When you first try strumming with a pick, it’ll probably feel awkward and stiff. And that’s exactly the opposite of what you want! The key to proper strumming technique is to relax. Grip the pick loosely, make sure you don’t hug your elbow in, and keep your wrist nice and loose.
The movement should almost be like you’re flicking water off your fingertips, very loose and relaxed.
You might find that you drop your pick a lot when you first start to play, that’s alright. Eventually you’ll get to the point where you can spin your pick around in your fingers while you play. To get to that point, make sure you don’t put a death grip on the pick. Hold it loosely, just tight enough to keep it in your fingers.
Strum Up AND Down
When many beginners start on guitar, they fail to get into the habit of alternating their picking and strumming. Picking and strumming in both directions is vital to your playing! Alternating your picking essentially doubles your speed (although there are some instances when you’ll only be down-picking).
With strumming, alternating between down and up is what helps you stay on beat and add rhythm to the chords you play.
It’s arguable that rhythm is pretty important for a guitarist, so get in the habit of always strumming down-up-down-up when practicing.
The Trick to Following Strumming Patterns
People will get in the habit of only strumming the pattern when playing a strumming pattern. Well, that sounds logical, right? Wrong! The best rhythm guitarists keep their hand in the constant down-up-down-up motion even when the pattern is something like…D-D-U-D-D-D-U.
Keeping your hand constantly going down and up helps you stay on time and ensure you’re playing right on beat.
The trick to keeping the movement with a pattern is to slightly bring your hand away from the strings when you don’t need to strum. So, keep your hand moving down-up-down-up. If you only need to play down-up-up, move your hand away a bit during the “down” that doesn’t need to be played.
It’s tricky at first and may seem over complicated, but it will really pay off in the long run.
Just Got Your Guitar?
Check out our beginner mini series that covers the essential chords, basics of chord theory, building progressions, and creating strumming patterns here!