Beginners Guitar Lessons Part 4 – Picking and Strumming
Welcome back to part four of Beginners Guitar Lessons. Today, we’ll learn about picking and strumming. Picking and strumming use varying patterns of up and down strokes, noted in music to form some sort of arrow.
Using combinations of up and down strokes helps make a more efficient use of movement, making the notes and chords easier to play faster, and provide for a more fluid sound. There is no right way or wrong way to pick or strum, only different ways to achieve a certain result.
Using all down or up strokes results in a “choppier” sound with more attack, while playing alternating up and down strokes will result in a smoother sound. Using alternating up and down strokes, is also the method used to play extremely fast and fluid.
Different combinations of up and down strokes are also used to achieve a combination of soft or sharp attach sounds and effects.
There are many playing who alternative with using a pick, and finger picking, while others use their fingers exclusively. We’ll get into finger picking at another time, but while both methods have merits, using a pick at this point is a good idea. As you progress with these Beginners Guitar Lessons, you will soon decide which method, if not both, are right for the style of music you will be playing.
Anatomy Of A Pick
Picks are made from many different materials, including stone, metal, heavy felt, or even wood, those made of a plastic composite are most popular. Picks come in many sizes and thicknesses also, and choosing the right one for you is a matter of personal preference. Try a few different shapes and thicknesses and you will invariably find one that feels comfortable.
Holding The Pick
There is no right or wrong way to hold a pick, but most guitarists hold the pick between their thumb and index finger. This also frees up other fingers to perform finger picking if you so desire. When you’re starting out, the pick may feel as though it will fall out of your hand at any given time…and it will at first! A firm, but not too tight of a grip, with the hand relaxed, is right about where you want to be.
Guitar Practice – Picking With Scales
Let’s take the C major scale for our first picking exercise. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. We’ll use alternative up and down picking for each note:
Practice the C major scale backwards and forwards, starting with a down stroke on the first note.
Guitar Practice – Picking With Chords
Picking chords is a little different than picking scales. Try playing a C chord with a down stroke, then again with an up stroke. Since you’re hitting the lower notes first on a down stroke, and the higher notes first on the up stroke, the chord will sound slightly different.
Let’s work out a chord picking pattern with the C chord:
The beats are listed below, in the beat pattern of: 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &. We’ll be omitting the & beat between the 1 and 2, and the 2 and 3, so the last three strums will be quicker.
Now add the G chord after a succession of C chords, and play the same pattern.