Mistakes that beginning guitarists make (PART2)
In part one we looked at things you can do to improve your fretting hand. In this lesson we will take a look at some common mistakes people make with their strumming hand.
Many beginning guitarists using way too much pressure with their picking hand. You want to keep your strumming hand as relaxed as possible. You want to brush the stings with your pick not strike them. Think like a painter-- your not beating your guitar! This is the only way you'll get your strum to sound smooth and relaxed. Also how tightly you hold your pick makes a BIG difference in your sound. Hold the pick close to the tip so you don't have to squeeze the thing to keep it from flying out of your hand. If you have a hard time keeping a good grip on your pick while keeping your hand relaxed, you can use a hole punch to put a hole towards the top of the pick (the part away from the tip). The skin on skin will help hold that pick still.
As you strum use a nice even stroke up and down. Don't feel like you have to stop the pick as soon as it crosses the strings. Think of a batter swinging a baseball bat. You don't stop the bat as soon as it crosses the plate, but instead you have a nice comfortable follow through. The same thing applies to strumming. I start my strum a few inches above the string and finish the stroke several inches after the strings.
Where you strike the string also has a big effect on your sound. The closer to the bridge you play the strings the more punchy and nasal your sound will be. The closer to the neck you play, the softer your sound will be. As a general rule, you should be striking the string over the middle of the sound hole (or half way between the bridge and and neck on an electric). This will give a good balance of sound. If you want a specific part of a song to have a certain tone, then you can move where you pick the string away from the sound hole. But, your normal sound should be over the middle of the sound hole (midway between neck and bridge on an electric).
Lastly is not so much a mistake , but a way to improve your overall sound. Instead of striking the string with the wide flat edge, which is the way most guitarists begin, strike the string with the pick at an angle (roughly 45 degrees). Then when you bring your pick back up, you can strike the string with the other side of the pick. By striking the string with your pick at an angle, you get a much richer, warmer sound. When you strike the string flat, it produces a flat, less interesting sound.
Now you should have a whole list of things to keep in mind as you are learning to play. Focus on one part of your sound at a time because it's too much to keep track of all at once. Over time, you will start to sound more and more like a pro!