#1
Hi!

I'm a complete beginner to the guitar (I've only been learning for a very short time). I have a few basic beginners’ queries relating to problems I've encountered during my learning so far. I would be hugely appreciative if anyone here could help me out!

(I play a stainless steel stringed acoustic guitar and use a pick for strumming.)

1. Callus question

I've heard that getting calluses on your fingertips will help make guitar playing easier as pressing down on the strings will be less painful. However, does the hardening of the fingertips also make playing easier by enabling a firmer hold when pressing down on the strings?
I've found that having soft fingertips (beginner's hands!) has made playing notes and chords difficult as no matter how hard and firmly I try to press down on the strings between the frets I always seem to get reverberation and other similar discrepancies in the sound when strumming them with the pick using my other hand. I think this is because the skin on my fingertips is soft and the strings press in and are able to make deep dents. For this reason the strings are not able to be held down in place very well or firmly and are able to vibrate under the tips of my fingers. The dents made in my fingertips make the skin even softer and less capable of holding the strings down hard and in place. In my experience, as calluses started to form, it seemed that I was able to hold the strings down much harder and more firmly and was able to produce a clearer sound when playing them. When I had to stop practicing guitar for a couple of weeks, my fingers softened again and when I picked it up for the first time afterwards my progress seemed to have gone backwards and I was getting reverberation when playing the strings all over again. Now I don't know whether the calluses that were forming before I stopped playing for a while were helping me to hold down the strings better and thus the reason for the clearer sound, or whether, in fact, the clearer sound I was getting was actually just due to the fact I had been practicing regularly (hence when I stopped playing for a couple of weeks and then resumed again, the reverb was back - simply because I was out of practice!). I guess it's likely a bit of both but I do reckon the forming calluses were really helping me to hold the strings down and in place. Is this correct?

Strumming questions

1. How do I avoid strumming unwanted strings?


When strumming chords that do not require all 6 strings to be played/strummed over the sound hole (e.g. A major and D minor), do guitarists strum ONLY the strings that are part of the chord (e.g. the A,D,G,B and high E strings for the A major chord) and somehow manage completely to avoid touching the strings (with the pick or fingers) that are meant to remain silent (i.e. the low E and A stings - e.g. the low E string for the A major chord). Or do guitarists, in fact, always strum all 6 strings but just work to the chord by using their thumb to silence whatever string/strings at the top (low E or A) are not part of the chord? Usually guitarists I see strum so fast that I'm not able to decipher exactly what they're doing. If indeed the chords are usually strummed by avoiding the strings that are not part of them, how is this done? And is there a way to train your hand to miss touching these unwanted strings with the pick? At the moment I have no control over my strumming hand at all so keep hitting and sounding stings with my pick that should not be played as part of the chord (e.g. A,D,G,B,high E for the D major chord; instead of D,G,B,high E as it should be).


2. How do you strum?

When strumming the strings over the sound hole do you mostly move your strumming forearm up and down and keep your strumming hand and wrist relatively straight? Or, alternatively, do you do most of the hard strumming work with your strumming wrist by turning it repeatedly in a half circle motion across the strings - bringing the pick downwards and upwards? Does it matter or make a difference how you do it? Is there a general rule? Or do guitarists just do whatever suits them individually (i.e. put most of the strumming movement in their forearm or most of the movement in their wrist)? I think that strumming using your fingers instead of a pick may require more wrist movement. Is this correct?


Thank you!! I'd be really grateful for any advice you can offer me! Sorry if my post is badly written - I'm still trying to get to grips with all the basic ideas!
#2
1A : yes
1B : You dont avoid them, you mute out the ones you dont want to hear
2 : It doesnt really matter, with practice it will fall in to place
Gibson SG Standard
Ibanez S2170FB
Peavey JSX
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#3
callus is normal im not sure though that it helps, but on the strumming issue it is your choice on how to strum, whatever makes you feel comfortable. as for string skipping try muting the string that you dont want to use.
What? This is my sig...


Gear:

Guitar(s)
Silvertone: Revolver

Guitar FX
Boss ME:70

Amps/Speakers

Silvertone 15 watt amp
Logitech Practice Speakers

Cables
1 Neutrik 15ft cable
1 First Act 4 ft cable
#4
Having good calluses definately makes it easier to fret the strings, if only because you're not struggling with discomfort. It's only natural to reduce the pressure when it hurts. I always find that my slides heighten the discomfort when my fingers are soft or damaged, and immediately following a slide I get sloppy. It's kind of like a self preservation thing. You're sort sub consciously reducing pressure. When you have calluses to work with, you don't need to think about pressure as much and can focus on technique and accuracy more.

As for reducing the amount of unwanted notes sounding out in a chord, you just gotta employ a couple technique. First and foremost is muting the unnecessary strings with your "unused" fingers on your fretting hand, including your thumb. That in combination with more accurate picking (don't strum all 6 strings) will help tremendously. It takes a lot of practice of different chords, but there's no cheat or shortcut with this.
#5
1.
Calluses help with pain, especially with bending. I suppose they provide some grip to the string, but even the calluses get dents or groves in them. Hand strength and dexterity are really what keeps the strings ringing without buzz.

1.
Both. Not hitting unwanted strings just comes with practice with your strumming hand. Some players mute the unwanted string, with their fretting hand thumb ect., and let the chord strings ring out while hitting all six strings. SRV was a master at this, but this can take a lot of time to master. A good grasp of basic strumming should be in place first.

2.
As far a strumming motion, it comes from a combination of the elbow and wrist. Stay loose, if you tense up and get pain in the elbow or shoulder you're not loose enough. The more exacting the strum needs to be the more the wrist and fingers will get envolved. Basically the only technique that is wrong is the ones that cause physical pain over time.
#6
Thank you very much for all your excellent and detailed replies. Your advice is tremendously valuable to me! You've really cleared up my queries and helped me get under way!
#7
1: callus doesn't help with firmer hold. that comes because your fingers get stronger. start learning some barre chords and this will come very quickly.

2: Mute the string via palm mute (right hand on the stings, while strumming)

3: Depends on the strum you want, if you want a good CHUG in your strum, small movements using wrists, if you want very big bright chords that ring out, whole arm movement.

hope this helps
#8
1.i) Calluses will adjust to the strings to some degree and leave a bit of an indentation allowing better control and more comfortable playing.
1.ii) Why is everyone saying "mute the strings"? Muting is a mandatory technique to know, but when it comes to chords, you need to learn to be more accurate. That is unless you are looking for the sound of muted strings.
2. Chords = whole arm. Single notes = wrist mostly. There are some exceptions like sweeps and economy picking.
Quote by Geldin
Junior's usually at least a little terse, but he knows his stuff. I've always read his posts in a grouchy grandfather voice, a grouchy grandfather with a huge stiffy for alternate picking.
Besides that, he's right this time. As usual.
#9
May be an obvious question to ask but are your string dull (ie old) as new strings are easier to press.

The strings you are not supposed to hit when strumming guitar (more than often the bottom e string) wrap over your thumb over the neck and touch the string in turn muting it so it wont sound out.

I've seen many a player keep their wrist rigid when strumming but this in turn gives a very rigid and harsh strumming sound....loosen up the wrist and try not to think too hard about stumming, do it in a natural way

hope this helps