Learn the basics of picking and strumming on your guitar

Learn how to strum (strumming) and pick (picking) on electric, acoustic, western and classical guitar, but even ukulele! In this secret guitar tips & tricks lesson for the starting and beginning guitarist, you learn to hit notes by picking with the right hand (the strong hand, so for left-handers = left hand) or to play multiple strings and notes (strumming) on guitar.

First, we need to learn how to hold a pick. One of the common mistake that I see with my guitar students and mentees, is the way they hold their guitar pick. For a good sound, dynamic, expression and a firm hold, I’d like to refer to my other free guitar secrets lesson: Tips for a better plectrum / pick technique. In that particular lesson I’ll explain in detail how you should handle a guitar pick like a pro.

Playing with a guitar pick
Right hand picking with guitar pick (plectrum)

But in short: curl the index finger of the left hand (weak hand, picking hand) and place the pick on the side of the finger between the fingertip and the first joint. Place your thumb on top of the pick, and make sure that only a small piece or tip of the pick remains visible.

Preferably the sharp side (note: some guitarists find that the sharp side gives a too sharp sound, and prefer the blunt or more rounded side). The part of the pick that is still visible should not be too long, otherwise it will easily stutter during strumming or picking, and you will drop the pick.

Playing with the fingers

The counterpart of playing with a guitar pick is playing with the fingers (finger picking) which is discussed in my free online guitar lesson Types of finger picking techniques. But now back to the subject of picking and strumming 🙂 ! It is important to learn strumming and picking in the correct way. We are talking about 2 different ways of moving. On the one hand, moving with the wrist, which gives a shorter movement and more control over playing the guitar with the right hand.

And on the other hand, keeping the wrist tight and moving with the arm produces a much more dynamic and aggressive sound. This second way of strumming is already more advanced, since this playing technique often has to be combined with the left hand to get the sound clear and compact.

Let’s do it !

Now try strumming (moving with the wrist) over the six strings, on the beat (on the click of the metronome or drum track) down with a down stroke and then with an upstroke in a regular motion and timing. Let the pick lightly go along or bend with the strings so that your pick does not stutter too much behind the strings. Stuttering the pick behind the strings is a certain playing technique mainly applied in funk and hard funk, which we will cover in the more advanced guitar lessons.

Strumming and picking on an electric guitar

Try to practice the strumming regularly, and preferably with a metronome or click track to develop a good timing and mechanic playing skill. Practice the strumming with a down stroke on the click and an upstroke between the click, so you make 2 movements or 2 strokes per click of the metronome.

Strumming & picking

Strumming and picking means that one strikes 2 or more strings at the same time. Playing single notes on guitar means playing note by note on 1 or more strings, but one after the other instead of multiple notes at the same time. Therefor, I’d like to refer you to my free online guitar lesson Tips for a better picking technique and more specifically the chapter How to stroke (attack).

But in short: place the pick on a random string and make a short downward movement (down stroke) and then an upwards movement (upstroke). Try to keep the distance between string and pick as small as possible, so you don’t loose valuable time and energy. Do this movement in a regular and mechanical way, again with a metronome or click track.

Baustein aka DJ Manic Youth

Question or comments, please use the contact form or post it to my FaceBook.
Liked this post? Thumbs up and spread the word!

Remarks or suggestions? Tell me!

Baustein aka Manic Youth

PS : Don’t forget to subscribe to my channels:

Photo credits : Pexels, Baustein, Pixabay