Guitar Tip: Painting the Strum (Part 2)

I hope the previous post was helpful to begin describing what it means to paint the strum. The purpose of this series is to dissect the strum and describe for you what I would say are the parts of a good strum.

I suppose the word “good” is a bit relative, but I trust you know the difference. To be clear, I’m not talking about “professional” or “expert” strumming here. It is more like “clean and efficient.” That’s what I hope this series will help explain: The anatomy of a clean and efficient strum.

In this post, I will be covering the first part: Right Elbow Position.

Posture is naturally part of this, so I will include my thoughts about good posture and some tips to avoid bad posture.

The Tip

First, related to the series, here’s today’s tip: Keep your right elbow up on the guitar.

In other words, don’t let it come off really far forward where it’s more like your bicep resting on the top edge. Also, don’t let it go so far back that you can’t even swing your arm.

If your guitar is a little too small, your arm will naturally fall too far forward. If your guitar is a little too big, your arm will naturally, well…not reach.

As you can tell, there are a couple of things to be watching for already. My tip assumes that your guitar is about the right size for you. (Most people will be playing on a full-sized acoustic guitar by the time they are 12 or so.)

Different brands make different sizes as well, so if you’re in the market for one, pay attention to how well it fits the body that will be playing it.

As you are playing your guitar, just make sure that you are strumming with your right elbow up on the top front edge of the body of the guitar.


All this is related to how you are sitting (or standing). If you are sitting down and playing the guitar, there are some things to mention here.

  1. Sit up straight:
    • Don’t lean forward really far to try to see your left hand (it can push your right elbow forward and off the guitar)
    • Don’t slouch or lean back (it pulls your elbow too far back)
    • (Please) don’t put your left elbow on your leg or anywhere else. This curves and twists your spine. Bad.
  2. Keep your feet down:
    • This is just like it sounds. Keep your feet on the ground.
  3. Try and raise your right leg a bit
    • Okay, this one is a little tougher, but I’ll tell you why it’s important. It raises the guitar up closer to your head. It actually makes you a more efficient player because your right arm moves less and your left hand doesn’t strain and reach near as much. You can either get a small step to put your foot on, or get a book, a box, or a little sister under your foot to lift it up a bit. 🙂

Your right elbow is like a pivot point. If it is in the correct position, you can relax your body (because relaxing is extremely important) and let it swing.

This is the first part of a clean and efficient strum.

The next will have to do with how you swing your arm.


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