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How to strum an acoustic guitar

[Video Lesson] Guitar Strumming Mechanics (Part 2)

Steve Levy

February 9, 2018

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In this second video of our Guitar Strumming Mechanics series, we're continuing our study of my best recommendations on the basics of strumming. Here are my top tips to help you to continue to build a solid foundation: 

1. Positioning the pic

What we want to try to do is make sure that the pic is always in the same plane of motion. You don't really want the pic to be pointing up or down as it moves through the strings. I always try to keep the surface of the pic more or less parallel to the floor when I'm strumming, and I think that that's the best way to get the best sound and the most accuracy out of your work.


2. Strumming open strings independent of your fretting hand

If you're watching this, you're probably still a beginner and working diligently with your fretboard hand on your chord forms. Keep in mind that it's perfectly fine to work on your strumming alone just on the open strings of the guitar. That way, you're working your right hand (or strumming hand) in isolation and can give it your full attention without concern for your left hand. 

3. Where to position your arm?

There are many different places on where to strum between the bridge in the neck of the guitar. Not only do you get a different sound in each area, but you'll also find that here there's a lot less physical resistance with your pic when you strum over the sound hole as opposed to near the bridge. 

When you're strumming near the bridge, you'll be exerting a little more effort. When strumming over the sound hole, the pic will more tend to glide through the strings a little more easily.  As for determining the sound that you want, it's pretty subjective. I tend to find the sweet spot on most guitars is at the sound hole, maybe about a third of the way towards the bridge.


4. Breaking the strings into three 'zones' 

Most beginning students tend to hit all of the strings in their chord voicing at the same time. And while that can sound nice, I prefer to divide the strings up into zones:

  • the lower three strings (E, A, D) = the bottom zone.
  • the middle three/four strings  (A, D, G, B) = the middle zone.
  • the top three strings (G, B, E) = the top zone. 


Depending on your chord voicing, you can approach your strumming by giving more (or less) emphasis to one of these three 'zones' (lower, middle, and high). I like think of these three zone in the same way that a drummer thinks about symbols, where they each give a slightly different sound. Approaching your strumming with an emphasis on different zones will give your strumming more variety, color, and sophistication.

Thanks for reading and watching! Be sure to tune in for more great tips in the next video. 


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