March 28, 2024

About the Author: Cameron Hayes

Cameron Hayes is a guitar educator at the London Guitar Institute, teaching a wide range of styles such as rock, metal, blues, jazz, folk, RnB, acoustic, and many more! He teaches a large volume of students on a weekly basis and always looks to provide outstanding value in each and every lesson!

We need both hands to play the guitar, but which is more important? We need to make all of the chords with our fretting hand, but they won’t make much sound without the strumming hand! So which one is more important?

Strumming hand vs. fretting hand – which is more important?

Hand playing guitar

Role of the fretting hand

When we first start learning the guitar, a lot of thought is given to the fretting hand.

This will be important as we are constantly thinking about which strings and frets each finger needs to be on for both riffs and chords, as well as which fingers should be placed on each string.

There is also thought given to the fretting technique, always being right up near the edge of the fret and standing up tall on the fingertips.

When students are newer to the guitar, I see them concentrating much harder on their fretting hand, rarely looking down at their strumming/plucking hand, except for when a song has a complicated string skipping pattern.

In a way the fretting hand is like the steering wheel of our guitar playing; it controls where we go in the way of notes and chords. In a way, it is the fretting hand that dictates the melody and overall mood of the song.

Man hands playing electric guitar

Role of the strumming hand

So, if the fretting hand is the steering wheel, then this would make the strumming hand the accelerator!

The right-hand drives everything along through our strumming or plucking, which also dictates the tempo and all rhythmic information. If this strumming or picking pattern isn’t correct, then the song won’t sound right.

There are many ways that we can employ the strumming/plucking hand. We can use a guitar pick to strum the strings for chords, or pluck the strings by themselves as well as in certain groupings.

We can also use our fingers to pluck strings individually for the fingerpicking style, which can allow us to treat each string independently and incorporate both rhythmic chords and bass lines with top-note melodies intertwined.

In the case of finger-style guitar songs, it can often be the plucking hand that is the more dominant hand in the piece (think Chet Atkins).

Man playing electric guitar

So which is more important?

Obviously, we know that both hands have very different roles when it comes to guitar playing, but at the end of the day, which is more important?

In my opinion, I would argue that in the early stages of learning the guitar the fretting hand will be the most important.

This is due to the fact that this hand will require the most thought as you will have a lot of fundamentals for the hand to absorb into the muscle memory, such as chord shapes and proper fretting technique.

However, as you progress into an intermediate and advanced musician, I would argue that the strumming/plucking hand becomes more important here, as this is what will allow you to lock in with other musicians when playing live to sound ‘in the pocket’.

If you’re not rhythmically tight, you won’t sound as one unit with your fellow musicians and instead can spoil the groove.

This is not something that a lesser-experienced musician may necessarily think about, but as you progress, it would be highly beneficial to you and your playing that you actively work on your plucking/strumming hand abilities to be the strongest musician that you can be.

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Tags: fretting, how to play guitar, strumming

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Tags: fretting, how to play guitar, strumming