Strumming nightmares - sound advice welcome/needed

Guitar Tricks Forum > Technique and Style > Strumming nightmares - sound advice welcome/needed

theMolster

Full Access

Joined: 04/30/20

Posts: 19

Hi,

Maybe someone can help me. I've been playing around 18 months self taught and joined the site a few weeks ago.

For the first few months I started playing I used a pick .5mm - this felt/feels ok in my hand. I really did not like strumming with the pick and eventually switched to fingers and spent some considerable effort learning to strum using my first finger and thumb; this sounds OK now but is certainly not brilliant.

On the advice of one of the instructors on the site I started to try strumming with a pick again and quickly realised why I stopped in the first place. Bear in mind, I'm not a complete beginner and I did put a lot of effort into using a pick for a fair amount of time but it never felt comfortable. And I have also put a lot of effort in the last few weeks - everyday, multiple practice sessions with strumming.

I've been following Better Strumming with Caren Armstrong and am really not enjoying using the pick, although I notice she uses her fingers. In fact, I'm getting to the stage where I'm not enjoying practicing at all because of how frustrating I'm finding this and actually put my guitar down today swearing to myself 'I've had enough' - that's how much of a nightmare I'm having

Current problems:
Very uneven sound due to hitting strings lighter or heavier (inconsistent)

Missing strings completely on both down and up strokes (randomly - especially when playing for example a D chord, might have something to do with me desperatly trying to miss the low e and a - I do mute the low e string when needed with my thumb)

Upstroke sounds consistently bad and feels alien

Pick get caught in the strings

The top e rings out so highly and annoying on the upstroke that I feel like cutting it with a wire cutter

Can't get anywhere near hitting/missing the right strings

...the list goes on...

The other thing is this, I can't switch between chords when using the pick because first of all it sounds so crap that it is making my ears bleed and second of all, I can't concentrate on more than trying to strum.

Can anyone advise please? I'm a pretty positive person but this is beating me at the moment and I don't want to throw away 18 months of daily practice (up to 2 hours and sometimes more of very dedicated hard work) due to this.

Thanks a lot in advance,

the(unhappy)Molster

ps please don't tell me to try a different instrument (I'm on an accoustic electric guitar)

#1

Hi,

Maybe someone can help me. I've been playing around 18 months self taught and joined the site a few weeks ago.

For the first few months I started playing I used a pick .5mm - this felt/feels ok in my hand. I really did not like strumming with the pick and eventually switched to fingers and spent some considerable effort learning to strum using my first finger and thumb; this sounds OK now but is certainly not brilliant.

On the advice of one of the instructors on the site I started to try strumming with a pick again and quickly realised why I stopped in the first place. Bear in mind, I'm not a complete beginner and I did put a lot of effort into using a pick for a fair amount of time but it never felt comfortable. And I have also put a lot of effort in the last few weeks - everyday, multiple practice sessions with strumming.

I've been following Better Strumming with Caren Armstrong and am really not enjoying using the pick, although I notice she uses her fingers. In fact, I'm getting to the stage where I'm not enjoying practicing at all because of how frustrating I'm finding this and actually put my guitar down today swearing to myself 'I've had enough' - that's how much of a nightmare I'm having

Current problems:
Very uneven sound due to hitting strings lighter or heavier (inconsistent)

Missing strings completely on both down and up strokes (randomly - especially when playing for example a D chord, might have something to do with me desperatly trying to miss the low e and a - I do mute the low e string when needed with my thumb)

Upstroke sounds consistently bad and feels alien

Pick get caught in the strings

The top e rings out so highly and annoying on the upstroke that I feel like cutting it with a wire cutter

Can't get anywhere near hitting/missing the right strings

...the list goes on...

The other thing is this, I can't switch between chords when using the pick because first of all it sounds so crap that it is making my ears bleed and second of all, I can't concentrate on more than trying to strum.

Can anyone advise please? I'm a pretty positive person but this is beating me at the moment and I don't want to throw away 18 months of daily practice (up to 2 hours and sometimes more of very dedicated hard work) due to this.

Thanks a lot in advance,

the(unhappy)Molster

ps please don't tell me to try a different instrument (I'm on an accoustic electric guitar)

ChristopherSchlegel

Guitar Tricks Instructor

Joined: 08/09/05

Posts: 6006

Originally Posted by: theMolster

On the advice of one of the instructors on the site I started to try strumming with a pick again and quickly realised why I stopped in the first place. Bear in mind, I'm not a complete beginner and I did put a lot of effort into using a pick for a fair amount of time but it never felt comfortable. And I have also put a lot of effort in the last few weeks - everyday, multiple practice sessions with strumming.

First, I'm sorry for your frustrations. It sounds like you need to practice using a much lighter & more precise technique.

Addressing specific issues.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Very uneven sound due to hitting strings lighter or heavier (inconsistent)

Find a place to solidly plant your strumming arm on the guitar. Make your strumming motion a very small, controlled pass over the strings. Tilt the pick so you can lightly graze over the strings. DO NOT DIG IN.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Missing strings completely on both down and up strokes

This is a matter of making your strumming arc as small & precise as necessary. Go very slowly & with small motions.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Upstroke sounds consistently bad and feels alien

Practice upstrokes exclusively for a whole practice session. Tilt the pick so you can lightly graze over the strings.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Pick get caught in the strings[/p]

The top e rings out so highly and annoying on the upstroke that I feel like cutting it with a wire cutter

This is usually the result of not tilting the pick and digging in too far. You want to tilt or angle the pick so you can lightly graze over the strings. And you want to use just the tip of the pick to barely graze the string. The more you dig in, the deeper your pick goes below the plane of the strings, the more often you are going to get it caught in the strings.

You've probably heard this already, but the only way to learn & improve is repetitious practice using the right technique. It takes some people longer than others, but the same thing has to happen in all cases. You have to repeat the motions correctly until they become second nature.

Take your time. Be patient with yourself. Slow down & deliberately practice strumming with the correct technique until you can do it right. Going too fast & repeating bad technique is only going to make it take longer to get it right. And cause you more frustration in the process!

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

#2

Originally Posted by: theMolster

On the advice of one of the instructors on the site I started to try strumming with a pick again and quickly realised why I stopped in the first place. Bear in mind, I'm not a complete beginner and I did put a lot of effort into using a pick for a fair amount of time but it never felt comfortable. And I have also put a lot of effort in the last few weeks - everyday, multiple practice sessions with strumming.

First, I'm sorry for your frustrations. It sounds like you need to practice using a much lighter & more precise technique.

Addressing specific issues.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Very uneven sound due to hitting strings lighter or heavier (inconsistent)

Find a place to solidly plant your strumming arm on the guitar. Make your strumming motion a very small, controlled pass over the strings. Tilt the pick so you can lightly graze over the strings. DO NOT DIG IN.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Missing strings completely on both down and up strokes

This is a matter of making your strumming arc as small & precise as necessary. Go very slowly & with small motions.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Upstroke sounds consistently bad and feels alien

Practice upstrokes exclusively for a whole practice session. Tilt the pick so you can lightly graze over the strings.

Originally Posted by: theMolster
Pick get caught in the strings[/p]

The top e rings out so highly and annoying on the upstroke that I feel like cutting it with a wire cutter

This is usually the result of not tilting the pick and digging in too far. You want to tilt or angle the pick so you can lightly graze over the strings. And you want to use just the tip of the pick to barely graze the string. The more you dig in, the deeper your pick goes below the plane of the strings, the more often you are going to get it caught in the strings.

You've probably heard this already, but the only way to learn & improve is repetitious practice using the right technique. It takes some people longer than others, but the same thing has to happen in all cases. You have to repeat the motions correctly until they become second nature.

Take your time. Be patient with yourself. Slow down & deliberately practice strumming with the correct technique until you can do it right. Going too fast & repeating bad technique is only going to make it take longer to get it right. And cause you more frustration in the process!

Hope that helps!

Christopher Schlegel
Guitar Tricks Instructor

Christopher Schlegel Lesson Directory

DavesGuitarJourney

Full Access

Joined: 02/22/20

Posts: 153

Hey Molster,

I don't have any advice on how to solve the mechanical issues you are having with the pick (I will leave that to Mr. Schlegel!), but I will remind you of one thing that I see Mike O. mention fairly often. Keep it fun.

If you are stuck on something like this to the point that you are not having fun, work on something else. This will be there and you can come back regularly. Make the pick a small part of your practice routine instead of the main focus. Go back to basics for that part of your practice and don't try to do the same things with the pick that you can do without it.

I know a lot of this is mechanical and physical, but I really suspect a lot of it is mental -- at least the frustration part of it. You're taking it very seriously, and after all, it's just the guitar, y'know? :-)

Anyway, good luck and don't be too hard on yourself!

Dave...

#3

Hey Molster,

I don't have any advice on how to solve the mechanical issues you are having with the pick (I will leave that to Mr. Schlegel!), but I will remind you of one thing that I see Mike O. mention fairly often. Keep it fun.

If you are stuck on something like this to the point that you are not having fun, work on something else. This will be there and you can come back regularly. Make the pick a small part of your practice routine instead of the main focus. Go back to basics for that part of your practice and don't try to do the same things with the pick that you can do without it.

I know a lot of this is mechanical and physical, but I really suspect a lot of it is mental -- at least the frustration part of it. You're taking it very seriously, and after all, it's just the guitar, y'know? :-)

Anyway, good luck and don't be too hard on yourself!

Dave...

Poundhound

Full Access

Joined: 02/16/11

Posts: 131

Hi again. I found this thread after your comment in the thumb over the top discussion.

Interestingly, I played guitar for over 30 years using my index finger and thumb pinched together to strum. Almost like I was holding an invisible pick. It's only the past 12-18 months that I've forced myself to use a plectrum. I found, for me, it's easier to strum by showing just a tiny amount of the pick. Maybe half a centimetre. Another issue I have is that the pick moves a lot when strumming more vigourously. I believe this can be fixed easily be applying small adhesive grips, which can be bought in most if not all guitar websites/shops. I've yet to try this myself.

hope you find a way to make it work. Good luck.

#4

Hi again. I found this thread after your comment in the thumb over the top discussion.

Interestingly, I played guitar for over 30 years using my index finger and thumb pinched together to strum. Almost like I was holding an invisible pick. It's only the past 12-18 months that I've forced myself to use a plectrum. I found, for me, it's easier to strum by showing just a tiny amount of the pick. Maybe half a centimetre. Another issue I have is that the pick moves a lot when strumming more vigourously. I believe this can be fixed easily be applying small adhesive grips, which can be bought in most if not all guitar websites/shops. I've yet to try this myself.

hope you find a way to make it work. Good luck.

hsnoeckx

Full Access

Joined: 12/03/19

Posts: 73

Some other advise, don't use your fore arm to strumming chords but use gentle rolls of your wrist ( correct spell? I'm not native english ) to strum, this way you have much more control over it.

Herman

#5

Some other advise, don't use your fore arm to strumming chords but use gentle rolls of your wrist ( correct spell? I'm not native english ) to strum, this way you have much more control over it.

Herman

William MG

Full Access

Joined: 03/08/19

Posts: 682

Hey Molster,

Don't give up practicing buddy, you've got 18mos of hard work in. Here are my thoughts on this...

Molster

"If it sounds cool, it is cool!"

Mike O

Works for me!

#6

Hey Molster,

Don't give up practicing buddy, you've got 18mos of hard work in. Here are my thoughts on this...

Molster

"If it sounds cool, it is cool!"

Mike O

Works for me!

theMolster

Full Access

Joined: 04/30/20

Posts: 19

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to thank you all for some sound advice and support. I've read everything through, noted some of the tips and will now start from the beginning and try to get to grips with this.

Really appreciate your feedback and I hope this is the start of me being able to strum in an at least, a half decent way. Funny really because I assumed strumming would be second nature but as with most things in life, it seems it needs a bit (or in my case a lot) of graft.

Cheers,

theMolster

#7

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to thank you all for some sound advice and support. I've read everything through, noted some of the tips and will now start from the beginning and try to get to grips with this.

Really appreciate your feedback and I hope this is the start of me being able to strum in an at least, a half decent way. Funny really because I assumed strumming would be second nature but as with most things in life, it seems it needs a bit (or in my case a lot) of graft.

Cheers,

theMolster

JeffS65

Full Access

Joined: 10/07/08

Posts: 1289

Originally Posted by: theMolster

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to thank you all for some sound advice and support. I've read everything through, noted some of the tips and will now start from the beginning and try to get to grips with this.

Really appreciate your feedback and I hope this is the start of me being able to strum in an at least, a half decent way. Funny really because I assumed strumming would be second nature but as with most things in life, it seems it needs a bit (or in my case a lot) of graft.

Cheers,

theMolster

Chris had mentioned that there might be an issue of digging in to far. I wouldn't want this point to be lost. Keep in mind that you don't need the whole of the pick to strike the string. My wife started learning guitar recently and she was exposing way too much of the pick. I pointed out to heer that the reason a pick has a broad and pounty end is that; most of the pick is meant to be within your thumb/finger. It's why it's the chubby end, so you can hold it.

You also don't need a whole lotta pick to strike the strings in a strum. In your explanations, you talked about inconsistency. It sounds like the way you might be holding the pick makes it hard to 'aim at the strings. While you may not want the tiniest, tiniest miscroscopic amount of the pick sticking out, you don't need a ton either and finding the right amount of pick exposure will help you control a strum (versus feeling like your thrashing at the strings).

Mess around with strums exposing various amounts of the pick. Also, rewatch the video on how to hold a pick too.

Last thing; strum slowly. I'll repeat >>> strum slowly. Slow = Control. Build up to speed. We all want to play a song at speed but in reality that never works out.

That's my group of tips to add the to discussion. Hope all this info helps from all here.

#8

Originally Posted by: theMolster

Hey everyone,

Just wanted to thank you all for some sound advice and support. I've read everything through, noted some of the tips and will now start from the beginning and try to get to grips with this.

Really appreciate your feedback and I hope this is the start of me being able to strum in an at least, a half decent way. Funny really because I assumed strumming would be second nature but as with most things in life, it seems it needs a bit (or in my case a lot) of graft.

Cheers,

theMolster

Chris had mentioned that there might be an issue of digging in to far. I wouldn't want this point to be lost. Keep in mind that you don't need the whole of the pick to strike the string. My wife started learning guitar recently and she was exposing way too much of the pick. I pointed out to heer that the reason a pick has a broad and pounty end is that; most of the pick is meant to be within your thumb/finger. It's why it's the chubby end, so you can hold it.

You also don't need a whole lotta pick to strike the strings in a strum. In your explanations, you talked about inconsistency. It sounds like the way you might be holding the pick makes it hard to 'aim at the strings. While you may not want the tiniest, tiniest miscroscopic amount of the pick sticking out, you don't need a ton either and finding the right amount of pick exposure will help you control a strum (versus feeling like your thrashing at the strings).

Mess around with strums exposing various amounts of the pick. Also, rewatch the video on how to hold a pick too.

Last thing; strum slowly. I'll repeat >>> strum slowly. Slow = Control. Build up to speed. We all want to play a song at speed but in reality that never works out.

That's my group of tips to add the to discussion. Hope all this info helps from all here.

DavesGuitarJourney

Full Access

Joined: 02/22/20

Posts: 153

I said that I have no "mechanical' advice earlier but I do have one thought to add, and I would ask some of you more experienced players to shout me down aggressively if I am wrong here. Or mildly correct me, it doesn't have to be a beat-down.

When you play through the strings, the pick can be turned very slightly so that the flat part of the pick is not striking the strings squarely. Strike the strings with the edge of the pick rather than perfectly flat on. The pick glides through more smoothly that way. Experiment with the angle a little bit. So both amount of pick and angle of pick.

#9

I said that I have no "mechanical' advice earlier but I do have one thought to add, and I would ask some of you more experienced players to shout me down aggressively if I am wrong here. Or mildly correct me, it doesn't have to be a beat-down.

When you play through the strings, the pick can be turned very slightly so that the flat part of the pick is not striking the strings squarely. Strike the strings with the edge of the pick rather than perfectly flat on. The pick glides through more smoothly that way. Experiment with the angle a little bit. So both amount of pick and angle of pick.