How To Play a Guitar Without Strumming (7 Easy Tips)


play a guitar without strumming

Strumming is the most popular guitar-playing technique, and for a good reason. It is the easiest and fastest way to start playing guitar–and it sounds terrific too. However, there are many other techniques that you can use to play guitar without strumming, and learning these techniques will help you become a much better guitarist.

Here are seven tips on how to play a guitar without strumming:

  1. Learn all the different picking techniques.
  2. Teach yourself to play percussion.
  3. Guitar tapping is an interesting technique to learn.
  4. Slide guitar is fun and sounds really cool.
  5. Learn how to use hammer-ons and pull-offs.
  6. Single note rhythm as an alternative way of playing guitar.
  7. Shredding is difficult to learn but worth it.

In this article, I will discuss each of these guitar-playing techniques in more detail so that you can have a better understanding of all the different ways you can play guitar without strumming. 

play a guitar without strumming

1. Learn All the Different Picking Techniques

You might be a strumming expert looking to learn a new way to play guitar, or you might just want to learn a variety of techniques. Either way, picking is one of the best techniques to learn. There is an array of different picking styles, and although they might not be easy to learn, it will definitely be worth it for you in the end.

Picking can be done with your fingers or with a pick, depending on which technique you are learning. When using your fingers, you can alternate between the fleshy part of your finger and the nail to create different sounds. This style of picking is also known as fingerstyle.

Then there’s the picks. There are many different kinds of picks, which also create different sounds,depending on the material they are made from and their thickness. You even get a thumb pick which is pretty cool as it leaves your other fingers open so that you can easily switch between playing with your fingers or with a pick.

Let’s look at all the different picking styles you can learn:

  • Plucking. When plucking, you can create different sounds, such as tremolos and arpeggios. Plucking the string near the center of the sound hole creates a softer sound, whereas plucking it near the bridge creates a harder sound.
  • Fingerpicking. You must arch your wrist and keep it still when fingerpicking. You will have to practice the muscles in your fingers as they will be working hard.
  • Alternate picking. When learning to play guitar, you might only use downstrokes. However, to create a more full sound, you can use alternate picking. When alternate picking, you will use both up and down strokes to play.
  • Sweep picking. Sweep picking is a challenging but fun style of playing. You have to be fast as you sweep your pick across the strings, playing single notes on them. You will only fret one string, and it is essential that you mute the other strings, or it will sound like you are strumming.
  • Economy picking. This is a combination between alternate picking and sweep picking.
  • Gypsy picking. When gypsy picking, you pick the string super hard, and then instead of moving to the following note, you rest the pick on the string below.
  • Anchoring. When fingerpicking, you can use your pinky finger to anchor your hand. To do this, you place your pinky finger of the hand you are picking with on the guitar’s body below the strings.
  • Tremolo picking. This is a style of picking that you can do with your finger or a pick. You play the same note repeatedly for a certain time, which requires speed and accuracy.
  • Hybrid picking. This is a combination between fingerpicking and flat-picking, so you will have to master both of the techniques and switch between them.
  • Flat picking. This is the same as finger picking, but instead of using your finger, you use a pick.

If you are used to fingerpicking or just looking to add some new picks to your collection, you can get these MOREYES 42PCS Guitar Picks (available on Amazon.com). You will get 42 picks in seven different thicknesses and colors as well as two pick holders so that you never lose your pick again. These picks are perfect for beginners and seasoned professionals and will ensure you get the sound you are after.

Mastering these different styles will give you various picking methods to incorporate into your playing without ever having to strum.

2. Teach Yourself How To Play Percussion

Percussion is a super exciting guitar style to learn. It sounds incredible if you can master it, and you will have a lot of fun integrating it into your songs. Percussion is not the easiest technique to teach yourself, though. But, with enough practice and dedication, it is possible!

You can use your fingers or a pick when playing percussion, but the idea is to pick the strings aggressively. I suggest using your fingers instead of a pick as it will make it much easier.

Percussion works best when playing on an acoustic guitar as it creates a really intense drumming sound.

When playing percussion, you pick the strings as you usually would. You then add the percussion sound by tapping the guitar’s body between notes. You can use the palm of your hand to slap against the strings or above the strings, next to the sound hole.

You can also use the fingers you are not picking with to tap on the body of the guitar while playing, or you can flick the pickguard area with one of your fingers.

teach yourself how to play percussion

3. Guitar Tapping Is an Interesting Technique To Learn

Guitar tapping sounds excellent and can be used while playing solos to make them sound unique and exciting. Tapping can be done when playing an acoustic or electric guitar. You can use your picking hand, fret hand, or even a two-handed tapping technique incorporating both.

You use this technique by tapping the string against the fingerboard. This type of playing can be used with other styles and can be extremely fun and entertaining to watch and listen to. When tapping the string, it creates legato notes. This style can also be used with hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Check out the following YouTube video for a beginner-friendly demonstration of guitar tapping:

4. Slide Guitar Is Fun and Sounds Really Cool

Slide guitar can be challenging to learn, but the reward is tremendous. You can create unique sounds with this technique. Once you have mastered how to use the slide, you will have so much fun playing with it that you will want to incorporate it into every song you play!

Slide guitar is used in various music genres such as rock and blues because it creates unique and interesting vibratos.

A slide is a metal or glass object that fits onto one of the fingers on your fretting hand. You can wear the slide on any of your fingers, but many guitarists choose to wear it on their ring fingers. Wearing it on this finger gives them great control and makes it easier to reach down the neck of the guitar.

How to play using a slide:

  1. Gently press the slide against the strings and slide it across them.
  2. Be careful not to press down too hard, as you don’t want the strings to touch the frets. 
  3. While using the slide for special effects, you can use your free fingers on your fret hand to play rhythmic notes in between.

If you press the slide down on the fret, your guitar will sound out of tune, so learn to add just the necessary amount of pressure. When playing with a slide, you pluck the strings with your picking hand instead of strumming them.

You can tune your guitar as usual when using a slide, but it is much easier to play with a slide when you use open tuning.

You can get this D’Addario Accessories Glass Slide (available on Amazon.com), which is made from boron silicate. It is durable and will give you a smooth tone. The glass is 4mm (0.157 inches) thick and available in small, medium, and large. It has an extra smooth surface and will effortlessly slide over your strings.

If you do not like the idea of a glass slide, you can get a stainless steel slide like this Shubb Guitar Steel Slide (available on Amazon.com). This is an extremely durable slide as it’s made with stainless steel, so you can bet that it’ll never break, no matter how hard you rock with it! It is ideal for Bluegrass music and will give you a beautiful tone.

slide guitar is fun and sounds really cool

Famous Slide Musicians

Many famous slide guitarists can be found across the world. Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones is an epic guitarist, and you can see him using a slide in their song “I wanna be your man.” Muddy waters also used a slide in a lot of their music.

Here is a list of some of the most iconic slide guitarists throughout history.

  • Charley Patton. Known for blues music, Charley Patton lived between April 1891 and April 1934. However, nobody is really sure about the year he was born. He lived in Mississippi and is famous for songs such as Pony Blues, Hammer Blues, and Bird Nest.
  • Derek Trucks. He has played with many famous musicians such as Bob Dylan and Joe Walsh. Derek Trucks was a member of the Allman Brothers Band and toured with Eric Clapton. He has recorded many famous songs like Younk Funk, She Makes Me Want to Sing, and Baby, You’re Right.
  • Warren Haynes. He is famous for songs such as Spots of Time, Your Wildest Dreams, and Carolina in My Mind. Warren Haynes started playing guitar at the young age of 12, and when he was 20, he joined David Allen Coe’s touring and recording band. He has also been part of the Dicky Betts Band, the Allman Brothers Band, and Gov’t Mule.
  • Earl Hooker. Known as one of the most iconic slide guitarists, was born in 1930 in Mississippi. His favorite genre of music was the blues, and he used standard tuning on his guitar when playing with a slide which is not something that many musicians can accomplish. He has many famous songs, such as Two Bugs in a Rug, Hot and Heavy, and Bertha.
  • Billy Gibbons. Known as the guitarist for ZZ Top, was born in Texas and studied at the Warner Brothers’ art school in Hollywood. He formed his band, called Moving Sidewalks, when he was 18 before later joining ZZ Top. Billy Gibbons primarily plays Gibson guitars; his first guitar was a 1962 Gibson Melody maker, and he is famous for his songs, She’s on Fire, Hollywood, and Desert High.
  • Bonnie Raitt. She is a fantastic Blues singer, songwriter, and guitarist who started playing guitar at the tender age of 8. She is known for her songs Runaway, Love Sneakin’ Up on You, and Thing Called Love. She plays a Fender Stratocaster and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Here is an entertaining YouTube video showing the talented Billy Gibbons playing electric guitar with a slide.

5. Learn How To Use Hammer-Ons and Pull-Offs

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are cool and will make playing solos much more fun. You will be able to play faster and sound like a pro doing it. Hammer-ons and pull-offs can be used in conjunction with other guitar styles, such as picking and slide guitar.

Learning to do hammer-ons and pull-offs is not that difficult.

  1. Press down on the fret of your choice with one of your fingers on your fret hand.
  2. Pluck the string with your pick hand like you would when playing normally.
  3. The next move is the hammer-on action. Use a finger on your fret hand, whichever one feels comfortable, and tap on the same string a few frets up. Do not pluck the string when making this move.
  4. You can now continue playing as usual or continue to do a pull-off. To do a pull-off, you pull the string you have just pressed down with your finger off the fret.

Hammer-ons and pull-offs are not complex techniques to learn. Once mastered, they will help you sound much more professional.

learn how to use hammerons and pulloffs

6. Single Note Rhythm As an Alternative Way of Playing Guitar

This style of playing is known as tremolo. It can be incredibly difficult to learn, but it is a great technique to know if you want to impress your friends or play professionally.

Playing tremolo is playing the same note multiple times at a super-fast speed. It might sound easy, but it is difficult to master. You can buy this Tempi Metronome for Musicians (available on Amazon.com) to help you stay on beat, which will only make learning this technique even easier.

A metronome will help you play your notes at the right bpm so that you can learn to play precisely and accurately. You can set it anywhere from 40 to 208 bpm, and it doesn’t require any batteries as you simply have to wind it up, and it can last up to 20 minutes. It comes with a free ebook which will have you playing along to its beat in no time.

7. Shredding Is Difficult To Learn but Worth It

Shredding is the coolest style of playing guitar if you want to play rock or heavy metal music. This playing style uses various picking styles that can be combined to create outrageous solos.

To perfect shredding, you need precision and dedication to your craft. You need to teach yourself to play faster than you ever imagined possible and to be able to sustain the tempo.

To achieve this kind of mastery, you will have to make use of most of the above techniques and incorporate them all into an epic piece of music.

You will need to practice until your fingers are sore and your wrists are aching, but the result will be well worth it. You will be so proud of yourself for achieving this monumental style of guitar playing, and you will definitely be able to show off a bit.

Shredding includes a combination of the following techniques:

  • Legato
  • Sweep picking
  • Finger tapping
  • Economy picking
  • Alternate picking
  • Whammy bar use
  • String skipping

To be able to shred correctly, you will need an electric guitar with a whammy bar and the necessary sound equipment, so it might be a good idea to speak to an expert at your local guitar shop.

shredding is difficult to learn but worth it

Here is a super cool YouTube Video showing a guitar shred-off.

Final Thoughts

There are many different ways to play a guitar without strumming, and some are more difficult than others. Start with learning to pick with your fingers and a guitar pick, and then work your way up.

Once you have mastered picking, learn to play percussion and teach yourself how to do hammer-ons and pull-offs. By this time, you should be able to play impressive solos, so add a guitar slide to the mix and shred it.

David Sandy

Hey there! My name is David Sandy and I'm the founder of Sandy Music Lab. I've been playing guitar for several years now and created this site to be able to share and explore music with others. Check out my recommended guitar gear!

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