Welcome to this lesson on how to strum a guitar with a pick.

So… How to do it? It’s actually really simple. You can do it with a pick, or with your fingers. Or using both at the same time. The latter  requires a bit more skill though.

If you don’t have a plectrum, that’s an issue because we’re going to use one for today. Go buy one somewhere before starting, or make one from an unused plastic card. 

1. Presentation

A pick is actually a piece made of plastic – sometimes steel, but I would recommend plastic for complete beginners.

So how do you handle this little thing? Simple. You put it between the tip of your thumb and the side of your first finger, at the very end. It’s important to put a bit of pressure on it, to keep it stable when you will strum your guitar. You can find the complete explanation here.

For today, we’re going to see how to strum a guitar on basic chords, as it’s your first strumming lesson. We will do upward and downward moves at a steady pace.

The first chord for this exercise is A minor. For the record, it’s the first chord I’ve learned, and it’s usually one of the first chords learned by new guitar players. You can also start with E minor, which is presented after. Those two chords are used in a LOT of songs. 

2. First chord: A minor

A Minor Diagram

1 = Index / 2 = Major / 3 = Ring finger

Okay, let’s make an A minor. Start with your first finger which will go on the first case of the B string, the second string of your guitar. It’s important to place your finger as close as possible to the first fret.

Once you’ve done that, put your major on the second case of the fourth string, D. Again, close to the second fret. Repeat the same process for your ring finger you’ll place just below the major. Okay. Does that hurt? Remember the old saying, no pain, no gain.

Now you’ve made an A minor chord with your second hand, let’s use the first hand. Simply strum your guitar with the pick from the fifth string to the first string. How does it sound? If it sounds bad, you’re probably doing it wrong. Check your fingers position to see if one of them is far from the first or the second frets.

Once you have a nice sound, even if it’s not extremely beautiful, add the upward move. So basically, repeat the downward move and just after that, strum your strings upward. If it sounds good, keep doing it until it becomes easy for you. Don’t hesitate to pause the video and go back when you need to.

3. Second chord: E Minor

E Minor Chord

Okay. Are you ready for another chord? Let’s go. We’ll learn another basic one, and as I’m a really kind person, I will make it even easier for you. So… which chord is it? E minor.

You’ll find that playing the chord is actually not the most difficult part of strumming. It’s moving your finger to another position. And once you’re at the A minor position, you need to move all your fingers, traditionally. But for this exercise, I will give you two possibilities. It’s up to you, if you find it easier to switch to the standard E minor position, then stick with it. Otherwise, try the alternate one.

Okay, let’s see how we do an E minor. The standard position first. All you need to do is to place your major on the second case of the fifth string, A. Then you place your ring finger just below, on the fourth string. Really easy. Try to strum upward and downward from the sixth string to the first and vice versa. Again, if this sounds badly, check your finger positions.

4. Switching time

Now, let’s try to switch from A minor to E minor with the standard positions I gave you.

You can switch immediately if you’re at ease, or you can wait a little.

Having some trouble doing it? Okay, I’ll be a gentleman and give you the alternative position you’ve been waiting for.

Instead of moving all your fingers, you will be moving only two of them. In the A minor position, you will lift up your first finger, and you’ll place it on the second case of the fifth string. Normally, as you’re a beginner, your ring finger will lift up automatically. If that’s not the case, then do it intentionally. It should be simpler. Not simpler? Try the standard position instead.

Now, work on switching between the two chord positions as quickly as you can, but don’t misplace your fingers. To test if every note sounds right, pluck the strings one by one. If one of them sounds off, remember to place your fingers as close to the frets as possible (but not completely on them).

5. Conclusion

Continue strumming the strings slowly at first, and increase the pace as it becomes easier for you. Focus on down strokes followed up strokes without taking care of the rhythm. It’s okay for now, we’ll get to different strumming patterns later on. 

That’s it for today. You now know how to strum a guitar with a pick. I leave you with those two beautiful chords to practice.