Eight Common Strumming Mistakes to Avoid on Guitar

We will explore eight common strumming mistakes that many beginners make. Strumming is a fundamental technique that lays the foundation for playing various styles of music on the guitar. Understanding and correcting these mistakes will help you achieve better control, dynamics, and tone while avoiding fatigue during long playing sessions. Your guitar lessons like these will go a long way when you understand the fundamentals of strumming. We will also discuss the importance of using the right pick for strumming and how to hold it.

1. The Robot

The “robot” strumming technique involves an inconsistent down-up motion while playing a strum pattern. To avoid this mistake, maintain a steady down-up motion, ensuring a sustainable and relaxed strumming experience. If someone was watching you play with no sound, it should always look as if you are constantly strumming a down-up metronomic beat, even if in reality, you are often skipping a down or an up strum to create a rhythmic pattern.

2. The Karate Chop

Using the “karate chop” technique involves making excessive movements in the elbow or arm while strumming instead of the wrist. Instead, focus on using loose wrist movement to achieve speed, sustainability, and improved control over volume and dynamics.

3. The Hammer

“The hammer” refers to relying solely on downstrokes while strumming. Although it can be suitable for certain styles, avoid limiting yourself to downstrokes only. Practice a constant down-up motion to have more versatility and speed in your strumming.

4. The Pinch of the Pick

Holding the pick with a pinch between your thumb and index finger can lead to inadequate control and instability. Opt for a better grip by placing your thumb on one edge and your index finger on the other, allowing for fine control of the pick.

5. The Deathgrip

A common mistake is gripping the pick too tightly, leading to a lack of control over volume and dynamics. Maintain a loose grip to achieve smoother strumming and the ability to vary your sound effortlessly.

6. Digging into the Strings

Often, players will allow for a large portion of the pick to go past the strings, causing the pick to dig deep into the strings which creates a harsh sound, and hinders your ability to play quickly and smoothly. Aim to graze the strings lightly with the pick for a more fluid and effortless strumming experience.

7. Lack of Dynamics

Playing everything at the same volume without variations in dynamics can make your strumming sound monotonous and dull. Practice strumming softly and gradually increase your intensity to develop better control over dynamics. You can increase intensity by gripping the pick harder or strumming harder. 

8. Using the Right Pick

Selecting the appropriate pick is crucial for optimal strumming. For most players, a medium pick (around 0.68 to 0.78 mm) made of celluloid material is ideal. It offers a balance between flexibility and resistance, allowing for better control and smoother strumming, and the celluloid has a pleasant tone when it first hits the string.

By identifying and avoiding these eight common strumming mistakes, you can significantly improve your rhythm guitar playing. Remember to focus on wrist movement, maintain a relaxed grip, and experiment with dynamics to enhance your strumming technique. Additionally, selecting the right pick will greatly contribute to your overall sound and playing experience. Practice regularly, be patient with yourself, and soon you’ll be strumming with confidence and skill. Remember, guitar playing is a journey, and every step you take to refine your technique will bring you closer to becoming an accomplished guitarist. Happy strumming!

Gary Heimbauer is a writer for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer.