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There are a few potential reasons why your guitar sounds bad when you strum it. It could either be because of your own playing and technique or it could also be related to the gear you are using.
For that reason, we decide to come up with a guide that can help you improve your strumming and also find out the reasons why your guitar is perhaps not sounding as good as you want when you strum.
Reasons why a guitar sounds bad when you strum
There are a few reasons that can explain why your guitar is not sounding right when you strum:
- Old strings
- The guitar is out of tune
- Your strumming technique is not correct
- You are not holding the pick correctly
- Strumming too hard
- You’re hitting all the strings
One of the most common reasons why a guitar is sounding bad is because you are using old strings. Old guitar strings can sound dull and do not vibrate as much as new strings, which may give a muted and dull sound.
You can check if your strings need to be replaced by looking at their color. Used guitar strings will show some discoloration, and you can also see the fret marks on the strings.
If this is the case you should replace your guitar strings, and it will certainly improve the sound of your guitar when you are strumming.
The guitar is out of tune
If your guitar is out of tune, your strumming will sound awful. Thankfully there is an easy fix to this, which is to tune up your guitar. To do it, you can either use an app on your phone to check the frequency of each string, or you can use one of those practical headstock tuners. Headstock tuners are cheap and extremely practical.
Your strumming technique is not correct
Although strumming sound can be related to your gear, it can also have to do with your technique. In some cases, you may be using too much force or too little. You might also not be using the right strumming rhythm, which is very common in beginner guitar players.
You may also be using the wrong strumming pattern, which is fairly common. Certain songs have very specific strumming patterns, which are a mix of downstrokes and upstrokes.
To fix your technique the best approach is to practice slow upstrokes and downstrokes until you master the correct technique required.
You are not holding the pick correctly
Another common mistake beginner guitar players make is that they do not hold the pick correctly. The angle of the pick in relation to the strings is important, as well as the strength you use to hold the pick. You want to make sure the guitar pick stays firmly in between your fingers, but at the same time, you want to hold it lightly so that the pick can bend both upwards and downwards along the strings.
Strumming too hard
The most common strumming technique mistake guitar students make is that they strum the strings too hard. This is common in the beginning because you have not practiced enough to have the ability to strum the strings, dynamically, and it is hard to control your own strength. Once again, as with most guitar technique problems, the best way to fix it is by practicing slowly upstrokes and downstrokes.
Over time you will gain a lot more control over your strumming, and the way the guitar pick slides on the strings. This will also allow you to do heavy strumming in fast songs, and also pick softly when you need to. Just keep practicing.
You’re hitting all the strings
You should also be aware that certain chords are not played by strumming all of the strings. An example of this is the D chord which has the low E string and the A string muted. If you are strumming and hitting all of the strings, this is the reason why your strumming is not sounding good.
How do I make my strumming sound better?
Here are 4 tips to improve your strumming technique:
1. Always practice slowly and with a metronome
Practicing slowly allows you to build your muscle memory faster, and it also allows you to easily correct your mistakes. It is far too common to see guitar beginners trying to practice at a fast tempo, which hurts their playing and their ability to learn. Using a metronome will also help you to keep the right tempo.
2. Practice upstrokes and downstrokes
Upstorkes and downstrokes are the basis for strumming. Most guitar students struggle mainly with upstrokes because they are an unnatural movement of the hand. You should practice both separately, and try to keep the tempo using a metronome.
You can then start to combine both upstrokes and downstrokes in a certain pattern.
3. Master some common strumming patterns
There are some strumming patterns that are used in different songs, and you should start with the most simple ones. You can also try to practice just a strumming pattern from a song you are learning. As you learn more songs with time you start to be proficient in different strumming patterns.
4. Listen to songs and pick up the strumming pattern
Once you start to become better at strumming there is a simple approach you can use to take it to the next level, which involves learning by ear. This is done by listening to songs and picking up the strumming pattern used. You can also listen to songs and try to mute the strings while playing strumming patterns to make sure you can rhythmically incorporate your strumming into any song.
Why do beginner guitar players struggle with strumming?
Strumming can be one of the most complex things in the beginning, and the reason is that it requires a lot of control over your hand and the guitar pick.
You need to be able to be both strong, and soft while combining rhythm, and upstrokes and downstrokes. It takes time to practice and develop the right muscle memory for your strumming to become better.
In order to strum a guitar, a person must be able to move their fingers quickly and accurately, while controlling their own strength. This can be difficult for someone who has not practiced extensively. Additionally, someone who is new to playing the guitar may find it difficult to keep track of which strings they are strumming, as well as where they are on the fretboard.
The lack of muscle memory and coordination can be overcome by practicing and learning new songs. Additionally, poor hand-eye coordination can also contribute to the difficulty in strumming.
Is there a wrong way to strum a guitar?
There is no wrong way to strum a guitar, but there are some techniques that take time to be perfected because it requires a lot of practice and control over your fingers. Additionally, playing guitar requires a lot of control over both your hands that are doing something completely different.
Can you strum a guitar too hard?
Yes, strumming a guitar too hard is something most beginner guitar players struggle with. Because they do not have the required technique and control over their own strength. Not only will your guitar playing sound bad if you strum too hard, but it can also cause the strings to break. If you strum the guitar too hard, you might also hurt your hands.
It can also result in damage to your guitar, so you want to make sure you try to strum lightly when you are learning.
Should you strum with your arm or wrist?
Guitar strumming is a mix of moving your elbow up and down while applying strength with your forearm. Your wrist should not be moving much, but it should remain flexible so it can slightly balance up and down because the wrist will control the strength and dynamic range of your strumming.
Is it better to learn strumming with or without a pick?
While strumming with your fingers and with a guitar pick can be related to the style of music you are playing, it is always better to start strumming with your fingers. This gives you a better understanding at first of how strumming should be.
Later on, you can start playing with a guitar pick, and try to use the same technique you were doing with the finger but now with the guitar pick.
Should you strum with your thumb?
You can also use your strum to strum when you are initially learning. The thumb strum has a very unique sound, and usually, it will be more difficult to use a lot of strength with your thumb so it is actually a good way to understand the basics of strumming.
Start using your index finger which sounds and feels more natural. The index finger also allows you to get a sound that is closer to what most traditional music sounds like.
You can also use a combination of the index finger and the thumb, and this is commonly used in fingerpicking. This will also depend on the guitar you are using and the type of guitar strings.
If you are just learning and mastering the art of strumming you should not feel discouraged. It is difficult to become a good guitar player, and strumming is a small part of the process.
I have been playing guitar for the past 15 years, and my knowledge and passion for guitars prompted me to start Guitaresque to share my knowledge, tips, and tricks with other guitar players. The sole purpose of this website is to help and inspire guitar players worldwide, to improve their playing and their love for guitars.