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Strumming without a Pick

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JBELTON
(@jbelton)
Eminent Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 16
Topic starter  

Does anyone strum without a pick? Some songs that I am learning have fingerpicking and strumming. What is the best way to strum without a pick? If a just strum with my thumb - it songs to soft, if I strum using all fingers it sounds too harsh.

By the way, I love you guys at Guitar Noise. You wealth of knowledge is so helpful for a newbie. Thanks.


   
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boxboy
(@boxboy)
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Joined: 16 years ago
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I do it quite a bit. I have my thumb and pointer finger lightly squeezed together like I was holding an imaginary pick.
The inside half of the pointer fingernail sounds the downstrokes and the outside half of the thumb nail makes the upstrokes. Hope you can follow that; it's hard to describe. :)
Takes a bit to get the hang of but I love the freedom it affords you to fingerpick whenever you like.
It gives a sound brighter and louder than a pick too.

Don


   
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vink
 vink
(@vink)
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Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 722
 

You can strum with just your thumb, or thumb and first finger pinched together. If the strumming sounds too harsh with your thumb, you just need to change the angle of attack a bit. The same thing can happen with the pick too .. it's probably just a question of practice and developing the right technique.

You can strum with the pick and use "hybrid picking" for the finger picked parts, where you use your middle, ring and pinky for the picking parts.

--vink
"Life is either an adventure or nothing" -- Helen Keller


   
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PoppaDuck
(@poppaduck)
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I tend to play mostly without a pick because I like the way my acoustic sounds without it.

You can also try downstrokes with your thumb and upstrokes with your index finger.


   
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dogbite
(@dogbite)
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Joined: 17 years ago
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with my little ukelele I often strum by raking the strings with the back of my fingers...that would be the nails. a lighter touch makes for a light brush sound.

http://www.soundclick.com/bands/pagemusic.cfm?bandID=644552
http://www.soundclick.com/couleerockinvaders


   
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causnorign
(@causnorign)
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Joined: 18 years ago
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I do it quite a bit. I have my thumb and pointer finger lightly squeezed together like I was holding an imaginary pick.
The inside half of the pointer fingernail sounds the downstrokes and the outside half of the thumb nail makes the upstrokes. Hope you can follow that; it's hard to describe. :)
Takes a bit to get the hang of but I love the freedom it affords you to fingerpick whenever you like.
It gives a sound brighter and louder than a pick too.

I hardly ever use a pick. My prime technique when strumming is the same as Boxboy's. Sometimes a nice effect can be achieved by brushing the backs of the fingers across the strings on the downstroke. Often when strumming my 3rd and 4th fingers just seem to have their own mind and pluck 1 or 2 of the higer strings, I'd try to break the habit but I like the sound it makes.


   
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Vic Lewis VL
(@vic-lewis-vl)
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I hardly ever use a pick, unless I'm playing a kind of jangly rhythm figure that requires me to strum fairly close to the bridge. I strum with my thumb and index finger pinched loosely together - like someone else said, as if you're holding an invisible pick. Makes the transition from strumming to picking easier, and it cuts out unwanted pick noise as well.

:D :D :D

Vic

"Sometimes the beauty of music can help us all find strength to deal with all the curves life can throw us." (D. Hodge.)


   
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Clazon
(@clazon)
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But doesn't that mean you get a little bubble of blood under the skin on your index finger? Or is that just me doing it wrong... :?

"Today is what it means to be young..."

(Radiohead, RHCP, Jimi Hendrix - the big 3)


   
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CitiZenNoir
(@citizennoir)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 1247
 

Hi.
I hardly ever use a pick.
In fact - I know that I have no picks around right now.

Like someone else said, acoustics sound really good with finger strumming.

When I'm playing some hard rock song, usually I'll employ the pinched index finger to thumb 'imaginary pick' method.
Usually though, I'll use that for playing single line leads. (as well as using just the side of my thumb for a bit more speed on the lead runs)

Mainly with strumming, I'll relax my hand and use just my index finger. Mostly the inside closest to my middle finger.
That half of my fingernail is wore down pretty far.
I stay very relaxed - my index finger from the tip of the nail to the first knuckle brush against the strings on the downstroke.
And on the upstroke, the tip of my index finger is still pointing up and it gets brushed very lightly with the very tip of the nail
catching the strings.
This is very useful for me for playing faster things like the 'gitty up' strumming of Chicago's Make Me Smile.

For slower things I like to mainly upstroke adding downstrokes for emphasis while playing a bass line or bass note at intervals with my thumb.

Like learning to use a pick, it takes time to learn the dynamics of it as well as the proper angle of attack.

The best advice I can give that works well for me is to keep your strumming hand relaxed and in a most natural position.
The rest will come with practice.

Ken

EDIT - I almost forgot about the thumb/finger single string 'snap'.
Thumb on top of the string and index finger below (almost in the position your thumb and finger would be in after you snap them, with the thumb pointing kinda towards the headstock).
Now go down with the thumb at the same time you go up with the finger, pulling off both sharply.
This give a very country-ish sorta twang to the note, with a rather staccato feel. :)

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within
begins to live more simply without"
-Ernest Hemingway

"A genuine individual is an outright nuisance in a factory"
-Orson Welles


   
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Chris C
(@chris-c)
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Joined: 17 years ago
Posts: 3454
 

Hi,

I never use a pick.

I either strum with my thumb or use a combination of thumb and index, or thumb, middle, index and ring fingers, depending on the style or picking pattern. As other said, you can be very versatile like that. Lots of different angles and combinations that will produce a wide range of sounds.

With the bass I use the common approach of alternating index and middle fingers, but also using the thumb sometimes too.

I've tried out a variety of picks, including ones made from wire and some from compressed felt. Interesting to try, but picks just aren't really for me.

Cheers,

Chris


   
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causnorign
(@causnorign)
Honorable Member
Joined: 18 years ago
Posts: 554
 

Hi,

I never use a pick.

I either strum with my thumb or use a combination of thumb and index, or thumb, middle, index and ring fingers, depending on the style or picking pattern. As other said, you can be very versatile like that. Lots of different angles and combinations that will produce a wide range of sounds.

With the bass I use the common approach of alternating index and middle fingers, but also using the thumb sometimes too.

I've tried out a variety of picks, including ones made from wire and some from compressed felt. Interesting to try, but picks just aren't really for me.

Cheers,

Chris
I'd seen those compressed felt picks in a store once, I was under the impression that they were designed for some specific purpose although I had no idea what that was. They must sound pretty dull.


   
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Chris C
(@chris-c)
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Here's a wire pick. Easy to make you own version to try out if you fancy it. I made some from the copper from household electrical wire and they sounded good to me.

Wire Thing

I wonder if they considered borrowing song Wild Thing for a slogan "Wire Thing! You make my strings sing....." ?? :wink:

Here's another wire one. Looks more like a wire brush than a pick, but I've not seen one outside a picture. Anybody tried one?

The Jellifish pick


   
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Chris C
(@chris-c)
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Posts: 3454
 

I'd seen those compressed felt picks in a store once, I was under the impression that they were designed for some specific purpose although I had no idea what that was. They must sound pretty dull.

They certainly give quite a soft sound. But it didn't sound dull to me - more like having a tone knob on your acoustic. :) Probably not what you'd want for rock, but they can give a lovely tone for some classical or folk stuff. I'm not even sure if they're intended for guitar though. They may have originated for use with another stringed instrument.

EDIT: Looks like they're mostly used by ukulele and autoharp players.


   
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Ricochet
(@ricochet)
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Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 7833
 

I blister my thumb if I get too enthusiastic strumming with it. I've done that often.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine."


   
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Embrace_the_Darkness
(@embrace_the_darkness)
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Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 539
 

I have blistered my thumb in the past as well!

https://www.guitarnoise.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=30134&highlight=blister

Pete

ETD - Formerly "10141748 - Reincarnate"


   
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