Guitar picks are usually considered must-have items for most guitarists, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to play with only your fingers. The reason it’s good to know how to do both is that each method produces a different sound, and you never know which sound you might want.
Playing with a pick produces a bright tone that is heavy on the treble while strumming the guitar with fingers produces a warmer and “fleshier” sound. Since you never know when you’ll need these two sounds, it’s good to learn to strum both with and without a guitar pick.
How to Strum a Guitar with Your Fingers?
The main types of strumming with your fingers include ghost picking, thumb strumming, finger strumming, Carter scratch, claw hammer, and Rasgueado strumming. But don’t be alarmed by how many of them there are. The fact is, each of them is simple to learn and can add to your list of skills when it comes to playing the guitar. You’ll end up using each of them at some point, and keep in mind that strumming without a pick allows you to better control the volume while you’re playing the guitar. There are, in fact, many advantages to strumming your guitar without a pick.
Ghost Picking and Thumb Strumming
Ghost picking is also called fake or pretends picking and uses the thumb and index fingers to make a shape like a pick. With your fingers, pretend you’re holding a pick to strum the guitar, keeping the thumb slightly behind and pressing just underneath the tip of your index finger. Think of this shape as a “relaxed OK” shape.
For thumb strumming, you have to position the thumb at different angles until you find the clearest sound. Make sure you relax your thumb, especially if you’re strumming fast. Thumb strumming always creates a nice soft sound, so if a more mellow sound is what you want, use your thumb when you play the guitar.
Finger Strumming and Carter Scratch
Finger strumming is simply playing the guitar with other fingers besides your thumb. An index strum, for example, means the upstrokes are done with the pad of your finger and the downstrokes are done with your nail. You can also curl your index, middle, and ring fingers in a C shape for a fuller tone.
The Carter scratch was made famous by “Mother” Carter of The Carter Family. It combines downstrokes on the thumb with both upstrokes and downstrokes on the pad and nail of the index finger. It is commonly used to get a “boom chick-a” rhythm heard in country and bluegrass music, but it can be used in other genres as well.
Clawhammer and Rasgueado Strumming
The clawhammer strum is what banjo players use, and it combines the fingers and the thumb. With this stroke, you’ll be playing bass note downstrokes with your thumb, but you’ll curl the first three fingers like a claw. Then, you stroke only the treble notes with your fingernails instead of using a full raking motion.
Finally, Rasgueado strumming utilizes either the index, middle, and ring fingers, or only the thumb and/or pinky fingers. It is associated with flamenco guitar but can be used in other styles as well. Most of the time, you’ll be using your fingers for downstrokes and your thumb for upstrokes.
Conclusion – How to Strum a Guitar with Your Fingers
There are numerous reasons to play guitar with a pick, but there are obvious advantages to strumming with the fingers instead. Seasoned guitar players are able to play both with and without a pick, and the best part is that the techniques mentioned above are not your only options.
When you become more experienced at playing the guitar, you might even come up with some strumming methods of your own, and you’ll be all right to use them. The main thing to remember is that learning to strum both with and without a pick is important because of the different sounds they provide.
If you’re interested in learning how to strum the guitar without using a pick, start by trying out the techniques mentioned above. They are easy to learn and can get you in the habit of strumming using only your fingers. You can then move on to some other techniques, including those you make up on your own so that you’ll become an even better guitar player.
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