The right hand can be used fingerstyle, which means that each finger on the right hand is used to manipulate the strings. Alternately, you can hold a plectrum, or pick, in your right hand to strum various rhythms or pick out notes on the strings.
The basic fingerstyle position is to use the fingernails to pluck the strings. (Initially, you may use your fingertips as well.) The fingers are held vertical to the strings with a slight arch in the wrist. The thumb plays the three bass strings, while the first finger plucks the third string, the second finger the second string, and the third finger the first string. The little finger is usually not used.
For the moment, it's probably a good idea to practice strumming all six strings first with your thumb and then using a pick. The key is to place your fingertips on the pickguard (the piece of plastic or laminate placed under the strings on the body of the guitar) to anchor your hand and then to brush your thumb across all the strings. We'll discuss more complex pick and fingerpicking techniques on pages 60 and 141, respectively.
Holding a Pick
The size and thickness of guitar picks vary greatly to accommodate the different playing styles and strings. In the beginning, you'll want one that has a medium size and thickness. Buy yourself two or three and experiment.
Let the pick lie flat on your first finger, and then comfortably hold it in place with your thumb as shown in FIGURE 3-9. You can then use it to strum the string with up-and-down motions, as shown in
To get a feel of what to do, take your right hand and extend the fingers, thumb and first finger lightly touching at the tip. Now, with the fingertips still touching, shake your hand up and down at the wrist in a gentle, comfortable motion. This is the motion you want to use to strum the guitar strings.