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How to Strum Down Up with Fingers | Beginner Tips to Get You Started!


Strumming with a pick is straightforward enough, but what about fingerstyle strumming? While a pick looks and feels the same on both sides, your fingers have nail on top and flesh below. That makes your up and down strokes sound very very different if you were to simply use your fingers the same way you would a pick. Let's explore the best way, in my opinion, to strum simple down-up patterns using just your fingers.

Welcome to 'Fingerstyle For The World', my online lesson series where I strive to help guitarists around the world become better musicians.


Before You Begin:

Download my free resources to guide you along!


Simple Steps to Proper Strumming:

Make a heart, spread the love!

The basic shape for fingerstyle strumming is really easy to remember. Simply form a little heart shape using your index finger and thumb.

It's important to keep your hand free and relaxed - don't squeeze your fingers together! Just let them gently touch each other.

Use your nails

When strumming, you will want to use your nails all the time.

The rule is simple:

Index finger for down-strokes, thumb for up-strokes.

I recommend to grow out your nails a little, about 1-2mm long from the tip of your finger.

Use your wrist

This is perhaps the most important part of the lesson, and one which many guitarists get wrong. Make sure to rotate your strumming hand at the WRIST, and not the forearm!

Using your wrists ensures that you aren't making unnecessary movements which will slow down your strumming, and gives you much more flexibility and control in the strength and intensity of each strum.

Practice Tips

Anchor your right hand with your left

To make sure you are using your wrists and not your forearm to strum, try gripping your right forearm with your left hand to keep it still, and strum the open strings with your wrist.

While I don't recommend doing this all the time, you can use this little trick to make sure you've got the right technique when starting out. Once you've gotten used to the physical strumming motion, you need to be able to strum with your wrists without anchoring your right forearm.

Separate down and up strokes

While we're learning a down-up pattern, very often you will need to use downstrokes or upstrokes consecutively. Practice just downstrokes, then practice just upstrokes, then practice them together in a down-up pattern.

Practice with muted strings

If we want to really focus on just our strumming technique alone, it helps to mute all the strings and work solely on strumming.

This is as the sound of chords ringing might blur our ability to listen to the consistency of each strum.

In addition, we might not having perfect chord fretting technique, and buzzing or muted strings might distract us from working specifically on our strumming technique.


I hope this opens up your guitar playing world to an effective and efficient technique of strumming with fingers. Do you use other methods to strum with your fingers? Do leave a comment below to share what other techniques have worked for you!

Follow along my musical journey on my YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and website as I share new music videos and lessons each and every week.

Until next time, I'll see you again!

By Neil Chan


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