How to hold a guitar pick

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Guitar pick (plectrum) is made to extract sounds from the guitar and some other string musical instruments. Typically, a guitar pick is a plate of various shapes, sizes and patterns. Modern guitar picks can be made from all kinds of materials: metal, bone, wood, plastic. The latter material is the most common and cheapest. The specific character of the sounding of the chords, extracted with a guitar pick, emphasizes the clear rhythmic pattern of the musical piece and brings a special color to the general sound.

Main characteristics of guitar picks

Main characteristics of guitar picks

Thickness. This characteristic can also be called stiffness, flexibility, hardness, density, plasticity – the bottom line is whether the guitar pick bends well or not. This is one of the most important characteristics of mediators that you should pay attention to when choosing. There can be no universal advice here.

Guitar picks are divided into the following groups by thickness:

Super thin less than 0.44 mm thick
Thin from 0.45 to 0.69 mm
Medium from 0.70 to 0.84 millimeters
Thick from 0.85 to 1.2 millimeters
Very thick over 1.2 millimeters

The thicker the guitar pick, the more control over the strings when playing solo, the stronger the attack, the more audible your accents when struck with the right hand. But a thicker guitar pick reduces the uniformity of the sound when playing full chords and reduces the loudness of the sound, especially on an acoustic guitar.

The thickest and thinnest guitar picks were released by “V-PICK”. The “V-Pick Big Fattie” is 5.85mm thick and the “V-Pick Ultra Lites” is 0.05mm thick.

Shape. Choosing a guitar pick shape is an important step, as there are quite a few of these forms. In addition to the standard forms, there are also quite unusual guitar picks in the form of emblems, animal heads, etc.

Guitar pick shapes:

  • Standard Shape
  • Standard Shape, Sharp Tip
  • Jazz III, Little Jazzer
  • Pointy Pick
  • Shark Fin Pick
  • Teardrop (wide)
  • Teardrop (narrow)
  • Triangular Pick

Bevel angle. Obtuse and sharp corners provide different attacks on the strings. Sharp picks produce a sharp, bright sound, with dull picks a dull and more blurry pick, more suitable for playing chords.

A Beginner's Guide to Guitar Picks

How to hold a guitar pick


Resistance. This characteristic tells you how long your guitar pick will last. Like anything, guitar picks tend to break, grind, and even bend. You can only test this mediator for resistance during the use, so buy different picks and determine for yourself which picks suit you more than others in this regard.

Size. The main thing is that the pick fits well in your hand, and does not slip off during the play. When choosing, be guided only by your feelings.

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Turtle shell These are the hardest guitar picks, even with their small thickness. They give a good and clear tone, but are quite rare on sale due to their high cost.
Ivory Very hard and durable, which will last a long time
Coconut They have a pleasant tone and a decent attack with a complete lack of flexibility
Wood of different species They sound very peculiar, in addition, they have a pleasant texture and are pleasant to the touch. However, they wear out and break down quickly, so they are enough for only one concert or rehearsal.
Metal Eternal picks, which are very difficult to destroy. Feels hard on the strings, gives a slightly clanking shade.
Carbon The thinnest picks are made from this material. Great for chord playing on acoustic instruments. They are very flexible, so they won’t provide a decent attack in solo
Nylon and celluloid Flexible and inexpensive, but wipe out quickly and is quite fragile
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Hand made guitar picks

A guitar pick that is quite playable can be handmade. A plastic card is suitable for this. From it a plectrum of the desired shape and size is cut with sharp scissors,The edges can be processed with a file. There are special devices operating as a puncher like “Fzone FP-001 Black” and “Pickmaster Plectrum Cutter”. Frankly speaking, for the cost of each you can buy about fifty to sixty normal guitar picks for 50 cents each from “Dunlop” or “Planet Waves”. Conclusion: a special device is very expensive for such a budget handicraft.

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How to play with a guitar pick

Playing with a guitar pick is a basic skill that every guitarist, without exception, must master, regardless of the desired skill level. The main reason for this is that no playing with your fingers will give such a crisp, sonorous, clear and readable sound like this small plate. In addition, the sound of the guitar will become brighter and more intense, and the busting will become more legible.

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Why do we need a guitar pick

A guitar pick is a small plate a couple of millimeters thick, which the guitarist holds between his fingers, and with the help of  which he hits the strings. As mentioned above, guitar pick is needed to get a clear and bright sound when playing, both by fingerpicking or strumming. It becomes much more convenient to play with guitar pick – fingers do not accidentally muffle the strings, coordination improves, as well as the playing speed. In addition, some guitar playing techniques, such as tremolo, for example, are almost impossible to play without a pick.

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How to hold a guitar pick

In general, you can hold the pick as you like, but there are several generally-established techniques that you can rely on. They are correct precisely at the technical level – without observing them, you can seriously slow down your development.

How To Hold Your Guitar Pick Properly

How to hold a guitar pick

  • A guitar pick should be clamped between the thumb and forefinger. Some aspiring guitarists take the plectrum with a “pinch” of all fingers – and this is wrong. You need to hold it with just two fingers.
  • Place the plate on the knuckle of your index finger so that it divides the plectrum approximately in half. Hold the pick with your thumb so that it protrudes about 0.5 centimeters from under it. Some guitarists pinch the plate with their fingertips – however, this does not create the right angle, and it also strains the hand.
  • Hold your arm relaxed as if you were strumming. This is important – this is the only way you will give your hand the right speed.
  • The guitar pick should not be locateв parallel to the string. Keep it at an angle relative to the string. The guitar pick should hit the edge, not the entire plane.

There are no rules on how to hold a guitar pick correctly – but there are guidelines outlined above. In addition, you need to pay attention to the positioning of hands on the guitar in general – this is precisely the guarantee of high playing technique.

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How to play with a guitar pick

The most popular playing techniques:

  1. Strumming – the guitar playing technique, which consists in percussive sound production by a sharp, but sliding blow on the guitar strings.
  2. Fingerpicking – the technique of playing the guitar and some other stringed instruments, which consists in sequentially fingering the strings with different fingers;
  3. Downstroke –  is more typical when playing an electric guitar, but is used in some compositions on acoustic guitars. This method of playing consists of moving the guitar pick exclusively downward to obtain a smoother and more uniform sound.

Strumming with a guitar pick

Strumming with a guitar pick is no different from strumming with fingers, with the only exception that the up and down movement is done with a guitar pick. The only inconvenience that you may encounter is the selection of the desired softness of the guitar pick.

Strumming with a guitar pick

Try to strike the strings as naturally as possible. If you feel that it becomes uncomfortable and difficult to hit the strings, and the pick is bumping into an obstacle, try moving the pick closer to the edge to reduce the hitting area. The second option is to increase the angle of attack.

A special type of playing – downstroke – is identical to strumming technique with only one exception – the guitar pick moves only downward. When playing guitar using the downstroke technique, try to play with emphasis – hitting the strings slightly harder than usual. This will help keep the rhythm and feel the melody better.

Fingerpicking with a guitar pick

Fingerpicking with a guitar pick has a number of features compared to classic fingerpicking. Instead of four fingers, the guitarist uses only one guitar pick when playing the guitar. Therefore, fingerpicking will require more speed and coordination. Fingerpicking with a guitar pick requires the use of a method such as “variable stroke”. This means that each next hit on each string should be in the opposite direction, and not constantly down, or constantly up. For example, a standard brute-force “four” will be played as follows: bass – down, the third – up, the second – down, the first – up, and so on. Always start with downward hitting.

Guitar pick technique

The technique of playing the guitar with a guitar pick differs from the classical technique of playing with the fingers both in fingerpicking and strumming. The main advantages of playing guitar with a guitar pick are easier picking due to less stress on the fingers and more clar sound. Such a method has its drawbacks. Playing with a guitar pick is very demanding on the position of the hands and the angle of attack. With the right approach and long practice, playing the guitar using a guitar pick will greatly improve the professionalism of a musician.

Guitar pick exercises

Variable stroke

This is not really an exercise, but rather the main way of playing with a guitar pick and that is why it should be practiced first.

Take the guitar pick in your hand as described above in this article. Without pinching the string, hit it with the guitar pick several times, downward and upward alternately, starting with a downward movement. At the same time, try to make movements only with a brush, using as little amplitude as possible. Try to move  the guitar pick as freely as possible. The arm should be relaxed. To play properly, the hand must be resting on the bridge section of the guitar. It is necessary to achieve as clear and even sound as possible, without churning and pauses. Gradually increase the tempo of your guitar playing. To control the tempo, the simplest metronome is suitable.

Having mastered the variablestroke on one string – complicate the exercise. Now play the different strings separately without stumbling. As a result, you will learn to play all strings without problems and false.


Strumming with a pick differs from classical strumming with movements from the hand, not from the shoulder. The purpose of this exercise is to make sure that you make as few unnecessary movements as possible while playing music and hit the strings with suitable force. Ideally, your shoulder should not move at all.

Watch your shoulder as you play your favorite compositions and pay attention to how hard you hit the strings. Over time, you will find the right punching force and learn to control your shoulder.

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The guitar pick is a must-have accessory for the professional guitarist. Sooner or later, any guitarist will need it. The sooner you start using it when playing the guitar, the faster you improve your skill. The low price of guitar picks allows you to experiment. Therefore, when looking for the first guitar pick, buy different models and pick a few picks that suit your music style. Having decided on the shape, size and material, buy several necessary picks in reserve.

Play all exercises slowly. Pay attention to the sound quality and hand movements first. Train your skill and speed last. Skill and speed will be needed only when the exercises are clearly worked out and mastered. Gradually increase the speed, but do not try to play what you cannot do – it is better to learn it more slowly, master it technically, and only then increase the pace of the play.

Remember to keep your right hand relaxed at all times. This is very important because if you get used to keeping your hand tense, you will not be able to play long or difficult pieces. The hand will get tired all the time. Watch the position of the pick and the sound it makes. Correct your mistakes if necessary and start practicing again.

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