Flatpick and Strumming (Guitar Lesson)


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Orville Johnson

Flatpick and Strumming

Orville talks about flatpicks, how to hold them, and how to strum with them.

Taught by Orville Johnson in Beginner Acoustic with Orville seriesLength: 13:29Difficulty: 1.0 of 5

Pick Thickness

There are different types of flatpicks that are best used in different situations. Here is a summary of the effect of thickness on the sound produced by a flatpick:

- A thin pick has more give to it which causes a “slapping” effect. This creates a more percussive sound and is good to use for strumming guitar parts.
- A heavy pick is very thick. It produces a fuller, richer tone and has no give or slapping effect. This is ideal for playing solos and melodies.

Orville suggests you start playing with a medium gauge pick. Experiment with other types and find out what works best for you.

Holding the Pick

Rest the pick on the top of the index finger, just below the first joint. Then hold the pick in place with the tip of the thumb. Make sure about 1/3 of the pointy end of the pick is sticking out from the fingers.

Rest Stroke

This is an important technique in flatpick guitar playing. Start by picking only the bass note of a chord. Stop the pick by “resting” it on the next string. Then on the next beat follow through and strum the rest of the chord. The bass note can be alternated between other notes in the chord as well. Just use the same technique on different strings.

This technique makes it so you do not need to lift the pick in the air after picking the bass note. Rest stroke picking is better because when you raise the pick in the air you need to aim to hit the correct string. This makes it much more likely for there to be error in your playing. Rest stroke picking also helps you keep the tempo of your playing up because it minimizes the amount of movement necessary to strum chords.



Video Subtitles / Captions


Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


freefly8freefly8 replied on June 29th, 2017

Thanks Orville....you're clear and concise. Going slow enough for me to catch maybe 75-80% on first viewing. Now to look at supplimental.....practice and revisit the video to see how I've faired.

oliviasjonesoliviasjones replied on July 14th, 2016

great job good teacher : )

EddyBEddyB replied on February 15th, 2016

Orville is a great teacher.

DakotakidDakotakid replied on January 21st, 2016

Thanks Orville. A good lesson!

MTMalsMTMals replied on February 24th, 2015

Just the lesson I've been searching for...the walk up...Be working on this for a while. Thanks Orville.

nailbender2nailbender2 replied on February 12th, 2015

Enter your comment here.

lewislc3slewislc3s replied on September 16th, 2014

GOT IT !!!!!!

lewislc3slewislc3s replied on September 16th, 2014

when the pick is @ rest do you play that string or not ?

krummholzkrummholz replied on February 27th, 2014

Glory be! I finally got the chord-changes and bass-runs right. Thanks for a great lesson.

dorkmandorkman replied on February 18th, 2014

Another question re the base runs on the supp lesson. You are showing the low C sharped but you are playing it as a natural..Are these typos?

dorkmandorkman replied on February 18th, 2014

The supp lesson regarding base runs. Can I assume that this lesson is in the key of G? If it is then shouldn't the low F note be sharped?

sam12sam12 replied on January 6th, 2014

great lesson thank you

jaranthjaranth replied on September 3rd, 2013

Great lesson! Nailed me right where I need improvement.

sam12sam12 replied on January 5th, 2014

I thought that was a good lesson 2

zdmasonzdmason replied on August 29th, 2013

Should be time for JamPlay to correct Exercise #2 to reflect the correct progression up to the D chord. It was pointed out over 3 years ago. How long are beginners going to be confused by something so easy to correct?

apple694apple694 replied on April 4th, 2013

I feel if the lesson would show the cords under or in a seperate section I could better follow the chord changes. Other than that it lesson is very informative.

sam12sam12 replied on January 5th, 2014

That would be very helpful

frwyguyfrwyguy replied on January 24th, 2013

I have been playing four years, and it is really cool to brush up again., I needed it!

halohalo replied on January 18th, 2013

Thanks for your easy style and method of teaching guitar and bass runs. I was not sure i wanted to continue with guitar at 76 years young, but now i do. Wonderful lesson. Peace to you and yours.

mscomptchrlmscomptchrl replied on July 8th, 2012

Oh my gosh. How much easier it is to make the G and C chords this way. With the base progressions I actually feel like I am playing something for the first time in several years attempts. Thanks you so much.

davendee98davendee98 replied on December 1st, 2010

as a 67 year old just now starting to learn guitar, i've got to say your style of teaching is perfect for me. It took a little while to figure out the bass runs but now i love them. how about putting together a beginning song that we can use them in?? thanks Dave

thisbluesmanthisbluesman replied on July 29th, 2011

Hi, Orville, I have watched your lesson along with several other instructors over the past year. I am now on your flatpicks and strumming lesson again. I plan tostay with you for a long time now. I'm 73 and your method is great and great for me. Thanks.

flyboyutahflyboyutah replied on December 17th, 2012

I'll add myself. (68 year old) This is a great lesson. Orville is a great teacher, and these new fingerings really make this fun.

raverys12raverys12 replied on March 12th, 2011

Hi Orville ... keep coming back to your lessons. One thing that has helped me, was your suggestion on playing with the guitar on my left knee. I found that it has helped when learning bar cord and coming up the neck. I have longer arms and when positioned on my right knee, I have to really cock my wrist around and it makes things diffecult. Thaniks, Bob

blinkyblinky replied on March 4th, 2011

Only two months of experience behind me. Have been bouncing from Justinguitar.com, nextlevelguitar.com, and youtube. I am on a 7 day trial here and this is the type of instruction I am looking for. Well done and I think I am going to subscribe. Thank you.

picturemanpictureman replied on January 24th, 2011

Hi Orville, I like your slow and deleberate instruction, I am the new Kid on the block, I will checking in again. Thanks.

pacostapacosta replied on January 3rd, 2011

Orville great lesson. But I believe the Bass Run lesson exercise (2) has a few mistakes, it should be F# and D, not F and D#.

confluxconflux replied on April 27th, 2013

not sure where you see that mistake but i found that the bass run up to the D chord should be B, C, D not B, C#, D. C being the 3rd fret on the 5th string, C# being the 4th fret on the 5th string for those that don't know the note names yet :)

lisaj5227lisaj5227 replied on December 1st, 2010

Orville that was a fantastic lesson. You slow things down at the appropriate time and, your voice is very calming for me. Thanks!

ThersaThersa replied on August 30th, 2010

This is the best lesson I've found so far in all of JamPlay. I feel like a real guitar player doing those bass runs. You explain things so well. I plan on viewing and practicing all of your lessons. Theresa

alamosgalalamosgal replied on May 26th, 2010

Hola Orville. Just the lesson I needed to understand bass note runs. Can't wait to practice, practice. I'll be back for more after I master this lesson. Ciao.

CarolLBCarolLB replied on April 28th, 2010

Hi Orville, great lesson. Slight typo in the exercises; for the run up to the D, it shows 2 & 4 on the 5th string, when actually you play 2 & 3. No worries though, you explain it correctly. Looking forward to more lessons!

Beginner Acoustic with Orville

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Discover the essentials with Orville Johnson by learning some of the most popular topics and techniques in beginner guitar.



Lesson 1

Overcoming Beginner Challenges

Orville talks about some challenges you will likely face as a beginner and offers some advice that will help you overcome them.

Length: 13:05 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Flatpick and Strumming

Orville talks about flatpicks, how to hold them, and how to strum with them.

Length: 13:29 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

Fingerpicking and Patterns

Orville Johnson introduces some basic fingerpicking patterns.

Length: 6:58 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Metronome and Practicing

Orville Johnson explains why it is important to practice with a metronome. He also covers some practice strategies that will help minimize your frustration.

Length: 21:35 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 5

Practical Theory Part 1: Intervals

Orville dives into part 1 of his beginners' guide to practical theory. In this lesson, you will learn the basics of intervals.

Length: 17:30 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Practical Theory Part 2: Scales

Orville Johnson takes a look at scales in part 2 of his practical theory mini-series.

Length: 18:40 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 7

Practical Theory Part 3: Chords and Construction

Orville Johnson jumps into part 3 of his practical theory mini-series. This lesson is about chords and their construction.

Length: 21:08 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

Practical Theory Pt. 4: Modes

It's now time to tap back into the practical music theory portion of this series. Continuing on with part 4, Orville now discusses what modes are and how they are really just scales with Greek names.

Length: 19:50 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 9

Basic Blues Shuffle

Orville Johnson demonstrates a basic blues shuffle. This incredibly easy rhythm piece will have you sounding like a blues great in no time!

Length: 12:38 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 10

Connecting Chords with Bass Runs

Orville Johnson demonstrates how simple chord progressions can be spruced up with bass runs. The classic song "Oh! Susanna" is used as an example.

Length: 12:04 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Voice Leading

Orville Johnson talks about the concept of voice leading. This concept will help you play chord progressions that flow better and sound more harmonious.

Length: 10:20 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 12

Major Chords

Orville Johnson teaches the basic major chords in this lesson. He also explains the best way to change from chord to chord, a challenge for many beginners.

Length: 19:23 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Note Values

Orville Johnson jumps into some light theory with a lesson on note values.

Length: 7:51 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 14

The CAGED System

Orville Johnson takes a beginner's look at the CAGED system.

Length: 8:14 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 15

Open D Tuning

Orville Johnson introduces open D tuning and encourages exploration of its possibilities. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles.

Length: 24:04 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 16

Open G Tuning

This time, Orville Johnson introduces open G tuning. This tuning is great for a broad range of playing styles and sounds pretty without even fingering a chord.

Length: 21:28 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 17

Beginner Fingerstyle Techniques

This lesson is perfect for the beginner looking to develop dexterity and independence in the right hand fingers. Orville guides you step by step through basic rhythm concepts and fingerstyle exercises.

Length: 26:00 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 18

How Does a Capo Work?

This lesson presents any beginner with the information needed to understand how a capo works. This tool enables you to change the key of a song without learning any new chord voicings.

Length: 22:07 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 19

Beginner Lead Techniques

Orville introduces basic techniques that can be used to play lead guitar. This lesson includes a primer on hammer-ons, pull-offs, bends and harmonics.

Length: 22:14 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only
Lesson 20

Orville's Guide to Practicing

Orville dispenses a lifetime of accrued wisdom on the subject of practicing and learning. This lesson is only 16 minutes long, and it will not only change how you learn the guitar, but can also be applied...

Length: 16:38 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 21

Creating New Chords

This lesson is all about creating different types of chords. This does steer the lesson towards music theory, but the information is invaluable and infinitely applicable.

Length: 23:05 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Orville Johnson View Full Biography Orville Johnson was born in 1953 in Edwardsville, Illinois and came up on the St. Louis, Missouri music scene, where he was exposed to and participated in a variety of blues, bluegrass and American roots music. He began singing in his Pentecostal church as a young boy, in rock bands in middle school, then took up the guitar at 17,with early influences from Doc Watson, Rev. Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, and Chuck Berry. In the early 1970's, Orville spent several seasons playing bluegrass on the SS Julia Belle Swain, a period-piece Mississippi river steamboat plying the inland waterways, with his group the Steamboat Ramblers.

Orville moved to Seattle, Washington in 1978, where he was a founding member of the much-loved and well-remembered folk/rock group, the Dynamic Logs. Other musical associates include Laura Love, Ranch Romance, File' Gumbo Zydeco Band, Scott Law, and the Twirling Mickeys. Johnson, known for his dobro and slide guitar stylings and vocal acrobatics, has played on over 100 albums. He has appeared on Garrison Keilor's Prairie Home Companion, Jay Leno's Tonight Show and was featured in the 1997 film Georgia with Mare Winningham. His musical expertise can also be heard on the Microsoft CD-ROMs, Musical Instruments of the World and the Complete Encyclopedia of Baseball. He teaches as well at the International Guitar Seminar, Pt. Townsend Country Blues Week and Puget Sound Guitar Workshop.

Orville released 4 recordings in the 1990's: The World According to Orville (1990) Blueprint for the Blues (1998) Slide & Joy (1999) an all-instrumental dobro tour de force and Kings of Mongrel Folk (1997) with Mark Graham. He also appeared on 4 discs with the File' Gumbo Zydeco Band and produced Whose World Is This (1997) for Jim Page and Inner Life (1999) for Mark Graham. In the 21st century, he has released Freehand, a new Kings of Mongrel Folk disc, Still Goin' Strong, and been featured in the soundtracks of PBS' Frontier House and the Peter Fonda flick The Wooly Boys as well as the compilation cd Legends of the Incredible Lap Steel Guitar.

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