How to Strum a Guitar

There are several methods that can be used for how to strum a guitar. Many players have used these same methods in different music styles.

Using your Right Hand

When we talk about the right hand, this means that you’re using all your fingers at the same time to achieve the strumming effect you want.

This is a simpler method that other ways, because the only thing you need to use it is your hand coordination. That’s the only thing you need in order to achieve the desired strumming sounds.

The most common occasion when you can do this is while playing rhythm on an accoustic guitar. You can use your right hand as a percussive method to play rhythm in your band, for example.

Using your finger nails

Another common way to strum a guitar is using finger nails.

There are several guitar traditions that use finger nails as the most common technique for guitar strumming.

A well-known example are finger picking styles in folk music. In north America and other areas, you’ll find folk songs and styles that are played mostly using finger style.

Another example is classical guitar, where guitar players spend years to achieve a finger picking style that is good enough to play the most demanding pieces. In classical guitar, finger nails are used almost exclusively, although some players opt to use the finger flesh tips instead.

Using a pick

The most common way to play an electric guitar is using a pick.

A pick, or plectrum (its more traditional name) is a small piece commonly made of plastic. The pick is used to strum the guitar strings.

Using a pick requires some practice, since you need to make sure that the attack angle is ideal and will produce the sounds you desire.

While easy to use, a pick needs practice and dexterity. A good guitar player  needs to practice their picking skills and make sure that the proper movements are used.

With your Thumb

Some people use the thumb to strum the guitar. While this is not the common way of doing it, you will find situations where thumb strumming is effective and useful.

Examples are some passages where you want a strong and clear sound from all strings at the same time. Using the thumb can provide this type of sound.

Another example is on certain classical guitar pieces that require a quick strumming using the thumb only.


Strumming your guitar is a basic technique that needs to be mastered by any player.

You should practice different methods to generate sound in your guitar, and as you improve your technique there will be many opportunities to use them in your songs.

Learning More About Guitar Playing

If you like this information, you should check our free guitar course (in PDF format). There you will find a lot information about the following topics:

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  • Finding the notes in the instrument
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