Using a guitar pick to practice and perform playing guitar is a popular choice among musicians.
There is a certain technique to holding and using a guitar pick that will make your music come out the best while strumming your guitar.
Steps to Holding a Guitar Pick
To hold a guitar pick correctly, follow these 3 steps:
- In whichever hand you use to play, form a “thumbs-up.”
- Place the flat of the guitar pick on top of your curled pointer finger with the pointy edge of the pick facing you and your guitar.
- Lower your thumb and pinch the pick between your fingers with the point extending out just slightly beyond your knuckle.
Too much or too little of the point extending past your finger will have a negative impact on playing.
Check out these images of guitar pick grips to get a good idea of what will work for you.
How to Use a Guitar Pick Properly
When playing an acoustic guitar with a guitar pick, you’ll want to hover your hand holding the pick over the hole in the center of the instrument. This will result in the best sound quality.
With an electric guitar, you can let your hand relax over the instrument.
Start by strumming with the pick from the thickest string to the thinnest string.
The movement should come strictly from your wrist on the hand that is holding the pick, rather than from your arm. A rotating motion, like twisting a lightbulb, will give you the best results.
Depending on the style or genre that you are playing, the rhythm and technique you use while strumming will change. When you’re just starting out, practice strumming slowly at first, and as you progress you will be able to strum faster.
You should also choose a size and style of pick that works best for the type of guitar you have, including acoustic, electric, or bass guitars.
Should a Beginner Use a Guitar Pick?
New players can certainly use guitar picks to practice their skills. Many people tend to think of finger strumming when playing the guitar, but that’s not all there is to it.
It is equally valuable to learn how to play the guitar with a pick as it is to learn finger strumming. Though whichever technique you personally choose to utilize is up to you.
Sometimes people will start out with a pick before they get the hang of strumming.
Some guitarists prefer using a pick to playing with their fingers. This is because the motion of finger strumming can be hard on the joints and tendons in your hands and fingers, and the strumming can cause abrasions on the skin.
Using a pick can mitigate that pain to a degree, especially if a musician has to play for an extended period of time. Alternating methods of playing is one strategy you can use to minimize strain on your hands.
Are Thinner or Thicker Guitar Picks Better?
The thickness of the guitar pick you select is determined by the type of guitar you are playing and the type of sound you are trying to achieve.
There are 5 levels of guitar pick thickness:
- Extra thin; less than .45mm
- Thin; .46 to .7mm
- Medium; .71 to .84mm
- Heavy; .85 to 1.2mm
- Extra Heavy; over 1.2mm
Extra thin to medium thickness guitar picks are designed for playing acoustic guitars, with the thinner picks producing a more delicate sound.
Heavy and extra-heavy picks are best for electric guitars.
Beginner musicians usually do best starting with a medium pick. As you progress in your skill and ability with playing guitar, you will figure out which style and design of guitar pick works best for you.
How Long Do Guitar Picks Last?
Like any tool, a guitar pick will experience wear as you use it. After a certain amount of wear, it will no longer be usable for what you need.
Guitar picks become worn down from the abrasion of strumming. As a result, the amount of time a pick lasts depends on its original thickness and the material it’s made out of.
Thicker picks last longer than thinner picks, but you may notice a difference in sound quality over time as the pick becomes worn. That’s how you’ll know when to get a new one.
A plastic guitar pick may not last as long as other types of picks.
What Can You Use Instead of a Guitar Pick?
Finger picks and thumb picks are similar tools that help musicians by wrapping around the finger or thumb with an extension that plays the strings.
They come in similar sizes and materials as regular guitar picks.
Some musicians have even used long acrylic nails as a creative option for guitar strumming.