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Hi! I've been worried about my way of strumming: I strum with my fingers, and I always place my thumb on the top string. I've been told many times that it looks strange. I tried to strum in other ways, but it sounds worse and doesn't feel comfortable. Is my way a very wrong one? Will it maybe slow me down too much on fast patterns? I'm left-handed, by the way, but I'm playing a right-handed guitar. I'll be very grateful to hear your opinion. Lara

  • Are you strumming only with your thumb? Or are you talking about picking?
    – user28
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 15:54
  • @MatthewRead - she says she strums with her fingers, and places the thumb on the top (sic) string.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 16:12
  • 1
    That top string is usually known as the bottom, as it's the lowest in pitch. The fattest one.
    – Tim
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 16:13
  • Yes, Tim's right, I don't strum with my thumb, I strum with my fingers (mostly with my index finger), and my thumb just stays on the low E string which makes strumming easier for me. But I wonder if it doesn't bring me troubles in the future. I've never seen anyone strumming like that
    – Lara
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


How it "looks" is not really an important consideration. Focus on comfort, sound, and technique. That said, I think this will be problematic for you on all three counts.

You're restricting your range of motion fairly significantly. Your fingers have limited room to move (essentially just crunching in and out of your palm) which is awkward and probably going to lead to pain with any significant amount of playing. It will certainly prevent you from strumming quickly (which should be done with the use of the arm or wrist, moving the position of the whole hand). Not to mention that resting your thumb there prevents you from strumming the lowest string (or at least letting it ring after the stroke).

You can strum down like this with the backs of your fingernails (which is how I strum when I'm not using a pick), but on the upstroke will be using the pads of your fingers. This will give a muddy tone, be difficult to strum smoothly, and will probably give you blisters.

If you do want to avoid using a pick for strumming (which is perfectly valid, especially if you're playing fingerstyle or something similar where fingerpicking is mixed in) I would suggest looking at the motion of Andy McKee's hand in this video when he strums down at the 1:52 mark:

Notice a couple things:

  • He moves his whole forearm and uses his wrist a little (don't overdo it with the wrist, especially till you develop more strength), drawing his fingers across the strings
  • As his hand moves across the strings, he extends his fingers to draw his fingernails across them and prevent them from just bouncing off the first string and missing the rest

(If you keep watching, you'll notice that he also strums sometimes with his thumbnail or a thumb pick. This is another great option and, obviously, not mutually exclusive.)

Note also how he consistently brings his elbow back to the same spot and rests his upper arm on the guitar. This is a much better way to "anchor" yourself than resting on a string.


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