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How to Strum in Bluegrass in Fingerstyle Guitar

Learn how to strum in bluegrass from guitarist Adam Smale in this online fingerstyle guitar lesson from Howcast.


Bluegrass music is typically played with a flat pick, but there are a few players around that do play finger style. Even though sometimes you'll see people using finger picks, and probably they were banjo players at one point. If you ever look at banjo players they actually use metal picks on these two fingers and it's usually these three fingers that you use in bluegrass technique as well. kind of borrowing from that banjo tradition.

But let's talk about just some basic bluegrass strumming. In bluegrass you kind of really need to get that country lilt to it from the baseline. Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, so that's what you're sort of simulating on the guitar. [playing guitar] Now I'm using my thumb pick, I play the base note, strum down, I come back up and then strum down on the fourth string. So, if you know anything about country baselines, you play the root and the fifth of the scale or the chord. In this case G is the root, D is the fifth. So I'm alternating back and forth between root, five, root, five. [playing guitar] When I go to the C chord I'm going to alternate C as the root, G as the five. Then if I go to the D chord, the open D string is the root note and the open A is the five.

Now I should also mention now that you can also use your first finger for the strumming of the chords and just use your thumb for the bass notes. [playing guitar] That's a little bit more subtle approach. If you want to play quieter, that's great. If you need to play a little bit louder just use your thumb. [playing guitar] And that, in a nutshell, is bluegrass.

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