Learning how to strum a guitar with a pick is a fundamental skill for any budding guitar player.
And on the surface, it looks pretty basic – hold the pick between your fingers and strum. What’s so hard about that?
Nothing really… and it’s not that it’s difficult per se, but there’s actually more that goes into it than on the surface.
Read on to learn how to take your strumming to the next level!
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Understanding Different Types of Picks
There are a TON of different kinds of guitar picks out there. Guitar picks come in various materials (like plastic or nylon), shapes, and sizes. These factors can make one guitar pick sound and feel totally different from another.
Plastic picks, for example, sound brighter than the warmer tones of a nylon pick. And smaller picks work better for faster or more precise picking. You may even want one pick for guitar picking and another for strumming.
There’s no one-size-fits-all pick out there. Instead, you’ve got to experiment with different picks and find one that suits your style!
How to Hold the Pick
Many guitarists use the classic method to hold a guitar pick – between your thumb and index finger.
And this is great, but you want to take into account grip.
See, you want enough control to get those strumming patterns just right, but you also want a relaxed grip. A relaxed grip makes it easier to keep things fluid and comfortable.
There are other grip styles, but the main thing is to find a grip that feels natural.
Posture and Arm Position
Knowing how to position your posture and arms when playing the guitar is essential.
These aren’t just setting you up for a comfortable playing session. These are fundamental to effective strumming.
When you sit or stand, make sure your back is straight and your guitar is at a comfortable height.
You want your strumming arm – often your right arm – relaxed and close to the guitar’s body. This lets you get a natural and smooth strumming motion.
Basic Pick Strumming Techniques
Now that we’ve got the hold down, let’s look at some basic pick strumming techniques:
Downstrokes and Upstrokes
Downstrokes and upstrokes are precisely what they sound like. Downstrokes are when you strum down the strings. Upstrokes are when you strum up the strings.
Practice downstrokes by raking your guitar pick smoothly downward across the strings. Then, transition to upstrokes. Maintain that smooth motion and strum upward.
Play around with moving between strumming up and down on your guitar. This will set you up for the following technique…
Maintain a Steady Rhythm
Once you have the basic pick-strumming movement down, it’s time to maintain your rhythm. This is what’s going to keep you in time with the music when you play songs.
You’ll want to start slow. Practice moving from one chord to the next while playing your strumming pattern. Keep this as simple as possible. Simple chords, simple strumming pattern. Even just strumming downward four times per chord works.
We’re building up your ability to strum while maintaining the correct tempo. That’s why starting slow is important, so you can train yourself to be aware of keeping a steady rhythm.
Extra Strumming Tips
Now that we’ve learned how to strum with a pick let’s explore some additional tips to improve your playing.
1. Learn From Songs
One of the most effective (and fun!) ways to improve your pick strumming skills is to practice your favorite songs. This will help train your ear and learn how to identify strumming patterns by listening.
Identify songs with diverse strumming patterns and break them down into small chunks. You can do this by listening or looking up guitar tabs online.
Try experimenting with songs from different genres to explore various strumming patterns. This will give you a feel for how to get creative with strumming.
2. Incorporate a Metronome
Metronomes are great to incorporate into your guitar-playing routine and can help you maintain a consistent tempo when you play.
The key here, as always, is to start slow and gradually increase your speed. Start at a tempo that you can keep up with. Once you’re confident you can maintain your strumming pattern at that tempo, bump the speed up a little.
Do this until you’re at the tempo you want to play at!
3. Play Regularly
Consistency is vital when it comes to improving your pick-strumming skills. Showing up regularly will take you to the next level with your playing. Trust me on this!
Playing regularly builds your muscle memory and builds your overall proficiency.
Set realistic goals for each playing session. This could be speeding up the tempo from the last time you played or trying out a new strumming pattern. Whatever goal you set, work on that for your session. You’ll be amazed at how much you improve.
Today, we talked about how to use a pick to strum a guitar.
Beyond experimenting with picks and strumming patterns, one thing I want you to take away from this article is the importance of playing regularly – that’s where real improvement comes in!
This works even if you play for just 10 minutes a day. I’m serious! Just ten minutes a day can totally change your guitar playing.
Need some help building up that regularity? Then watch this FREE guitar class to learn the three things that will help build a life of consistent guitar playing in just 10 minutes a day.