How to Strum a Guitar :- Noob Guide
Learning how to play a guitar is a fun experience. Although it might seem to be a challenge in the beginning, it will become more engaging with time.
The first thing you’ll be taught will be the scales and the rudiments. Although these are very important, you will never enjoy guitar-playing fully until you are good in strumming.
The moment you learn how to strum, you’ll definitely be able to start enjoying paying a few songs that you are familiar with. Nothing feels better and more fulfilling than getting to this point.
What is guitar strumming?
Before we teach you on the processes of guitar strumming, it is important to give a simple definition of the same. When the word strumming is used in music, it means paying any stringed instrument including a guitar, mandolin or ukulele. A strum is also known as a stroke and it is the sweeping action where, the guitarist brushes a plectrum or a finger over the guitar strings to generate sound.
Apart from using a plectrum or your fingers, you can as well use your thumb to strum. However, this is not encouraged as strumming using a thumb gives you different volume from the two. Therefore, it is only recommended when a softer and fainter sound is needed.
Processes of strumming a guitar
There are two major processes used when one wants to strum a guitar. One is using your fingers while the other one is using a pick. In this article, we will guide you on how to go about the two strumming methods and the essential points in strumming.
1. Strumming with your fingers
Strumming your fingers seems to be a bit easier than using a pick. The most common method used when strumming a guitar with your fingers is placing your thumb against the index finger. Once you hold the strings like this, you get a more straight support.
The next step is strumming down using your index finger nail. Sweep it against all the strings then use your thumb nail to strum up.
2. How to strum using a pick
Strumming using a pick is more recommendable than strumming with your fingers. This is because; it gives better sound and can be done for longer compared to the method mentioned above. However, if you don’t have a pick, and aren’t using the guitar for long, the fingers can also do the magic.
When it comes to strumming using a pick, there are a few things than one needs to learn first. These are:
a) Holding the pick
The most convenient way gripping a pick is placing it in front of you. The pointed end should face your left side and your right thumb naturally placed on top of it. Your index finger should then press it down as naturally as possible.
Depending on the individual playing the guitar, they might bend their index finger towards the other end of the pick. Some also place it parallel to the pick while others prefer it curved.
For better control of the pick, it is advisable to hold it using two fingers if possible. However, whatever you choose to do should come naturally for better results.
b) Pick angle
Another very important thing you need to put into consideration when strumming using a pick is the pick angle.
There are some guitarists who prefer strumming with the pick downward towards the floor while others do it parallel to the strings.
However, there are some although not many who prefer holding their pick angled upwards. There is no specific preferred angle; therefore, you should enjoy using the one you feel comfortable with.
Different strumming techniques
Once you are set with the method of strumming to use, you can apply any of the following techniques or both of them. This will depend on the song and the choice of the players.
One of the most commonly used techniques is the downstroke. If you are a beginner, you don’t have to know any chord to effectively use the downstroke method. To avoid confusion, you can decide to mute the strings.
Use your preferred grip and the angle you are most comfortable with in holding the pick. Most importantly, don’t forget to engage your wrist. Use downstrokes to strum downwards sweeping on all the six strings of a guitar. Repeat this over and over again and you are good at it.
Once you’ve gotten it right with the downstrokes, learning the upstrokes is very important as well. Use the same tips we used for the downstrokes but this time, the strings strumming will be done through an upstroke.
As a beginner, you might feel tempted to perfect the skill of striking through all six strings just as with the downstrokes. Although this is doable, it is not necessary as hitting just 3 to 5 strings is enough to help you in developing a sound of your own.
Combining the upstroke and the downstroke
Once you are good with the downstrokes and the upstrokes, the next step is combining the two. Although not very common among beginners, but there is no problem in trying it out. There is nothing new about this technique as all you need to know is how to alternate the two and maintain a balance.
It is very normal to see your pick flying out of your hand. This is simply caused by a wrong grip of the pick. Therefore, before you start playing, ensure that hold the pick tight enough but not too tight as it might also not end up well.
When strumming a guitar whether you are a beginner or an expert, you might find yourself tensing up. This should however be avoided as much as possible as it might lead to injuries or inefficient playing. When you feel tensed, just take your time to relax, take a deep breath and start over again.
At the same time, avoid locking your wrist when strumming. Using your elbow alone might is not enough and this is the highest cause of tension. Therefore, make good use of your wrist for better and more convenient results.
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My name is Chase. I love music and guitar. I have been playing guitar for more than 10 years and I am teaching guitar lessons now.
Most of my students or parents of my students feel headache when they choose the first beginner guitar for themselves or their children.
Sometimes they asked me for advice and every time I was asked I told them what I know to help them. This is main reason I built this website.