Guitar Pick Tips

April 8th, 2011

Up close, the guitar has so many components that it might seem like the guitar pick is a rather unnecessary topic of discussion, yet a simple search on Google will yield several results with popular questions like “Do I need to use a guitar pick?”, “What is Hybrid Style Picking?”, “How do you make your own picks?” and more.

As a result, we thought it would only be fair to spend today examining some of those questions as well as providing a few resources (at the end) for additional answers.

Do I really need a guitar pick to play?

While it’s traditional (but not really expected) for individuals to play the guitar with a pick we have certainly heard stories and even know a few people who either learned to play without a pick or to this day still prefer to play without one.


Some guitarists simply find playing with a pick awkward or not quite as effective as using their fingers. We have heard at least one story of a guy that claimed playing with a pick made the strings sound horrible and extra difficult. However, that’s not always the case. It’s a personal decision, for sure.

If not traditional guitar picks, what?

There are several alternatives but playing with finger picks, hybrid picks or merely your fingers are common answers. More on hybrid picking in a minute.

What is the proper way to hold a guitar pick?

Good question.

Holding a pick might look easy but a lot of beginners actually choke the pick too tight and the result is a stiff strumming motion. You should hold the pick firmly (enough, at least that you will not drop it). A good test is to hold the pick between your thumb and finger, then pull it out with the other hand. You should see and feel a little bit of play in the thumb.

When you strum, do not push the pick through the strings. Rather, let your arm fall (pivoting from your elbow) so it drops straight down and quickly across the strings. If you try to force the pick through all the strings the strum will be very uneven. Instead, try and stop the fall of the arm just as it crosses the first string. It will take some practice so do not get frustrated immediately!

Last but not least, it may sound silly, but try to keep your other fingers loose when you pick. Place your pick on the third string and set your other fingers (2, 3 & pinky) on the face of the guitar. Lift away from the guitar and you will have what some call the “perfect pick position”.

NOTE: If your fingers are curled into your palm the hand will stiffen and subsequently cause the grip on the pick to tighten.

What is hybrid style picking?

This is a term you might be hearing a little more these days, but what exactly is it? Hybrid picking replaces the thumb pick and instead you use a flat pick with your thumb and index finger. Consequently, this technique frees up your 2 and 3 fingers (to replace your thumb) or thumb 1, 2 and 3. Some guitarists like this method because it essentially gives you the best of both worlds.

Other guitar pick resources:

How to use a Guitar Pick
What guitar pick should you use?

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