Welcome to my blog. In this post we’re going to learn how to use your picking hand to strum properly on the guitar. This is going to make sure that your practice and playing time is efficient, it’s going to reduce the risk of injury, and it’s going to help your progress be a lot faster in future lessons.
I’m going to be using a pick for the strumming in this lesson, but you don’t have to use one. If you don’t have one or if you don’t want to that’s totally fine. It’s up to you. You can just use your thumb and your index finger to kind of strum the strings. Now I would recommend at least trying to use a pick. And some of the stuff that I’m going to cover in this lesson is a bit subjective as far as how to grip the pick and the angle that you’re going to be strumming. So it’s really up to you.
So the best way to start trying to hold a pick is to just stick the pick out in front of you like this if you’re right handed, point it that way, put your thumb on it as naturally as you can, and then just come down on that pick with your index finger. Now as far as the grip on the pick, like I said try to do what’s natural. Your finger may be curved around like that, it may be more parallel to the pick, or it may be the complete other way. You may even want to try using to fingers to hold the pick. That gives you some control. Experiment and just see what feels comfortable and natural for you.
Alright, the second little subjective thing that I wanted to go over is the angle that you’re going to be picking at. Most people have the pick angled downward like this kind of towards the floor when they strum. Some people have the pick angled more parallel to the strings, and some people, like I said, if you use the two finger method for holding the pick, the angle is more upward like this. It really doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you experiment with the angle that you like best and find out what works for you.
The next tip that I want to give you when you’re strumming is to relax. If you tense up you’re going to be really inefficient and you’re going to open the door from some injuries. So if you feel any tension creeping into your strumming at any time just stop, relax, and then start over again.
One thing that I see a lot of newer players do, I see them lock their wrist and just strum from their elbow. What that does, that can create a lot of tension. That can be a source for a lot of tension, so don’t do that. One of the best analogies that I’ve ever heard for strumming, and I use it all the time, is to pretend like you have some honey on your finger and then a feather is stuck to it and you’re just trying to flick it off.
If you look at that, most of the motion is coming from my wrist. My elbow is moving too, but my wrist isn’t lock and just using my elbow, right. So keep that in mind. Keep that little analogy in mind as we go through this. And we’re going to start with just some down strokes for strumming, and if you don’t know any chords yet that’s totally fine. You can just mute the strings or you can make a chord if you know one.
And just take the pick in your hand in your preferred grip that you’ve been kind of messing with, and then preferred angle that feels most comfortable for you. And remember that analogy. Don’t lock your wrist and just use your elbow. Just go strum through all six strings using downstrokes. Keep doing that over and over again until you get comfortable with it. If you need to stop the video that’s totally fine. Once you get comfortable with your downstrokes you need to get comfortable with some upstrokes too. So do the exact same thing. Make sure you’re not locking your wrist and just using your elbow. Just strum through the strings using upstrokes. And a lot of people, a lot of newer guitar players, think if they are playing a full chord, like a chord that uses all six strings, that they have to upstroke through all six strings, and that’s not the case. Let me show you this real quick. I’m going to play a G chord. It’s a six string chord. And if I do upstrokes I generally only hit the top three to five strings with my upstrokes. With my downstrokes I generally hit all six, but with my upstrokes I’m only hitting about the top four strings there.
So once your comfortable with your downstrokes and your upstrokes individually you’re going to want to try to put them together. Just do that over and over again. And like I said, if you don’t know a chord yet that’s fine. Just mute the strings.
A lot of newer guitar players have trouble holding on to the pick when they strum. It ends up flying out of their hands. You as a new guitar player are going to have to experiment with how tightly you hold on to the pick. You want to hold on to it tightly enough to where it doesn’t go flying out of your hands, but you don’t want to hold on to it so tightly that you tense up.
One thing you’re going to have to do is kind of develop a technique to where you’re kind of constantly adjusting the pick. Because if you’re strumming a lot that pick is going to move around a little, and you’re going to need to adjust your grip. So if I’m strumming a G chord, I’m always making little micro adjustments just to make sure I’m holding onto the pick to where it doesn’t fly out of my hands.
And for right now just practice your downstroke strumming, your upstroke strumming, and putting them together. Don’t even worry about your fretting hand right now. Just work on your strumming hand.