Strumming Mechanics

Strumming is one of those things that seem simple, but it really does take some time and practice to get good at. The most important thing to remember with strumming is that it should feel comfortable! There shouldn’t really be too much tension anywhere in your strumming arm, and that includes the shoulder and wrist.

Where you place your arm will vary slightly depending on whether you’re playing an acoustic or an electric guitar.

Acoustic Guitar

If you’re playing an acoustic guitar, it’s really quite simple. You’re going to place your arm right on top of the guitar, where it would fall naturally. Again, this should feel very natural! This arm placement will also help to keep your guitar from moving around too much so that you’re not making it any harder for your fretting hand. The guitar itself should feel quite stable and anchored while your arm feels loose and limber.

Electric Guitar

Not too much of variance here, but on an electric guitar, you don’t really have the real estate on the guitar’s body itself for you to just rest your arm on top of it. Instead, you want to almost rest the top of your forearm along the top of the body – not squarely on top of it as you would with the acoustic, but sort of along the front of it.

There might be a touch more tension in your upper arm and shoulder as you do this, but I can’t stress enough – stay as loose as you possibly can while still keeping the guitar from getting too wobbly.

Your Strumming Arm

As far as the strumming movement itself, a strum is more an act of the forearm. In fact (at least at this stage in your guitar playing), the wrist shouldn’t actually be doing too much work. You want to imagine a straight line from your elbow right the way through to your thumb.

Your Picking Hand

When it comes to holding the pick, you guessed it – KEEP IT LOOSE! I mentioned this last lesson but it bears repeating :)

For beginners, you’ll want to work with a super-thin pick. It’ll help you nail down the mechanics of strumming without causing too many additional problems for you. A thicker pick, especially when gripped more firmly, can catch on the strings while you’re strumming. A thinner pick is far more forgiving and therefore better for practising with.

So yes, hold it as loosely as you can in your hand, but also, angle the pick slightly. This will help the pick glide easily down the strings without it getting stuck somewhere along the way. Not sure what I mean, go re-check the lesson about picks and picking in Lesson 1.

Also, if you drop your pick here and there, don’t worry about it! In fact, you should just expect it to happen. It WILL happen.


Lesson 2: The E Gunn