If I play a melody with the rythm like fourth, eight, eight, how should I move my hands?

My books says it should be a downstroke on the first fourth, downstroke on the first eight and an upstroke on the second eight. My question is, what is my hand supposed to do during the second half of the fourth. Is it supposed to do the upstroke motion, but "missing" the string, or does it not matter what it does? Or something else?

When it comes to more tricky melodies, like eight, fourth, fourth-tid-to-eigth, should I continue the up-down pattern and just be missing strings intentionally in order to keep the rythm. My understanding is that I should do this while strumming chords, but I'm not sure if I'm also suppsed to do it while playing melodies.

The missing strings method seems good for keeping rythm, but also way harder, but maybe it will be better in the long run?

I'm a complete beginner as you can probably tell and just started playing some months ago.

2 Answers 2


If you're playing two downstrokes in a row, then yes, you have to bring your hand back up after the first to play the second, sort of like a missed upstroke. You don't have to think about "hitting" that upstroke though. (You can if you want to, it gives a slightly different feel.) I usually use an elliptical kind of motion where the pick reconnects with the strings right on the next beat, without ever stopping. That's the most efficient way to do it.

For more complicated rhythms, it depends on the specific rhythm. There is often more than one reasonable approach. But I don't think I would ever "miss" 2 (or more) eighths in a row. That's just wasted effort, moving your hand down and back up to play nothing. I don't keep rhythm in my hands, so to speak, I keep rhythm in my head, and my hands follow.

In general, you can use the same picking pattern for the same rhythm, whether it's playing chords or single notes doesn't matter that much. The only complication is when you have string crossings- it's a little bit harder to pick down if you have to move up for the next note, or vice versa. But often this complication is not worth solving with a new picking pattern.


An opposing view to the other answer. Rhythm first. For the majority of players, the rhythm is actually in the arm/wrist/hand. If that continues in a solid pattern, that rhythm can be changed subtly at any point - by strumming or 'ghosting'. That way, the arm movement up and down doesn't need to do anything different to produce literally hundreds of different rhythm patterns for the same song.

However, things are completely different when playing the melody. And the reason is simple. There is a pre-set rhythm, that's dictated by the notes' durations. That can't and won't change. So it's really up to the player whether any note is played using down or up strokes. A good player will be quite capable of paying any note with up or down and make them sound the same. Hammer-ons and pull-offs similarly - but thats another thing for another day!

As a learner, I would spend many happy hours dissecting my picking, so that when the next note was on a higher string, I'd play the previous note in that direction. Kind of tidying up my playing. I don't think about it now, but pretty certainly I use the same ploy to keep things as smooth as possible. Rather different from what's known as alternate picking!

And alternate picking is maybe what you are considering.Personally, I think it works well when really fast playing is required - almost tremolo - which will only work that way using a pick, but for general melody playing, we each need to find our own path. If that works for you, fine, but as discussed above, it's more applicable for rhythm play.

So, try various ways, and decide for yourself which suits you. What works for one won't necessarily work for another. That's part of the fun in practice time!

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