Great Guitar Sound In Two Steps

Plucking the strings of a guitar seems simple, right?

Parents who have children learning to play the guitar know that getting a strong, consistent tone out of the guitar can be one of the first challenges faced by young students.

Since plucking the strings is one of the first things you learn on guitar, you would think there would be some agreement on how to do it.

But, as is often the case with the guitar, there is no clear agreement among teachers on what young students should be doing.

Should you use a pick or not?

If you do use a pick, how should you hold it and how should you hit the strings?

If you don’t use a pick, which fingers (or tentacles) should you use?


For such an essential skill there is certainly a lot of (often contradictory) information out there.

With Awesome Guitar for Kids we begin with a simple, but effective method, that sets your child up for short and long term success.

It goes a little something like this:

Walking the dogs

We start by getting a sense of how to make sounds with our fingers in Walk the Dog

The things to look for as you practice are:

  • The thumb is anchored on the thickest string
  • The fingers are passing over the tops of the strings and not snapping from underneath
  • The knuckles of the finger are not stiff but move as the fingers move

    The Choke Chain. Notice that the fingers are under the string. You do NOT want to do this

It is ok to make a lot of noise in the exercise, in fact, that is the point. One of the biggest problems that young players have is that they play too darn quietly. It is maddening for teachers. “Aren’t kids supposed to be loud? If they weren’t taking lessons, they’d pounding the snot out of the strings!” As teachers, we create anxiety by never encouraging students to just explore the sound of their instrument without the burden of dozens of instructions. This exercise starts forming good habits and gets your child used to making a big sound.

Pep-per-o-ni Piz-za

Here is where we start learning to control the loud sounds we made in Walk the Dogs:

The things to look for in this exercise are:

  • The thumb is still anchored on the top string
  • The fingers are passing over the tops of the strings and not snapping from underneath
  • You are playing the G string. Counting from the bottom of the strings, the G is the third string
  • After a finger has plucked the G string, it rests on the string above G, while the G string rings out
  • Alternate between the pointer and middle fingers

This walking of the fingers across the strings is the basis for  Awesome Guitar for Kids right-hand technique. I have found it to be the simplest and most effective way to start controlling the beautiful noise that is guitar playing.

Of course, all of these exercises (and many more) can be found in the book Awesome Guitar for Kids.

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