Any way to ‘lighten up’ my strummimg

I’m 60 days into my journey, and although I can play songs with the app and keep up with the chord changes I am having a big problem with strumming patterns I still sound like a gorilla bashing the strums. Any hints to teaching myself a more melodic, gentler strum or is this a typical beginner problem that I need to allow time no practice to heal?

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Its a beginner issue , strumming is itself a whole world of technique, so dont worry.

tbh I would suggest just playing either open strings, or a single chord you know, and practicing just the strumming.

Remember to angle your pick away from the strings, and angle it so your using the leading edge of the pick rather than it being flat on to the strings, the minute details of how you hold and angle the pick make huge differences.

Then start very very lightly brushing over the strings, almost not holding the pick. And work on from there, just do a basic up / down motion and work on dynamics for a bit you can get a huge variance


Hi Howard
Great you’re reaching out early in your journey
You are asking the right question:Strumming is the most important thing, because that’s the bit that makes the sound
Most folks stress all about chord shapes whereas you’ve honed in on the main event.
Justin’s lessons on strumming are very comprehensive, but for a rookie the only thing I’d stress again is that I’d suggest using a flexible pick at this stage is Really going to help. Try a Dunlop nylon .73mm or .60mm
Relax, , straight lines, and de tension - sorts most things out


Thanks Rob, I went back and looked at Justin’s first basic strumming lesson about how to hold the pick and angle it correctly and as you expressed, it seems to be helping. I think one of my problems was/is that when the tempo is fast and I’m going through some fast chord changes I sort of let technique go to hell and just push my way through which although I’m able to keep up with the music really makes it sound bad. So back to basics and slow the song down if I have to

Thanks for the advice. From what you and Rob said I’ve reviewed strumming basics and am trying to make adjustments

The answer to most ‘I’m doing it wrong’ questions with guitar is usually slow down look at what you are doing, do it RIGHT then speed up slowly.

But dont feel bad about it 60 days in is nothing. Literally everything about guitar is about minute details , and you are doing this whilst trying to remember chords and fingering and strumming patterns etc, massive amounts of muscle memory’ and technique need to bed in

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Some good advice here already.

In addition, it’s good to remember that, in the early days, you are likely to be playing with a fair degree of tension in both hands. I suppose this is pretty normal as you’re likely concentrating harder, things are more ‘mechanical’, and you’re working on getting the elements of technique together. As you move along, this should ease up a bit as things become more fluid and natural.

One thing which helped me alot earlier on was thinking about the 6 string ‘plane’ as a runway, and the pick/ hand motion as a plane approaching landing, then taking off again. There was something fluid, even zen, about that mindset that developed my strumming pretty quickly. Great for developing the skill of intentionally missing strings too on chords where the lower string(s) arent played.

Cheers, Shane

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Another thing to try is not holding the pick so tight. A little bit of a lighter grip can help.

I feel your pain. When I first started I needed to keep a death-grip on the pick or it would constantly move around in my fingers. As you progress you start to develop the ability to continuously adjust the position of the pick, so a lighter grip becomes possible. I can’t tell you how to achieve this- it just seems to come with time.

The other thing that helped me was to strum to a drums backing track I downloaded from YouTube. You can chose what BPM you want, there are many of them on YouTube. I found that worked for me as I wasn’t concentrating on a tune.

Howard, you’ve had lots of good advice already so I will just add one small comment.
If in doubt, check this out.


A little factoid.
Elvis Costello was given the nickname Little Hands of Concrete by the producer of his early records (Nick Lowe) due to his heavy-handed habit of breaking strings.


Oh so I need to refresh my ‘touch and go’ flying technique! Not bad

Thank you for this image, @Richard_close2u; as they say: a picture paints a thousand words. (And thanks to @Howiealan50 for starting this thread.) I too have a heavy hand strumming. That said - it’s good to know we’re in good company! I’m seeing Elvis and Nick Lowe in 10 days!!! I’ll be watching EC’s playing closely, keeping in mind where strumming work can lead me. :rofl:

Lucky you - where at?

It’s really early days for you so it’s expected that you don’t yet have a handle on strumming yet. It will take much longer and sometime I feel like I don’t have a handle on it yet, lol. One thing you can do, If you are willing to spend some money, is Justin has an entire course on strumming designed to help with this. it even starts at a foundational level and gets more complex as the course goes:

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He’ll be in Bend, Oregon with The Imposters as part of a tour called “We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday”. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited. :smile:

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Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around this. Everything takes a lot of practice time. For example, for almost two years I’ve been strumming acoustic without a pick, by using just my thumb and pinky finger sometimes, and throughout this time, I’ve became very much acquainted with the position of strings that I can single pick notes without even looking at them much (this I can do even on electric with a much narrower neck); and control how hard or soft I strum or pick them. Now, I began practising power chords on electric with a pick and… oh, boy! I mean, it’s better now than when I started but still pretty abysmal :smiley:

Hello Howard, I can relate much to this, I have to say that I’m improving with time and practice but for me it still seems the harder aspect of strumming: whether I use a pick or fingers I more often than not dislike the sound of it. The fact is I had to put a lot of attention to the other aspects, time and rhythm first, that I neglected both my fretting hand accuracy and the sound. Now just this morning maybe I found out a strategy :bulb:, the amp volume was set too high and there where children singing along, I couldn’t stop the song to adjust the volume so I was forced to strum in a lighter way…I think I will try to practice with the amp, when the neighbours are not at home, and see how it goes…

Hi Howard,

You’ve had a lot of good advice, but the two bits of advice from Justin that I remember is to get some Dunlop nylon 0.38 mm picks (super thin and flexible and will give you a lighter strumming feel) and practice strumming while muting the strings with your fretting hand or just holding one chord. If you play along with the app, don’t be afraid to swipe down and slow the song down. Then you can strum at a speed you are comfortable. You’ll get better as you get more practice and experience. Have fun playing songs on the app.