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How do you <1>Strum without a pick? and <2>cont.

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Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 225
Topic starter  

mute all the strings to get that percussive sound when strumming them?

If you've seen the 'Long Way Round' DVD you will have seen Ewan McGregor playing in the style I am describing. I don't get how you do the upstrums with your fingers, nor do I understand how the percussive sound is made. He looked like he was strumming with an open hand, if that makes sense?

As an aside, the 'Long Way Round' book is much better than the DVD and well worth a read.

Famed Member
Joined: 20 years ago
Posts: 2849

You can actually do it a number of ways.

One way is to rest the fleshy side of your hand on the strings near the bridge and make a short strum with either your pick or a finger.

Or you can strum the strings then immediately brush the strings with your strumming hand, kind of like strum on the way down and stop the strings on the way up.

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Eminent Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 15

If I don't have a pick to hand or I have to play without one, I usually just use my thumb to strum. Sounds alright really. :)

SethD - Probably The Worst Guitarist In The World, Ever.

Estimable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 91

Hi Rich,

I also use a variety of techniques. Just having to play without a pick for a while will force you to start toughening up the skin on your fingertips and the backs of the fingernails. You can rake your fingers upward across the strings in a brushing motion and you can also slap the strings or brush them downward with the backs of your fingernails. You can also use the thumb to hit the bass and create a nice full sound. A friend of mine plays with an interesting style like this. It's actually very close to the styles of playing you might have seen 100 years ago before picks became popular. Most of the older blues I study is played that way. Hold an E chord, then pick the low E string with the thumb followed by a down strum with the back of your hand then an upstrum with the tips of your fingers. This BOOM-CHUCK-KAH 1-2-3 type of action is a basis for a lot of older music. Here is a web page I made for my friend showing this style of playing and strumming without a pick. It might be of interest to you with the videos and mp3 materials explaining how to do each song. CLICK HERE

Good luck and hang in there and explore all the good ways to play. They are all equally good. Even unique ways you might come up with...


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Reputable Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 225
Topic starter  

LB - thanks for the links. The technique I am looking for is the strum and percussive sound thats on the 'confidant' video 2.

Isn't it annoying how some people make things look so easy..... :lol:

Illustrious Member
Joined: 21 years ago
Posts: 5349

I use my thumb for the upstrokes and my middle finger for the downstrokes. Both fingers touch each other on the downstroke but are apart with the upstroke. The bulk of movement comes from the wrist but subtle changes can be made using the muscles of the seperate fingers.