In this video guitar lesson I’m going to show you a few different ways you can strum without a pick. Maybe you’re in a pinch and just don’t have a pick. Or maybe there is some strumming in a section of a fingerstyle song. These techniques will help you get a handle on strumming with your fingers.
- For more on chords, rhythms and strumming be sure and check out my comprehensive Rhythm Guitar Mastery course.
(Video Guitar Lesson)
Pretend Pick Strumming
The first technique for strumming with your fingers is what I call “the pretend pick”. You are putting your thumb and index fingers together like you might normally hold a pick. But you are going to extend the last segment of your 1st finger beyond your thumb. So that last segment of your first finger is what you are going to use as your “pick”.
Fingernail Thumbnail Strumming
For the next technique for strumming without a pick you are going to again put your 1st finger and thumb together like you are holding a pick. But unlike the “pretend pick” method you are not going to extend the last segment of your 1st finger beyond your thumb. Instead they will be fairly even with each other.
Then you will use your 1st finger fingernail to strum down, and your thumbnail to strum up.
Basic Fingerstyle Strumming
While the first 2 techniques are common, personally this next one is the one I use for basic fingerstyle strumming.
With this method you are going to strum down with the fingernails of your 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers.
For strumming up you are going to “brush” just the upper strings with the last segment of your index finger. If you tried to strum with three fingers the same as you do when strumming down, your fingers would get caught up in the strings. So using just your first finger is smoother.
For both strumming down and up be sure and keep your right hand relaxed. Your fingers should give as the glide across the strings.
You could also strum down with your index finger only, but I think you loose some of the sound and accenting power of using 3 finger. But if there is a faster strum, you may shift more to using just your first finger for speed.
The Thumb Strum
Strumming with just your thumb can be used when you are looking for a softer more subtle sound. You don’t get the same volume that you do when using your fingernails on the down strum. You can use your thumbnail for accents on the up strums, or avoid using your thumbnail to keep it soft.
Probably the most advanced style of strumming with your fingers is found in the playing of Flamenco guitar players. That’s beyond what we are going to cover in this lesson. But do a little YouTube search for “Flamenco Guitar”. Or better yet type in “Paco de Lucia” who was one of the greatest Flamenco guitar players of all time.