Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Guitar lesson: Basic Guitar Rhythm- Part 4

You’re serious and there’s no stopping you now.

58 year old beginner here and my right hand is like a brick. My strumming seems stiff, and the pick, especially on the up-strum, tends to dig into the strings more so than brushing them. Any tips would be much appreciated. Thanks!

Hi Jim, It would help @BanjoBen to help you if you could record a video of yourself playing and post it in the Video Swap area.

BigBear, that is not uncommon. In fact, that is normal and most people will have that kind of trouble to begin with. It will take some time to develop control and finesse with the picking hand. There may be a guitar lesson that applies, but I remembered this pick holding lesson that I think will be beneficial for your right hand. Don’t worry that it shows a mandolin… the mechanics of holding a pick are the same.
And there is this which may be be helpful as well

As far as the upstrokes digging into the strings, that too is common. When people start playing, they typically play more down strokes. They will also find that the pick goes through the strings easier when it is angled so that the tip is pointing a bit (or a bunch) up, so they (consciously or not) will often do that. That is ok, but you can’t do that for an upstroke. Take a look at your pick as you slowly play one downstroke and then repeat with an upstroke. I bet you will see that the pick tip is pointing more up on the down strokes that it is pointing down on the upstrokes. If you happen to have the tip still pointing a bit up on an upstroke, you will see that it is almost a certainty that it will dig in on an upstroke. I remember Ben discussing this somewhere but I can’t find it. I suspect it might be in this group:


The stage you are at is still fresh in my mind. Getting the tension out of my wrist while pinching the pick with control seemed to be at odds with each other. Without holding the guitar I would lightly shake my hand side to side, as if it had no muscles or bone, completely loose. Then gradually start to just touch my index finger to my thumb while letting the remaining fingers dangle and wrist move freely side to side only using muscles above the elbow to make the flopping happen. Kind of the chicken dance movement. Sounds silly but it worked for me.
When holding the guitar and pinching the pick the first week I just wanted to feel where the strings were without looking down felt for the first string open and plucked it up and down with as little effort as possible, so it felt like the pick was going to fall out of my fingers, and said in my mind ‘first string first string first string over and over for about ten times and repeat on each string. Then started going first string to third to second to fourth and saying in my head what string I was plucking while not looking down.
Strumming right from the start was too frustrating so I just kept doing fun little drills that I made up as I went with an emphasis on little tension and gliding over the strings like the pick was a little surf board and over-emphasizing the wrist turn on the up stroke because I hated getting caught on a string.
Try not to focus on the end goal too much. Enjoy where you are at right now and make it as fun for yourself as you can in your own way. Good luck.

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Thanks for the input, folks. I’ll watch the links and try out the exercises suggested. Not sure I’m at
the point of making videos yet. At this point I’m enjoying both the successes and the struggles. Have a great one.

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Hi Jim

My suggesting to post a video was not to demonstrate your skill level, more so to help you fix what concerns you. @BanjoBen can’t help you if he cant see the problem. It doesn’t need to be an elaborate video, a clip from you phone will suffice.

Thank you, Archie. I understood what you meant, it was just a little self-deprecation on my part. :0)

Ah yes! The up strum . As everyone else had said , what you are experiencing with the up-strum is all too common. I definitely went through it myself. Let me just say this … it gets better with time. It takes time and experience to develop that loose wrist that everyone talks about and that can only come with practice. Something that helped me with the up-strum is keeping in mind that when executing the up-strum , you don’t have to get all 6 strings . I usually just catch the first 3 strings when I come up for the up strum , sometimes even the 4th string.
Another idea that helped me is that an up-strum is felt , not forced . This idea really helped me tremendously because when I force an up-strum , it comes out sounding stiff as you describe it. However , when an up-strum comes from the feels , it sounds right . This second idea might help you down the road , but definitely work on @BanjoBen ‘s rhythm exercises, and I would also suggest to write some of your own rhythm/chord progressions, and insert an up-strum where ever you feel is right . Hope this helps you in some way ! : ) and take your time with it.

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