Effective Picking Technique

How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Lesson 5 of The Best Beginner Guitar Course Ever! To sign up for the full course, visit http://udemy.com/the-best-beginner-guitar-course-ever/

Posted by Music is Win on Monday, August 3, 2015

Types of Guitar Picks

 If you don’t have a guitar pick, you may want to purchase a pack before continuing this guide, as many of the exercises require the use of a pick. They’re very inexpensive and can be purchased online or at your local music store. Guitar picks, like guitar strings, range from thin sets to medium and heavy sets, and are made out of different materials to achieve different tones.


I recommend medium gauge guitar picks to start out. These Tortex picks made by Dunlop are a great value and hold up for a very long time. They offer a wide variety of gauges for different styles and sounds. I personally favor the yellow .73mm picks.

How to Hold Your Guitar Pick

 1. Open your picking hand so your palm is facing you

 2. Make a very loose fist, with your thumb remaining beside your index finger

 3. Rotate your thumb so your thumb knuckle is facing you

 4. Slide your guitar pick between your thumb and index finger

 5. The pick should be near the middle of the knuckle of your thumb

 6. Be sure the pointed end of the pick is pointing directly away from your fist

 7. Be sure the pointed end of the pick is protruding by about a half an inch

How to Use Your Guitar Pick

To get started, position your picking hand over the body of your guitar so that your thumb knuckle is still facing you, and your hand is hovering over the strings. Don’t rest your picking hand on the strings or the body of the guitar.

When you pick a string, be sure to use your wrist for motion, rather than your entire arm.

Strike the low E string (lowest and thickest string) in a downward motion four times. If the string sounds like it’s rattling or buzzing, try striking the string a bit softer or with less of the pick surface, being aware of your pick attack.

Now, pick the low E string in an upward motion four times. This will use the top side of your pick that you can see from this angle, whereas a downward motion uses the bottom side of the pick which you can’t see. This back and forth motion is called alternate picking.

“When you pick a string, be sure to use your wrist for motion, rather than your entire arm.”


To perform the alternate picking technique, you will pick a string or a series of strings in a down-up-down-up pattern.

Try this technique on the low E string, starting slow and then gaining speed. Try to keep the timing even. If you’re familiar with tablature (we will go over tablature in Chapter 6), the example looks like this:

In order to perfect this technique, it is vital you minimize the distance your pick travels between notes. The more in control your picking hand is, the less your pick has to move, and the faster you can go. The most important thing when learning guitar is to have fun, so go ahead and try to alternate pick a string as fast as you can!