantage when playing noter drone - it keeps the instrument on your lap!!!!! Have you noticed how contemporary dulcimer players tend to use straps? I do myself for contemporary playing (out-strum lead in chord melody). But early players never used straps; and I find that when I'm playing on my vintage instruments with noter and quill I don't need a strap. So 'old time' players use of the in-strum lead was likely as much about being a pragmatic way of stopping the instrument flying across the room as it was about the different timbre it generates.

Rose - In the longer term, it is worth learning to be able to use either out-strum lead or in-strum lead as appropriate to each situation. However, this is not an easy process as it feels very awkward at first to switch between the two. To start with I suggest you pick one system and go with that while you are learning.

Just remember we are taking here about the LEAD stroke, the one on the beat, being either in or out. In both systems you are strumming back and forth hitting or missing the strings as appropriate for the rhythm you want to generate. There are some great videos on YouTube covering strumming.

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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby strumelia » Thu Oct 05, 2017 10:37 am

I play noter style and I use an IN stroke as the dominant stroke direction. It allows me to more easily emphasize the melody strings while avoiding the drones when I don't want them, and it enables me to 'snap down' on the melody strings to control the sound and note durations. I also tend to snap down from the IN direction to create percussive effects which I like to use. In this respect, I find the inward 'snapping down' on the melody to jive nicely with my clawhammer and minstrel style banjo playing styles.

I also always use a strap because if I don't my dulcimer will wind up on the floor at some point. I don't have long thin man thighs, and my lap is never level. I often wear full long skirts which can be very slippery for a lap instrument. We cannot possibly know that "early players never used straps". Unless I were only playing very gentle hymns, if I were living and playing in 1895 with full skirts and petticoats (as I now do for reenactments), I'd be desperately needing a strap as well, and you can bet I'd make myself one if I lived in that time. Or, I'd set the dulcimer on a table to play it.
We all have different shapes, heights, weights, angles, and clothing. One size doesn't fit all. ;)
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Re: In Strumming vs Out Strumming

Postby Dusty Turtle » Fri Oct 06, 2017 10:57 am

Rose, you've already received very good advice. At the risk of complicating things even more, let me chime in as well.

Notice how many people refer to their "dominant" strum or "lead" strum. The fact is, you will want to strum in both directions in a steady manner. As Acmespaceship suggests, count 1-&-2-&-3-&-4-& and strum out on the numbers and in on the &s. Or reverse that and strum in on the numbers and out on the &s. That is where your comfort or personal preference lies. Do whichever feels more natural. But be consistent. Eventually (for me that meant a couple of years with the dulcimer even though I had already played the guitar and mandolin for decades) you may break that pattern occasionally for emphasis, but you will want to stay with a steady, eighth-note, back-and-forth strum for a long time.

I would agree that for beginners, air strums are important. Even if you choose to skip a beat, you want your hand to feel that missing strum. The air strum helps you keep the rhythm. Eventually (6 months? a year? three years?) you will be able to skip the air strum and still feel the beat in your hand.

Sometimes beginners ask when to strum for a given song. I prefer to think of it as when to not strum. What I mean by that is that your hand should be feeling that steady, back-and-forth, out-in (or in-out) rhythm all the time. But sometimes, either because the melody plays a longer note or because you want to create a specific rhythm, you will skip a strum, accent a strum, mute a strum, and so forth. But those are nuances for another day. Right now, just work on developing a steady strum, and whether you go out-in or in-out is purely a matter of personal preference.
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