Right Hand Guitar Fundamentals

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Learn Right Hand Guitar Fundamentals To Strengthen Your Playing!

In this lesson we are going to learn some of the fundamentals for good right hand technique. The techniques presented here for picking and strumming are more guidelines than rules. There are many incredible guitarists all over the world who use different techniques than the ones presented in this lesson. Just look at this lesson as a good place to start out with your picking and strumming. Try not to be frustrated with yourself if you are not getting the hang of this right away. There are players who spend years working on their right hand technique. I would encourage you to look up some videos of your favorite players and see what their right hand technique is like.

Let’s start off by looking at what kind of pick to use and how to hold the pick. Picks come in a wide variety of shapes sizes and thicknesses. It is a good idea to go down to your local music store and buy a variety of picks so that you can see what works best for you. If you don’t want to buy a ton of different picks, I recommend starting with a nice medium thickness. A good medium pick will work well for most people and most styles of music.

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. Tension can lead to tendinitis, cramps, or other injuries that you really don’t want to deal with.

Place the pick on the low E string and use a downward motion with your wrist to pick the string with a downstroke. Now use an upward motion with your wrist to pick the string with an upstroke. Go back and forth with upstrokes and downstrokes a few times. Try to move the pick just enough to make the string sound. If you are making wide pick strokes, it will be harder for you to come back to pick the next note. Most of the picking motion comes from the wrist but there are really good players out there who use their elbow or fingers to obtain most of their picking motion. Using the wrist for the picking motion is not a rule, just a guideline.

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.

Let’s look at an exercise that really focuses on helping you to develop your picking technique. This exercise uses alternate picking the entire time. That simply means that no matter how many times you pick, you always alternate up and down strokes. Never have two upstrokes or two downstrokes in a row. All you are going to do is start on the low E string and pick that string open three times. Down Up Down. Move to the next open string and pick that string three times. Up Down Up. Continue playing three notes on each open string using alternate picking. Changing from string to string is the hardest part of this exercise. Don’t be frustrated if you don’t get it right away. Start this exercise out slowly and build up speed only when it is clean a clear. We have provided you with the notation and tab for this exercise. Be sure to pay attention to the upstroke and downstroke indicators on the tab.

Strumming is the next right hand technique that we will look at. 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 an E chord, make it and try strumming all six strings up and down. 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.

This Lesson Has 10 Comments

  • Ian says:

    oh no means all the while I’ve played wrongly.I concentrate on my fingers and use a lot of strength to hit the strings…. but its hard to start from scratch isn’t?

  • Dylan says:

    HI nate i need Help i went to a music shop but the guy said come back when u know the exact pic u want , Which pic is best for a Begginner?

    • Jasper says:

      I’ll say go to a different guitar shop or get another guy at the shop to attend to you, they’re supposed to assist you in your guitar playing and buying, not asking you to “come back when you know the exact pick you want”. Thats really bad attitude and shows a hint of arrogance.

  • Kerri says:

    Dear Nate, I am a beginner guitarist and I am still having a few problems with alternate picking still is there anything that will help with this problem.

  • RICKY says:

    Hi NATE,
    I’ve JUST joined and like what you teach. I HAVE BEEN PLAYING FOR A YEAR NOW AND CAN PLAY MOST OF THE OPEN CHORDS. BUT I AM VERY FRUSTRATED WITH MY STRUMMING. IT JUST DOES NOT SOUND RIGHT. ALSO THE PICK KEEPS SLIPPING OUT OF MY HAND FROM TIME TO TIME.I KNOW THE THEORY BUT JUST CAN’T PUT IT INTO PRACTICE. ANY SUGGESTIONS ? I PRACTICE FOR HOURS BUT JUST CANNOT MASTER THE TECHNIQUE. MAYBE I SHOULD GIVE IT UP. I PLAY MOSTLY CLASSIC COUNTRY & WESTERN

    RICKY

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  • chintan says:

    hey can we take rest of last fingure of right hand when we are playing or alternate picking….

  • Egaddd says:

    Hey folks,

    If you are still struggling with things like picking accuracy, the pick keeps jumping out of your hands, you can’t really ‘feel’ the string when you try to hit it, or for others, the string ‘feels’ sort of like a thick, inflexible, plunky wire when you hit it, etc…one thing to try is to experiment with different picks. Spend a little cash (they’re not that expensive really) and try out some different shapes, different thicknesses (thin, medium, heavy, extra heavy, etc.), different sizes (like the smaller ‘jazz picks’ or ‘speed picks’, or even the bigger triangle shaped picks).

    Different picks won’t only make playing feel different, but the shape and material will effect the tone and sound as well. Some great players love small, stiff speed picks, while other great players can’t stand them. There are even shredders who like to use relatively thin picks. Get a little collection and see what’s out there. Money well spent.

  • susan says:

    i played rhythum for a band and never figured out the right hand

 
 

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