how to strum a guitar

As someone that loves to play the guitar, either for the fun you derive from it or playing it as an occupation to perform to your audience, you would want to play to perfection. Learning how to strum a guitar excellently is exactly what you need, in order to gain the fulfillment, you get from playing wonderfully well.

When you know how to strum a guitar properly, you will discover its numerous advantages that range from help with time management (time for practice and playing) to playing safely (reduced risk of injury). Not only will you be conversant with your guitar rudiments, scales and exercises but will also help you to enjoy the fun and the fulfillment that comes with playing like a pro.

Are you being a beginner who does know nothing on the right way to strum a guitar? Have you been playing your guitar for a while now but you still feel you need to learn more on how to strum a guitar like a pro? If yes, congratulations, you have stumbled on the right place.

We know that learning how to strum a guitar like a pro might seem a tricky task but we are here to help. The information you would get from this article will have you strumming and playing your song in no time. Stay tuned as we bring you the necessary information to help improve your strumming ability.

How To Strum a Guitar – The Basic Steps for Beginner

To learn how to strum your guitar and play your songs perfectly, you need to adhere to the following guidelines.

1. Hold Your Guitar Properly

how to hold your guitar

First thing first, get familiar with your guitar and learn how to hold it properly. When you maintain an improper guitar posture or hold your guitar wrongly, you might unknowingly be sabotaging your efforts at learning how to strum your guitar perfectly. If you are the type that holds the guitar up in your arms while playing, you need to adjust your posture as it can make your journey to strumming perfectly light years to achieve.

But wait! What is the best way to hold a guitar? How do I hold my guitar to avoid falling into the pit most guitar newbies fall into? If these are the questions going through your mind right now, relax I am going to show you how.

Rest the weight of the guitar on your lap and secure the base with the help of your elbow. Your elbow should be placed near your guitar base; this will allow you to strum the guitar properly with your wrist as you hold the neck of your guitar with your fret hand. Make sure you keep the elbow of your strumming hand out of the way of your guitar strings. Your strumming hand should also be able to move freely without moving the guitar.

2. Feel Comfortable

In fact, this is one of the important things you need to have under your belt if you want to learn to be good at strumming your guitar properly. When you are strumming your guitar, ensure you are relaxed, trust me, you really need to.

If you are tensed up, you might start feeling unsettled. And as soon as tension comes in, the probability that you will end up injuring yourself increases. To avoid this, examine yourself and be conversant with the way you feel. The moment you start having an unsettling feeling, stop playing your guitar, take time to relax and start over again.

3. Begin With The Down Stroke Strumming

You don’t need to be well versed with your chords; you can actually mute your strings. Ensure you don’t lock your wrist, it is better you use your wrists in strumming and keep your elbow firmly on the guitar. With down strokes, continuously strum your strings until you have mastered the strokes.

4. Advance To The Upstroke

Now that you have the downstrokes under your belt, proceed to the upstrokes using the same pattern you used with the downstrokes. But it is important that you use your elbows to do this without locking your wrists. With the Upstroke method, strum your strings. You don’t necessarily need to strum all six string chords during an upward stroke, strumming three to five strokes will do.

5. Play Both Down and Up Strokes Together

Now that you have mastered both the upward stroke and the downward strokes individually, you can now proceed to play both strokes together. Strum the strings downward and upward, begin to feel the sensation that comes with this stroke do it as much as you can until you feel that you can play the downward and upward strokes together without any discomfort.

6. Change or Switch Between Chords

Immediately you are good at playing the down and bottom strings alternatively, proceed with changing of chords. You could switch from playing from a C chord to playing from a G chord. Do this for some time until you can do it easily then try playing from different cords interchangeably. Do this with patience and endurance because changing cords can be a bit frustrate and challenging at first, but it gets better with selfless and adequate practices.

7. Learn to dampen the strings with strumming your hands to get a percussive pull

This will add to your creativity and variations level when you do it constantly.

8. Pay Attention to Your Cords and Your Strumming Pattern

Do not pay total attention to the strumming pattern alone. This is the mistake most beginner’s make, and with this, they might end up over strumming the guitar. To avoid this, start with your chords, before moving on to the strumming.

Get yourself familiar with the basic strumming patterns and learn to alternate between those patterns, sticking to only a single strumming pattern might sabotage the good intentions you have for learning how to strum your guitar like a pro.

How To Strum a Guitar With A Pick

how to strum guitar with pick

1.  Don’t Hold The Pick Too Firmly or Too Loosely

To strum your guitar with a pick, you should learn to hold your pick, this might be difficult at first, but with constant practice, you will get used to it. Holding your pick too firm in your hands will end up making you tensed, and if it’s too loose, the pick might unconsciously fly off from your hand. It is therefore important to practice and learn how to hold the pick with the right amount of force. Click here to learn how to hold a pick.

2. Experiment

Experiment with the way you hold your pick, do it firmly but avoid being too firm with it so that you won’t be too tensed up, and you should know by now that experiencing tension with while strumming your guitar isn’t good for you.

Try adjusting the way you hold your pick if you are the type that strums a lot, the pick will all move around a bit and if it does, adjusting the stream is your best bet. Start adjusting the way you hold your pick to meet up with the level at which you strum. Don’t stop practicing your downward and upward strokes, until you get it right.

Line up the pick with the strings and try turning it in a downward angle. With this, the pick will glide over the strings rather than been cut up in the string if you have handled the pick in a parallel way which makes it strum flat. Strumming the pick flat will only make the pick get stuck up in the strings but when you pick is in an angled position, it will run smoothly on the strings without getting cut up in the strings. After strumming in a downward angle, proceed to play the strings in an upward angle, and I can guarantee that with time you will be a pro at it.

Do not strum the string with two fingers rather try to hold the pick with your first finger holding the pick with other fingers will only give your pick a funny look and it will definitely be miss angled, and this will pose a problem when you want to experiment with other techniques. Use a light pick, hold it with just a finger and strum properly.

See this video to learn more:

How To Strum a Guitar With Fingers

Although strumming with a pick has some advantages. It helps to create a clear and defined tone and also increases your speed and playing volume. But some of the world’s greatest guitarists like Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler, and Wes Montgomery play their guitar without a pick. So, this means that you can be great on your guitar even without the pick.

There are several ways to carry out the finger playing technique. The most familiar method is by using your thumb for the 4th, 5th and 6th string (Low D, A, and E-string). Use your index finger for the 3rd string (G-string), your middle finger on the 2nd string (B-string) and the ring finger on the 1st string (High E-string).

how to strum a guitar with finger

You can simply strum your guitar with your fingernails or fingertips. Unlike the pick, playing with your fingers produces a warmer and softer tone, since you would be plucking on the strings with the skin of your fingers. This playing method is good for acoustic blues, singer-songwriter, and other styles where the sweet and amusing tone is required.

You can also use your nails to produce a clear and defined tone like the one produced while using a pick. With this, you can combine the tones produced by your skin and the nails to create a more dynamic tone. You can also do this by learning how to fingerpick your guitar like a pro. However, you need to practice well and develop the skills and the flexibility you need.

What is The Best Way To Strum a Guitar?

This is the question most beginners ask. Either with the fingers or with a pick, strumming the guitar depends on individual preferences. To some people, maintaining control over the pick is a difficult task; it simply slips out or between their fingers. They do not enjoy the sound produced while using the pick as they find it difficult to hit strings as much as they would love to.

Others find it difficult to move their stiff fingers on the guitar. It is a thing most beginners experience; it will pass. But which way should you go, which is better and do you have to master both? Of course, you should if you really want to be good at strumming the guitar or improve your versatility.

Guitar Strumming Exercises

Guitar strumming exercises boil down to strumming patterns. There are various strumming patterns. However, alternating the downstroke, and the upstroke with every beat are one of the basic rhythmic strumming patterns guitarists employs.

Learn how to play the 8 and quarter notes. Start by dividing the quarter notes into eight different notes. Then try plucking the strings up and down (strumming the guitar twice instead of doing so once) for all the beat. But you have to make sure you maintain the same tempo. To learn more about the strumming patterns, click here or here to watch the video.

Tips for beginner

  • Get familiar with the basics. You need to understand how the guitar works before you can learn how to work on it and produce the sounds you want.
  • Hold your guitar properly as well as the pick (if you are using one). This will help you to reach the strings and pluck them at the right time and intervals.
  • Avoid pushing yourself too much, you may end up getting nervous, and this is not going to help you. If you have difficulty in strumming or playing your song properly, just relax, go for a break, and come back with a more determined and tension-free spirit.
  • Learn the song you intend to play and get yourself accustomed to the rhythm before embarking on a strumming journey to play the song. Be sure to start with an easy song so you can get to learn the basic strumming patterns more quickly.
  • Start by playing the some slowly and then increasing the speed; a metronome comes handy for this course, and you need to get yourself one.
  • Make sure you learn the difficult part of the song before you proceed to play the other aspect of the song
  • Stretch your strumming hand often to prevent cramping or wrist pain
  • Always remember that you can only improve your skills by practicing and not just by reading. So take it upon yourself to practice well on your guitar.
  • Select the guitar that is made for your hand type, consider going for a guitar that suits the size of your hands.


Now that you have learned how to strum a guitar, it is high time you employed this valuable piece of information and start strumming your guitar like a pro. Now, grab your guitar and practice what you have learned. Don’t forget to come back with your testimony.