Strumming & Plucking
Your Strumming hand (also called the plucking hand or picking hand) is the one that strikes the strings to produce sound. This can be done with a plectrum or with the fingers and thumb. The latter technique is known as fingerstyle or fingerpicking.
Using a Plectrum to Pluck or Strum
You should already be familiar with the fundamental aspects of how to hold a plectrum from previous lessons on this site. Although, I do not expect beginners to get to worried about technique when holding a plectrum. Just make sure it is held between the index finger and thumb and you strike the strings with the pointy end!
Below you will see two pictures, one showing a downstroke and the other showing an upstroke. Try both of these on your guitar without worrying about holding any frets with your left hand. You will notice that downtrokes are easier to play. Do not feel tempted to just play downstrokes in your everyday playing, otherwise your skills will not develop properly.
Once you are used to playing downstrokes and upstrokes you can try alternate strumming. You may notice that when you play a downstroke your hand ends in the position to play an upstroke. Try alternating between downstrokes and upstrokes and compare it to playing only downstrokes. You will notice that alternate strumming is a lot easier and more efficient. Once you are comfortable with downstrokes and upstrokes you can move on to some basic strumming patterns.
Now try plucking the strings. You may find that this technique is much harder to master. Just remember to pluck gently and keep a relaxed grip on the plectrum. Downstrokes are much easier with plucking as well, but do not neglect playing with upstrokes. In tab (written music) we read from left to right. Because strummed notes are sounded simultaneously, they are shown above one another in tab.
A downstroke is where your strum moves down towards the floor and is shown in tab by the symbol
An Upstroke is where your strum moves up towards the ceiling and is represented by the symbol
If you are having trouble reading tabs check out the various articles found in the 'lessons' section of this site.