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How to Use a Guitar Pick

So now that you know the guitar pick is part of my essentials, I am assuming that you must have managed to pick some up; either by finding one, buying one or borrowing one from somebody.  And if you still haven’t – as of now, then the first thing you need to do is to get out and buy some. A word of warning, though – as guitar picks easily get lost or misplaced, you should buy and keep at least ten of them at a time (at 30 to 40 cents they aren’t even that costly). And while it is certainly possible to experiment with different shapes and brands, as a beginner I would rather suggest you start with medium-gauge picks that are neither very hard nor very flimsy.

The steps below contain a detailed explanation of how to hold and use a guitar pick. Keep in mind, while reading, however, that upon sitting in the right position, the hand lying nearest to the guitar’s bridge is your ‘picking hand’

  1. Open your picking hand, and turn your palm in such a way that it is facing you.
  2. Next, make a loose fist by closing your hand in a way that your thumb is positioned beside your index finger.
  3. Now, rotate your hand till the you’re looking at its profile. Make sure that the knuckle of your thumb is facing you.
  4. Use the other hand to slide the guitar pick between the index finger and the thumb, making sure that the pick is properly positioned behind the knuckle of the thumb.
  5. Hold the guitar pick in a firm manner and make sure that the pick’s pointed end is directly pointing away from the fist while protruding by half an inch.
  6. Now position the picking hand either over the acoustic guitar’s sound hole or over the electric guitar’s body (depending on which kind of guitar you are using), all the while ensuring that the thumb’s knuckle of your picking hand is facing you and hovering over the strings.
  7. By all means, you should never rest the picking hand on the guitar’s body or strings.
  8. Now, instead of using your entire arm, use only your wrist for motion, and strike the guitar’s sixth or lowest string in a downward fashion. If you find that the string is rattling rather too much, you should try to strike the string slightly softly, while taking up lesser picking surface.
  9. Next, pick the sixth string in an upwards movement.
  10. Repeat this process numerous times, and while you’re at it, try to reduce your picking hand’s motion with a short picking stroke downwards and one upwards. This process is called ‘alternate picking’.
  11. Now repeat the same exercise with the fifth, fourth, third, second and first strings.


– While starting, you may find holding the pick a little awkward and challenging and will be required to pay extra initial attention to the picking hand whenever you are playing your guitar.

– While doing the alternate picking, you should always try to create and maintain fluidity, to the extent that your down strokes and your upstrokes are sounding almost identical to each other.

And if you live in Oakland and would like to have private one-on-one lessons – please contact me here.

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