Basic Acoustic Guitar #2
How to Hold and Strum an Acoustic Guitar
In lesson 1, we learned all about the makeup or construction of an acoustic guitar. In this lesson, we will explore holding and strumming the acoustic guitar. Learning to play the acoustic is very similar in many ways to learning the electric guitar, but there are some difference in the weights, feel and some of the techniques. However, chording and playing scales is essentially the same on both (theoretically). The feel of the two guitars is quite different as well as the tension and string gauges (thickness) usually used, but comparing them, one will see the same basic anatomies. Keep learning and practicing to become the best beginner guitar player you can be.
When carrying the guitar around, it is best to support the body first, neck second, instead of wielding it around by simply grabbing the head or neck, as the weight of the acoustic body can put unnecessary tension on the glue joints that keep the guitars shape integrity in place. The acoustic guitar, like the electric can be played seated or standing (with the use of a guitar strap for standing positions).
While seated, a classical guitar player will take a markedly different posture with the guitar than perhaps a beginning 6 string steel guitar player. We’ll focus on a basic comfortable posture for the 6 string (steel string) guitar for this lesson.
For a right handed player, the guitar body should rest comfortably on the right thigh or it should be lightly braced on both legs depending on your personal preference. A guitar player should not slouch but should sit with good upright posture without being too rigid.
The back of the guitar should face and touch the players mid section, and the sound hole should face away from the player (in the same direction that you would walk forward). The right upper arm should rest a bit on the body of the guitar, and the strumming arm should swing freely at the elbow for effective strumming. That pendulum motion from the elbow can act as a metronome for keeping the time and rhythm accurately (see figure 1).
The left hand, for a right-handed player, will hold the guitar neck lightly from behind, without too much bend in the wrist. If the wrist is bent too severely, it could cause poor mechanics and unnecessary cramping, also making it more difficult to learn.
Next, without trying to make a chord with the left hand, grab the pick (plectrum) and if one is not available, you could cut a simple one out of a thin plastic similar to an expired credit card. It is best to purchase a few different picks with varying gauges to make sure you find the one that suits your strumming style best. Each gauge has a different feel.
To hole the pick correctly, curl the index finger of the right hand, place the pick on it as it appears and close the thumb over the pick to trap it between the thumb and curled index finger (see Figure 2). Be sure to hold the pick without putting too much tension in your fingers, hand and arm. Lay the pick on the largest (thickest) E string and tilt the pick toward the floor. Now, strum the pick toward the floor across all 6 strings. Then, complete the “up-strum” by starting on the thinnest E string and strumming toward the sky. Makes sure the pick is not 90 degrees or “perpendicular” to the strings, but that it leans in the direction of the strum to make it produce a smoother sound. Use the other hand to gently hold the neck of the guitar steady from behind (without touching the strings).
Continue practicing down-strums and upward strums daily until you obtain a smooth sound. You can tap your foot at a consistent meter (or tempo) or you can use a metronome to help you keep a consistent strumming pace.
This basic acoustic guitar anatomy lesson was written by Aaron Schulman, a guitar player for over 20 years. Before buying your first guitar, be sure to do research including his acoustic guitar reviews at StrumViews.com.