In this guitar lesson you are going to learn how to strum the guitar properly. This is going to make sure that your practice and playing time is used efficiently. It’s also going to reduce the risk of injury and help your progress 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 use one, that’s totally fine. It’s up to you. You can use your thumb and your index finger to kind of strum the strings. I would recommend at least trying to use a pick. Some topics that I’m going to cover in this lesson are a bit subjective. Things like how to grip the pick and the angle that you’re going to be strumming with are really up to you.
The best way to start trying to hold a pick is to just stick the pick out in front of you, point the pick to the left if you are right handed, put your thumb on it as naturally as you can, and then come down on the pick with your index finger. As far as the grip on the pick, just do what feels natural. Your finger may be curved in, it may be more parallel to the pick, or it may be the complete other way. You may even want to try using two fingers to hold the pick. That gives you some extra control. Experiment and see what feels comfortable and natural for you.
The second little thing that I wanted to go over is the angle that you’re pick is going to be hitting the strings when you strum. Most people have the pick angled downward towards the floor when they strum. Some people have the pick angle more parallel to the strings, and some people, angle the pick upward. 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. If you feel any tension in your strumming just stop, relax, and start over again.
I see a lot of newer players lock their wrist and just strum from their elbow. That can create a lot of tension, so don’t do that. One of the best analogies that I’ve ever heard for strumming is to pretend like you have some honey on your finger and then a feather is stuck to it. Pretend like you are just trying to flick it off. If you do that, most of the motion will come from your wrist. The elbow can help out too, but the wrist isn’t locked. Keep that little analogy in mind as we go through this series.
We’re going to start with some downstroke strumming. 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. Take the pick in your hand in your preferred grip that you’ve been experimenting with, and the preferred angle that feels most comfortable for you. Remember the feather analogy. Don’t lock your wrist and just use your elbow. Strum through all six strings using downstrokes. Keep doing that over and over again until you get comfortable with it.
Once you get comfortable with your downstrokes you need to get comfortable with some upstrokes too. 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. A lot of newer guitar players, think if they are playing a six string chord, that they have to upstroke through all six strings. That’s not always the case. I generally only hit the top three to five strings with my upstrokes even if I’m playing a full six string chord. My downstrokes I generally hit all six, and my upstrokes generally only hit the top three to five strings.
Once your are comfortable with your downstrokes and your upstrokes individually, you’re going to want to try to put them together. Like I said, if you don’t know a chord yet that’s fine. Just mute the strings. Just strum down up down up down up over and over again until you start to get the feel for it.
A lot of newer guitar players have trouble holding on to the pick when they strum. Sometimes it ends up flying out of their hands. 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.
You are going to have to develop a technique where you are constantly adjusting the pick. 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. Making little micro adjustments on your pick grip is part of strumming.
Keep all of the tips that you’ve learned in this lesson in mind as we move forward in the Beginner Guitar Quick-Start Series. 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.
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