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Video Lesson: Guitar Strumming Mechanics (Part 1)

Steve Levy

November 17, 2017

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Most beginning guitar students are uncertain about how to hold the pick, the position and weight of the strumming arm, and how to hold the instrument. They usually have some strange ideas on how to do it! In this tutorial, I'd like to share my take on these important basics. Let's start with how to hold the pick. 

Holding the pick 

You want to avoid having too much of the pick showing. It tends to get floppy and produces a thinner sound. 

Here's the way I like to do it: I want to have my index finger pointing back to the base of the thumb like I'm about to pull the trigger. I lay the pick across the top joint of my index finger keeping about a third of the pick showing, like this:

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.54.49 PM.png

How much arm weight to apply

I have a fair amount of flexibility with the pick so that it's moving. If you hold it too tight, the pick is too rigid and produces a harsh sound. It also may cause tense muscles. I feel the tension in my forearm muscles when I'm holding the pick too tightly. Instead, aim for a loose swinging grip.

Positioning the instrument 

It's critically imprtant to position the guitar correctly. Many beginners will hold the guitar nearly flat on their laps so that they can see their left hand on the fretboard better (INCORRECT):

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.38.05 PM.png

This throws everything off. I like to have the instrument flush against my body, like this (BETTER): 

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.38.42 PM.png

Other people may prefer to position the guitar on the right thigh, and that's perfectly fine: 

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.38.58 PM.png

Positioning your strumming arm

Beginners tend to have their wrist arched and the arm away from the instrument (INCORRECT):

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.42.16 PM.png

Instead, it's better to keep your wrist straight and your arm closer to the body of the guitar. Keeping your hand close to the surface of the soundboard is the way to go (BETTER): 

Screen Shot 2017-11-17 at 4.42.45 PM.png

I hope that you enjoyed this tutorial. Although these concepts are geared towards beginners, many self-taught and experienced players have poor habits when it comes to basic guitar strumming. But, it's never too late to adjust your playing and bring a more natural, relaxed approach to the instrument! 

Looking forward to sharing more strumming mechanics in a future video! 


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