How to Skip Strings While Strumming the Guitar

There’ll be times when you need to strum a chord and avoid playing certain strings. This is hard to do when you first start playing guitar, but don’t worry, it gets easy quickly.

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Let’s have a quick refresher on string numbers before we begin.

Understanding Guitar String Numbers

How often will I have to skip certain strings?

Often. I’d say around 60% of the time when playing open chords you’ll be asked to avoid strumming at least one string. For example:

  • When playing an open D (or Dm) chord or a simple F (or Fmaj7) you must avoid playing strings 5 & 6
  • When playing any type of C or A (or Am) chord you must avoid playing string 6

You get the idea…

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How to strum the guitar while missing strings out

You’ll initially find it very hard to strum just four or five strings with fluidity. Don’t worry, this will come in time. To begin with, just focus on missing the 6th string (E string) and don’t worry too much about avoiding the 5th string (the A string).

Avoid “analysis paralysis” and just play

Some people focus so much on playing the correct strings that they hardly actually strum the guitar at all, they’ll line everything up, their fingers, the pick/plectrum, and fool around for 20-30 seconds before they even start to play the guitar. This should be avoided at all costs.

In the early stages of learning it’s far more important that you get comfortable holding/strumming the guitar and start having fun than it is to PERFECTLY execute every chord.

So don’t overanalyse. At this stage we want progress, not perfection. 🙂

Shape the chord and just start strumming with the picture in your mind that you won’t strum the E string. Two quick tips:

  • Aim to strum as usual, but from a slightly lower starting position. Just drop your forearm by an inch or two and strum as normal.
  • Try holding the pick/plectrum nearer to the pointed end (so there’s a shorter amount of pick between your finger and the body of the guitar). This will give you more control and accuracy. This is the maximum amount of pick that you should be able to see when you look down at your hand (any more than this and you’ll be making life very difficult for yourself):

How To Hold A Guitar Pick

You’ll be surprised at how quickly you improve at intentionally missing strings while strumming. It’s not as hard as it first seems so keep going!

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