View Full Version : How to strum but not hit all strings

05-07-2017, 03:21 PM
I have been trying to play a song thinking it was a fingerpicking song, only to find when I watched a YouTube video that it was strummed. What I can't figure out is how the guy is struming but only striking 2 or 3 of the strings. Is it just a matter of practicing really slowly until I build the skill set necessary to strike only the first 2 or 3 strings while passing over the others (or passing over the first one or two strings. And striking only the last two or three)? Or is there a specific technique to it?

Thanks in advance for any advice.


05-07-2017, 03:57 PM
It is possible to learn to strum just the top one, two, or three strings, or just the bottom one, two, or three strings. This comes with practice. Claw-hammer style relies heavily on this skil.

However...there is an easier skill to learn called muting. With muting, you can "skip" a string that is sounded. For instance you can play only strings 1, 3, and 4, but skip string 2. Or play 1, 2, and 4, but skip string 3. You can also use muting to play just the top three strings, or just the bottom three strings.

Muting involves letting some part of your fingers, thumb, or palm touch one or more strings, but not fret them. The key is that you're touching the string to keep it from vibrating, but you're not pressing it DOWN so that it touches a fret.

Here's an easy example. Normally to play the dreaded E chord you play 4442, but the note on the fourth string and the note on the first string are redundant. You don't need them both. It's easier to play 444X. The "X" means that you play the top three strings, but you mute the first string. I play the top three strings on the fourth fret with my pinky, ring, and middle finger. I use my pinky to "touch" the first string, but not press it down. That mutes the string. When I strum across it, it just makes a "thumping" sound, but it doesn't sound a note. You can also mute the first string with the pad of your palm from underneath.

To play a C#m, you normally play it this way: 1444, but that "reverse" bar is a bit tricky for some people and the stretch to the 1 on the four string makes it even a bit harder to grab. So, instead, you can play it X444. If you play it as a bar, you can just let the top of your finger that's barring touch the string without pressing it down. If you play it with pinky, ring, and middle they way I tend to if I'm switch from an E, then you can just let your middle finger touch it. Alternatively, you can let your thumb rest on the side of the string without pressing it downward. Any of these things will mute the string and let you be freer with when you aim when you strum.

05-08-2017, 05:24 AM
When I get lazy I start missing strings when I strum. I've never tried to do it purposely. Andrea, are you sure that you aren't seeing someone playing claw hammer, like gvelasco mentioned? Claw hammer is a trick of its own. It takes a lot of practice to get good at.

I like your signature gvelasco. My kids have gotten to an age where they actually have admitted a few times that we are cool.

05-08-2017, 06:00 AM
I am trying to learn guitar and uke on my own. The guit method book I am using is by Alfred Publishing and it is more a -learn to play melody first- system rather than jumping into a lot of chords. They have you play 2, 3 and 4 note groupings all the time. You might play on strings 1,2; 3,4,5; etc. and it really sounds good. The songs are all combos of single notes, doublets and chords.
One person told me to play these with an arcing wrist motion that allows you to hit the strings you want, then stop just as you feel it touch the first unwanted string. This has worked out pretty well and has been easier for me than selectively muting certain strings...

05-09-2017, 11:29 AM
Is there a reason one can't, or shouldn't, pluck the strings as opposed to strumming them? That's what I've been doing unless it calls for all 4 strings.

05-09-2017, 02:37 PM
Is there a reason one can't, or shouldn't, pluck the strings as opposed to strumming them? That's what I've been doing unless it calls for all 4 strings.
There are times to do both or either. But if you need to strum for the volume and rhythmic patterns available, then you need to develop muting skills as well.

05-16-2017, 03:43 PM
Thanks for the responses. It's possible what I'm seeing is a claw hammer stroke. I'm not familiar enough with the style to say. He's definitely not muting. I'm going to Ukulele camp in MI in June so I'll get a chance to talk to a lot of people who are way more skilled than me. I think there might be a class that goes over the claw hammer stroke. ��

05-16-2017, 04:47 PM
there might be a class that goes over the claw hammer stroke. ��

That would be nice. It turns out that claw hammer works extremely well with the ukulele.