How to Strum a Guitar with a Pick

Are you ready to learn how to strum a guitar with a pick? Today in this guitar lesson I want to show you how to strum your guitar with some easy strumming.

So if you want to know how to strum with a pick: Today I will teach you How to Strum a Guitar with a Pick. How to strum whole notes with a pick. How to strum half notes with a pick, and how to strum with a pick quarter notes. Easy beginner strumming patterns.

If this sounds like something your ready to learn then grab your guitar and lets get started.

Holding a Pick Properly & Strumming Guitar

Before we can start strumming using a pick. You need to know how to hold the pick properly. So that you can play with ease. A lot of guitar players starting out hack at the strings. And play very loud. What you want to do is hold the pick properly and strum evenly and it can be a soft strum.

So first lets look at holding the pick properly. There are all different shapes of picks. But I like to use a pick that is rounded on one side and comes to a point at the other side. The pick should be placed on your first finger. With the point sticking out. So that the pointed part of the pick is an extension of your finger. With your finger in the center of the pick. Then place your thumb on top. See the images below.

YourGuitarGuide holding pick

See how to hold a pick in the images above. The final picture is turning your pick into the strings. This is for strumming, but when you want to pick individual strings. Then you will hold your fingers closer to the pointed part of the pick. This way you have more control. But we will cover that later on down the line.

Now you know the proper way to hold the pick. Lets talk about strumming. when you strum you want to relax your hand and strum down. First you want your strum to be an even strum. This means you need to consciously think about how far you are strumming down.

And do it the same way every time. Also how loud the strum is. You want to relax your hand and wrist and strum softly. Practice strumming down, and don’t tense up. Stay relaxed with an even strum.

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Strum an Electric Guitar With a Pick

Also while we are talking about strumming with a pick. Lets talk about strumming with a pick using an electric guitar. It is a little bit different. Mostly if you are strumming up. A little later we are going to discuss strumming patterns. But if you are strumming down. You need to hold the pick as prescribed earlier in this lesson. And when starting out you are going to work on strumming down.

When you get comfortable with strumming down. Keeping an even controlled strum. Then you can work on strumming up. You may find that strumming up is a bit harder. What I would recommend when strumming upward using an electric guitar is two things.

First when you strum on an electric guitar upward don’t strum all the strings. When strumming upward you are usually only strumming the first 2 to 4 strings. Don’t worry about how many. Just practice strumming down and then back up. Just know that you don’t have to hit all the strings. This will make things easier.

Secondly you may have to use a little more force to strum up. And also when you are using an electric guitar you are going to want a heavier pick. I recommend trying several different pick thicknesses until you get the perfect pick for you.

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Strumming Practice

When you practice strumming there are some things to remember. First you want to start just by strumming down. And then bring your hand back up. Now your ready to strum down again. Strum down, then bring your arm up. You are not hitting any strings when you bring your hand back up. You want to keep your hand in motion don’t stop.

After you have worked on strumming down keeping your hand in motion and brining it back up. Once this is comfortable simply bring your pick in contact with the strings on the way up. Practice strumming down and bring your hand up don’t touch the strings do that 3 times and on the fourth down strum hit the strings going back up. Keep your hand in motion and do it again. Try playing down and up strums. Remember to keep your hand relaxed and in motion.

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Strumming Whole Note With a Pick

Now lets look at a cheese cake, I love cheese cake. Maybe your wondering what cheese cake has to do with guitar? And strumming. This cheese cake is going to help with this lesson.

First lets look at a measure of music. What is a measure of music? A measure of music signifies the smallest metrical divisions of a composition. Containing a fixed number of beats. Marked off by vertical lines on a staff. Source See the picture of a staff below.

If you listen to music on the radio you more than likely be listening to a song in 4/4 timing. When you listen to music you hear a beat or a pulse. This pulse is measured by how many beats are in a measure or bar.

A measure of music in 4/4 time has 4 beats to a measure. One, two, three, four.

Whole Note Strumming With a Pick

I will explain how to strum using a whole note. Starting out you are going to want to strum down. So if we are in 4/4 time we are going to strum down one time. And then you count 1 2 3 4. So the One beat or strum is 1, then you count 2s 3 4. This is a whole note strum. It looks like this on a staff. See a whole note below.

How Many Beats Are In a Whole Note?

If you are playing in 4/4 timing there are 4 beats in a whole note. There are some whole notes shown below so you can practice strumming whole notes. I would recommend counting out loud. This will help keep your timing. Remember try to keep your wrist and hand relaxed. Keep your hand in motion up and down. With an even strum. Meaning the distance of your strum should be the same each time you strum down.

You can strum by muting the strings with your fretting hand. Simply lay your hand over the strings so that they don’t rings out. Or use a chord to strum. An E minor chord is a good choose as you only need to use two fingers to make the chord. If you don’t know how to make the Em then just mute the strings.

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Half Note Strumming With a Pick

Okay finally I get to talk about cheese cake. We are going to reference the cheese cake to learn how to strum half notes. When you have a whole note you have a whole cheese cake. When you have a half note. Now you have two haves of the cheese cake. Now that you have cut the cheese… Cake in to two pieces you have two halves. Each half has two beats. You need 2 half notes to make a whole note. See what half notes look like on a staff.

Half Note

The half note is half the duration of the whole note. Your still counting to 4 and if it takes two half notes to make a whole notes. Then You will strum on one and three. Still counting 1 2 3 4. This will make changing chords even faster to do. So if your not solid with changing chords. You can still practice your strum by muting the strings. If you want to try switching chords. A good choice is the Em and the Am chords.

A good way to get going on this is strumming up and down without touching the strings just yet. Even strum relaxed. Counting one two three four. Keep doing that. Then get ready on beat one strum the strings.

Still counting and then on beat two your not going to hit the strings. Then when you get to the third beat, still counting play the strings. So if you are playing the Em and Am chord. You will actually play the Em chord two times. Strumming and then switch to the Am chord. Strumming it two times. Once on the 1 beat and again on the third beat. Practice playing half notes.

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How to Strum Quarter Notes With a Pick

Okay now that you have been practicing whole notes and half notes. How do you strum a quarter note? First off lets look at what is a quarter note? A quarter note duration is 1 fourth the duration of a whole note. Again lets take the cheese cake scenario. We had a whole cheese cake. Then we cut it in two. Giving us two haves. Which symbolizes the half note which is 2 half notes to make a whole note. Or a whole peace of the cake.

Now lets look at the 1/4 note. We need to take the whole cheese cake and cut it in to 4 pieces. Or take the two haves and cut it across the middle and now you have 4 quarters. Which symbolizes quarter notes. Two quarter notes make a half note. And two half notes make a whole note. See what a quarter note looks like in music. Quarter Note

How are we going to strum using the quarter notes. When you strum quarter notes you are going to be strumming on every beat. You have to be able to switch chords with out thinking about your fretting hand.

Just concentrating on your strumming hand. 1 2 3 4. So we are talking about down strums. Every time your hand comes down you are going to hit the strings. keeping your hand in motion. When it comes up you are not hitting the strings. naturally bringing your pick back down across the strings.

If you want to practice using chords. You strum the strings 1 2 3 4 and switch chords. 1 2 3 4 switch chords. Practice this using the Em, Am and C chord. Or you can try different chords. Three chords that sound great together is G C & D. If you are not good at transitioning between the chords just yet.

You can still practice quarter note strumming by muting the strings with your fretting hand. Or if you want to learn more about the secrets of chord transitioning, making chords, and playing the guitar. Consider my course guitar bootcamp, be sure to click this link to get the special price.


3 easy beginner strumming patterns. Learning the whole note, half note, and quarter note strums on guitar is the perfect place to start to learn how to strum a guitar. Also using proper picking technique makes strumming a lot easier. I hope you enjoyed this lesson and if you did you might also like this: 10 tips for learning guitar chords.

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