Learning the guitar will be one of the best things you will ever do. Just picking up this instrument and playing a few chords can strum away negative emotions. Whether you’re angry, sad, or in a great mood, the guitar can be your trusted friend through life.
When it comes to playing the guitar, you can choose to fingerpick the strings or use a pick. Fingerpicking is exactly what it sounds like. You pick at the strings, or strum, with your fingers.
However, this usually takes quite a lot of practice and sore hands. The other method is to use a guitar pick. This is a little piece of material (usually plastic) that you hold between your thumb and index finger.
Picks, also known as plectrums, are generally made from a uniform material such as different kinds of plastics. These include:
However, you can also use other materials, such as:
While you don’t have to use a pick to play the guitar, we recommend you learn to do so. As with learning a new instrument, it can be challenging at first but, with practice, knowing how to use a pick will open up more musical possibilities as time progresses.
Today, we are going to guide you through the process of using a pick to play your favorite tunes on the guitar. We will show you how to hold a pick properly and which guitar picks are the best options for you.
With a little patience and time, you will be strumming and picking along to your favorite tracks with absolute ease.
So, let’s pick up that pick and start playing!
How to hold a guitar pick properly
If you’re beginning your journey on the guitar, holding a guitar pick is one of the most important lessons you will learn. When you see an experienced guitarist use a pick, you may think it looks easy and there’s nothing to it. However, there are improper techniques that can impede your musical quest.
If you grip the pick too tight, it can cause cramping. You want to feel comfortable and relaxed when using a pick, not tense and in pain. If you hold a pick too loose, then it can wiggle and fly out of your hand.
So, yes, there is a right way and a few wrong ways to hold a guitar pick. Today, we will show you the most common method to hold a pick but not all guitarists use it in this way. Some incredible guitarists have their own unique style when holding a plectrum. But, they probably started with the most common method.
There a few things to keep in mind when learning to hold a guitar pick properly:
- Pay attention to your thumb when you first pick up that pick. The pick should come out of the side of your thumb. Many beginners make the mistake of holding the pick so it sticks out from the tip of the thumb. This is not the right way, not for this method, anyway.
- The pick needs to be placed well. With the pick is coming out from your finger, it should be showing around a centimeter or so of the body of the plectrum.
- Try to hold it as lightly as possible. However, do not hold it so loosely that it falls out of your fingers. A light grip will ensure that your arm, wrist, and hand remain relaxed as you strum the guitar. If you are tense, the sound of your playing will not flow so well.
Place the pick on your index finger. It should be pointing out of the top of your finger. You can also bring in your middle finger as extra support underneath the index finger.
Place your thumb on top of the pick. It should now be sticking out of the side of your thumb. You need to have a good amount of your thumb on top of the pick to prevent it from shifting as you play. Make sure a larger portion of the pick is exposed for strumming. For single notes, you can expose less of the pick.
Lightly squeeze your thumb and fingers together with the pick in between. You are now ready to tackle those 6 strings!
Yes, it’s really as simple as that. While this first part is easy, it’s the strumming patterns and movement of your wrist and hand that are the more challenging aspects. But, for now, learning to hold a pick is a great start!
Choosing a pick
Before you start strumming the guitar, you will need to find a suitable pick. Not all picks are the same. Some are thicker than others. Ask most experienced guitarists and they will have a preference for a style of pick.
We recommend starting out with a very thin pick, maybe the thinnest you can find. This is because thinner picks are more flexible and won’t get tangled up in the guitar strings so easily. You want a more forgiving pick at this stage.
However, thin picks can be less accurate when picking out individual strings but for strumming, this is the best way to start. Try the Dunlop Nylon .38 to begin with as these are comfortable and easy on the fingers.
When it comes to the size of the pick, you should start with a standard-sized model. If it’s too small, it will be too stiff and complicated to hold and pick out different strings.
Picking individual notes
If you want to pick out individual strings and notes, we suggest using a thicker pick such as the Dunlop Tortex Orange. You will get a better, thicker sound with these thicker picks.
Holding a pick is one of the first lessons you should learn, even before you hold a guitar. It will allow you to play a whole host of different songs that only work with picks. Whether you want to be the next folk guitarist sensation or rock soloing maestro, you won’t get far without your trusty pick.