Strumming Skills Mini Course (day 3)
Welcome to day 3 of the Guitar Domination Strumming Skills Mini Course.
Today’s lesson is all about proper strumming technique when using a pick.
Strumming is a highly technical part of playing the guitar. It is an art form that non-guitarists assume is easy because it looks quite natural. BUT as I’m sure you have found out, although it appears natural, for many of us it isn’t natural.
I, myself really struggled with strumming in the early days of my guitar playing. My rhythm was poor and the technical details eluded me as I didn’t have anyone showing me what to do. This was before the days of the internet and we couldn’t afford a guitar teacher in my house.
In the end I discovered by trial and error the things you are learning in this series.
Strumming technique took some time but I realised that there are essential things in regards to strumming that don’t look like much and don’t take long to implement but DO make a big positive difference in how your strumming will sound.
Anyway, let’s get stuck in and learn some very important parts of strumming
How to hold a guitar pick
Put the thumb of your strumming hand in the air as shown in the photo below.
Bend your index finger around and behind your thumb. Notice in the photo below how the index finger and thumb are flush and aligned at the left edge of the thumb. This is important for the next step.
Keep your thumb and index finger in the same position as you just completed for step 2 and THEN slide the pick in at roughly a 90 degree angle leaving about half the pick sticking out.
Following the above method for holding the pick gives you a good balance of comfort and efficiency. You may find it a little strange at first if you have held the pick in a different way for a long period, but if you are not happy with how your strumming sounds definitely give it a try!
Choosing a pick
For strumming the guitar, choose a lighter pick. The 0.46 is the most popular for most beginner guitarists that I teach. They sound rich, have a lovely ‘zing’ across the strings, and are thin, therefore easy to control.
Experiment. Try a few different picks out with different materials and with a different variety of thickness.
Even if you have experimented with doing so in the past it’s a good idea to do so again at least 2 times per year. As you get better with your strumming, you will develop a more natural and professional sound and as you do so your taste in picks will probably change to compliment your playing.
Most guitarists hold the pick way too tight when strumming. This leads to an awful sound that is loud and abrasive and lacks any sort of musicality a lot of the time.
By gripping the pick firmly and with not one iota of pressure more than you need to keep it from slipping out of your fingers you will find you will get a nice solid pick attack into the strings.
This will take away the loud and abrasive sound that many beginners get. Try it now. See the difference it makes from holding the pick as tight as possible as compared to as soft as possible when strumming.
Make sure you hold the pick the proper way and don’t hold the pick tightly.
You can of course hold it too softly. If you do so the strum will sound wishy washy and the pick will start slipping in your fingers.
A good rule of thumb is to hold the pick tight enough for it not to slip about but no tighter. Be firm but relaxed.
Spend 2 minutes adjusting the way you hold the pick as shown in the description above. If you are happy with the way you currently hold the pick, great, spend this time playing about and experimenting with your pick grip. There is nearly always room for some improvement.
Choosing a pick
Go on to Amazon or go to your local guitar shop and order 6 picks from about 0.3 to 1.0 with different materials. (caution, most people prefer strumming with picks around the 0.4-0.6 gauge so make sure you get some of these).
Once you have the picks, spend 10 minutes playing with them as shown in the next step…
Use the picks
Film yourself playing with all the different picks for 6 minutes. Spend 1 minute with each pick.
Choose a strumming song you are comfortable with and set the camera (or the microphone for the camera) about 2-3 metres away from you as if it was in the position where someone watching you play would be.
For each pick I want you to grip it tight a for a few bars, then softly for a few bars and then normally while playing through your strumming song.
By gripping softly, tightly and normally you will hear big differences in volume and tone which will teach you a lot about the way you strum and importantly what sounds good to the mic.
Most people grip too tight, and when they hear it back realise it sounds nowhere near as good as when they grip a bit softer. It may be different for you, so experiment.
This type of extreme experimenting will teach you far more about your technique than 100’s of hours of doing the same thing over and over.
Do this ‘soft, tight, normal’ grip for all 6 picks, then later on go back and watch the video listening for which pick sounds the best.
You may be surprised.
What you hear when playing the guitar will sound slightly (sometimes drastically) different to what someone else or a recorder will hear. This is because your ears are placed above the guitar as opposed to your listener, whose ears are set a few metres away.
This makes a big difference. Go with the pick that sounds the best on the recording AND then cherish this pick and get more of them.
Congratulations if you have followed all the above steps. You have just massively improved your core technique of using a pick when strumming.
I’m hoping you have also learnt a lot about the subtlety of strumming too.
Keep on playing about and regularly record yourself. There aren’t many better sounds than a guitar strummed with great rhythm and super smooth technique!
Stay tuned for day 4!
Can’t wait for day 4? Click HERE to get it now.