How To: Thumb & Finger Strums Lesson on JustinGuitar

Learn how to strum the guitar using your thumb and index finger to sound more groovy! This strumming technique might be exactly what you’re looking for. :)

View the full lesson at How To: Thumb & Finger Strums | JustinGuitar

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This lesson has been superb for me, can’t rave enough about it. For songs that need emphasis on the back beat (like a lot of Credence Clearwater and such), it’s the perfect and easy way to do it. I’ve added close to ten songs to my repertoire with this technique since first watching this lesson a few months ago.


In Justin’s demo, there is both a percussive hit and strings ringing on the backbeat, I’m struggling to get both (I can get either of them consistently, just not at the same time!)

I seem to be either muting the strings when I try to hit the back beat, so I get the percussive hit, but no strings ringing, or, if I change my hand position a little, then I can get the strings ringing and no percussive hit sound. Does anyone have an idea of how to get both?

in the lesson justin mentions that there will be more lessons with melodic / percussive elements. does anyone mind please pointing me to those if they are available?

also are there any further song lessons that use this thumb/finger strum technique?

Justin’s song tutorial for Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” would be a very relevant pick to pair with this lesson!

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are any of you using an electric guitar to do this as im finding it hard to hear the “slap” when hitting the stings of the electric

Hi Leo,
Welcome here and i wish you a lot of fun,… :sunglasses:

And yes I use an electric guitar for this, and coincidentally watched this video again an hour ago and paid attention to whether I did it a bit neatly, … well, practice again tomorrow and then I will be fine :blush:,…
But of course it took a while for the “slap” to hit smoothly,…good luck and have fun with this,

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Thanks for the insight
Does anyone keep their pinky finger down when doing this or are use using the whole hand

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Hi Leo,
Good question, I had to pick up my guitar for it :roll_eyes:, …my little finger hangs down, like in the beginning of this video,…But there are situations where you “hit” all strings with your whole hand/fingers

found another song lesson that uses the technique - “i still call australia home”

if you mean using the pinky as an anchor?

no, it seems quite difficult to do it that way. especially at faster tempos.

perhaps it seems like when the palm hits the strings it guides you on where your hand is above the strings so you dont really need the pinky to anchor you?

I have no idea how to do the percussive hit. Do I need longer nails, or does it depend on the way I strum? Do I beat on one of the strings to do the percussion? How does he do it?

do people use there whole hand for the percussive hit and the upstrum or do you just use one finger.

Hi Ianism

Not sure if you’re still struggling with this but I really did a bit too but think I’ve just had a bit of a breakthrough. I was working on another song with a similar technique but I was muting the strings a lot on the chords as it kind of suited the song and I liked the sound of it.
So, when it came to this I really struggled getting both strings ringing out and the percussive hit at the same time, like you.
I’ve just recently tried lifting my strumming arm up a bit and my elbow hangs more over the edge of the guitar and I found I was getting the hit better like this and the strings ringing a bit as well. I think the ‘and’ note after the 2 also helps cover it when they’re not ringing as it’s straight after it.
I’ve only just done this so hopefully will keep trying and get it better but hopefully it may help you too or anyone else if they’re still finding this part tricky. :v:


Along with alternating bass notes, this is a good opportunity to practice linking chords as shown in module 15.

In the video lesson, when Justin plays the downstream with the finger on beats 2 and 4, it sounds nice and bright and at a balanced volume with the thumbed note on 1 and 3.

When I play it on my acoustic guitar, the downstrum with my 1st finger fingernail is loud and boomy with a strong bass sound and projection, and it kind of overpowers the thumbed bass notes in volume. Any advice on getting it to sound more like in the video?

The easiest way is to not strum the bass note with your index finger. Only the thumb plays the bass note on the 1 and 3. The bass note is not played on 2 and 4.

Thanks, makes sense! So when playing a C, do you only hit the bottom 4 strings and playing a D, just the bottom 3 strings, or only important to avoid the 6th string?

I always skip the bass string, regardless if it’s the E, A, or D string. I much prefer the sound when I skip the bass string with the index finger.

I suggest you do whatever sounds best to your ear on your guitar. Sounds good = Is good :grin:

I have the same problem bro. Did you sort it out?