How To Strum a Guitar without a Pick

If you are a keen observer of concerts, you will notice that it is quite rare that you see a performer using a pick when playing the guitar. It is more often seen in electric guitar players, especially those on the lead guitars. But for most acoustic guitar players, especially for those using nylon threads as guitar strings, strumming by their fingers alone provides a better playing experience. Here are some useful tricks to help you strum your guitar to perfection without a pick.

What you will need:

Well-tuned guitar
Comfortable playing position
Guitar strap (optional)

  • The proper way of holding your guitar. You must first learn how to properly hold your guitar. Once you are in a good guitar position, either the guitar on your lap or on one of your thighs (if you are standing up), make sure that you can see your fingers that will do the strumming since you will need to glance at them once in a while.
  • The difference between strumming and plucking. At this point, you also need to know the difference between strumming the strings and plucking them. Plucking is the motion of picking the strings one at a time as compared to strumming, where you strike the strings at least two at a time. This produces a sound that is combined or done in unison.
  • Practice strumming your strings. You can start strumming the strings with your right hand (or your left, if you are a left handed guitar player) by pressing on the notes on the bridge with your other hand and then striking the pressed strings with the other. Your thumb and your index finger should be pressed together, as if you are going to pick up something, and strike with your nail side of the fingers. You will notice that the thumb will play the supporting role with your index finger getting the most contact with the strings.
  • Strumming downwards. The downward motion of your strumming is the easier stroke so it is often used to start a note. This means that your nails are the ones hitting the string. When you do the upward stroke, which is the return motion of the downward stroke, you will be exposing your other finger’s side. This upward stroke is needed especially when you are strumming in a faster rhythm. If you will be playing the guitar for a long time, you will soon develop some callous on the affected fingers, which is a direct result of all the friction.

When you are comfortable two strings at the same time, you can start hitting multiple strings in a faster motion. Strumming mixed with skilled plucking will produce very rich sounding melodies. Be sure that you strum according to the music’s natural rhythm so that it will sound and feel right. You can mix strumming and plucking by using your other fingers, such as your ring and middle finger. This is also useful when you are trying to learn to play the bass guitar.


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