Strum Without A Using Pick

How to Strum Without Using A Guitar Pick – 10 Easy Steps to Get You Fingerpicking (Step 9)

Step 9

How To Strum Without Using A Pick

One area of fingerstyle guitar that many people struggle a great deal with is learning to strum without using a pick. If you've been following this course from the beginning, by now you should be ok with plucking the strings when fingerpicking, but it's very likely that when you go to strum it still feels hard to do. We can fix that.

In this lesson we're going to learn how best to strum without using a pick when playing fingerstyle guitar.

Let's get to it!

Part One - How to Strum Without Using a Pick

There are many different ways to strum without using a pick, but to keep things simple we're going to be focusing on just one basic technique.

This one method is the one I personally use in my own playing ALL the time. It's very easy to do and works great in most situations.

The Technique 

If you're used to strumming with a pick, then this should come very naturally to you.

  1. Pretend you're holding a guitar pick as you normally would in your strumming hand, between your thumb and index finger.
  2. Use your index finger to strum the strings as if you would when holding a pick. 

That's all there is to it. 

Try this:

  1. Put a pick into position as you normally would.

    2. Now pull the pick out. 

    3. Notice your index finger sticking out a bit? Use that part of the finger to strum the strings. 

This is almost entirely the same as you would strum if you were using a plectrum.

This is the most straightforward way to strum without using a pick. 

So now hold down an E chord (any chord will do) and start strumming 'down up' continuously on it, to get used to the new technique. 

Strumming Without A Pick 1

Now try the technique out on this chord progression. Then on any progressions you personally know or like. 

Strummin Without Using A PICK 2

Part Two - The Bass Strum

So now you know the basic technique of strumming without using a pick. Now I want to show you one other technique that is also very common and incredibly useful.

We'll keep the index finger strumming the strings but also pluck out some bass notes using the thumb too.

This makes your sound much richer, and can even start to make your guitar sound like there's two instruments playing simultaneously, i.e the guitar and bass.

This technique has been used in some of the most successful songs ever recorded. For example, 'Yesterday' written by Paul McCartney uses it throughout the song. 

Exercise 1

In this first practice, hold down a G chord. Play the low E string with your thumb and then strum the D, G, B and high e strings down using your index finger.

Strumming Without Using A pick 3

Keep on repeating this exercise just on this one chord until you really get comfortable with it. 

Exercise 2

This time play the bass with your thumb on beat one, then strum down three more times on beats 2, 3 and 4.

Strumming Without A pick 4

Exercise 3

Now let's start speeding things up a little by playing 8th notes. 

Firstly play the bass with your thumb and then 'up down up' using your index finger. 

Strumming Without A pick 5


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If you're looking to take your fingerstyle strumming further, I explore it in great detail and cover many more techniques in The Complete Beginner's Guide to Fingerstyle Guitar course. 


Part Three - Taking it Further

So now you have the basic 'bass strum' technique down, let's continue to make it more musical.

Strumming Without Using A Pick 6

Go ahead and try this technique out on any other chord progressions you know and like.

Part Four - Alternating the Bass

In Step 7 we learnt how to alternate the bass whilst fingerpicking. For the final section of this lesson, I thought it would be a good idea for us to apply that same thumb technique to all the strumming we've covered here. 

We'll take the same chord progression from part three and now really start moving the bass around.

Strumming Without A pick 7

10 Easy Steps to Get You Fingerpicking - Step 9 Summary

In this Step we've learnt how you can strum without using a pick. This is often a step that people wait too long to master, but I feel it's incredibly important to attain these skills early on as a fingerstyle player. 

Remember to try all of these exercises and techniques out on any chords that you know, and to get creative with them as soon as possible.

If you really want to take your fingerpicking to the next level, consider taking one of my fingerstyle courses. In the School you'll find hundreds of in-depth video lessons all aimed at helping you grow into a great fingerstyle guitarist.

I hope you've enjoyed Step 9 of this 10 Easy Steps to Get You Fingerpicking series. I'll see you on Step 10!

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If you have any questions or comments then please leave them below.

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