How To Strum The Guitar

In this beginner guitar lesson you will be learning the fundamentals of how to use your hand to strum the guitar. If you have never played the guitar, strumming might feel strange at first.

Let’s start off by looking at how to hold the pick. Curl your index finger on your picking hand and place the pick on fleshy part of the finger between the fingertip and first joint. Now bring your thumb down and lightly pinch the pick to hold it in place. You should have a firm grip on the pick, but your hand, fingers, and arm should still be pretty relaxed. If you ever feel any excess tension in your picking hand you should stop and relax.

It is important for you to learn the proper way to strum so let’s take a look a some of the basic things you will need to know in order to develop some good strumming technique. I once heard a great guitar player say that good strumming technique is like pretending that you have some honey on your finger and that a feather is stuck to the honey. If you try to shake off the feather that is pretty much the exact motion that you want when you are strumming. Most of the motion comes from the wrist, but the fingers and elbow help out a bit too.

If you know a chord, make it and try strumming all six strings with a smooth down and up motion. Imagine that the feather is stuck to the pinky of your strumming hand. This may seem silly but it really works well. Make sure to practice often, relax, and check out some videos of your favorite players.

The angle of the pick on the string is something that you need to be aware of. Some players angle the pick up or down and some keep the pick parallel with the string. This is more of a personal preference but I have found that most players angle the pick downward.

If you have any questions on strumming you can leave them here. Practice and get ready for the next lesson where you will learn your first two guitar chords.

This Lesson Has 7 Comments

  • Ranodeep Seth says:

    my hand starts to pain a few minutes into strumming? am i weak?

    • Nate Savage says:

      You probably need to build up some muscles, but you might need to get your guitar set up too.

  • Julia R says:

    I am in serious need of a more detailed strumming lesson. I’m a super-duper beginner, I bought a Crescent brand guitar because I have always loved the sound of the guitar but this is really hard for me for some reason. Like how to position my fingers on the fret board. I don’t want to sound dumb but help. Please :)

    • Ruthe J says:

      Hi, Julia! I happened upon this wonderful website while surfing for something to send to my cousin who wants to learn to play the guitar, but doesn’t live near me.
      Don’t be discouraged. You just have to become stubborn and determined. In the beginning, everyone has very sore fingers, fingers won’t stay on the strings and they turn into ‘wet noodles’ after trying to make chords. That is natural. Don’t feel dumb… If it were easy to play, everyone would be playing. Lol. Check out some finger exercises. Here’s one I like: Place hands on a table. Spread fingers as far apart as possible. Now, raise index fingers as high as possible and hold for a bit. Do same with all fingers & thumbs. Do this several times per day. Soak ends do fingers in 50/50 water – vinegar for healing soreness at end of day. Make sure you start out with Light Gage strings. Have fun and stay stubborn and determined until you get a grip on playing.

  • Julia R says:

    Thanks Ruth and this might sound weird but its hard to raise my right hand middle finger for some reason lol

  • Julia R says:

    Also, Why does my guitar sound so loud when I strum it with my pick? Or is it supposed to sound so loud?

  • Anieta says:

    Nate, i’m not understanding the position and hold of our fingers on the fret board. Like, do we have to block that particular string? Please elaborate on the fret board holding of the strings!


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