How Do You Play Guitar With a Pick (Tips You Should Know)

Now that You have your first guitar. How do you play guitar with a pick? This is a complete article with tips that will make it easy for you to hold the pick properly. And then also how to pick the strings using a guitar pick.

If you want to know how do you play guitar with a pick?

Here’s How Do You Play Guitar With a Pick

  1. Hold the Pick Between Your thumb and index finger
  2. Place the pick on your finger and then your thumb on top of it
  3. Use the pointed part of the pick on the strings
  4. Holding the pick firmly
  5. Position your hand over the sound hole on an acoustic guitar
  6. Face the pick adjacent to the strings
  7. Relax your hand and wrist when strumming the guitar with the pick
  8. Pick the individual strings all up or all down, and up and down

If you want to get a step by step process. That will get you playing your guitar with a pick. Then continue with me for the rest of these tips.

Hold the Pick Between Your Thumb and Index Finger

When you here me tell you that you hold the pick between your thumb and first finger. Your probably thinking, ” Yeah this sounds like something that everyone already knows”.

But you would be surprised how many people hold the pick the wrong way. To get yourself on the right track when learning to play guitar. You need to know some guitar fundamentals. Once you learn them they never change. So it is always good to learn them the correct way. Because it is really hard to go back and change it later.

First you want to keep your pick between your thumb and first finger. Close to the end of your finger. No further up your finger than your first knuckle. Some people have the pick at the first knuckle to play. But you are not able to be as precise when picking the individual strings. See the picture below of me showing how to hold the guitar pick.

Another thing to consider when playing the guitar with a pick. Is what type of pick to use. There are hundreds of different picks. Shapes of picks from a teardrop shape to a triangle. And they come in all sizes. Picks thickness is measured in milometers. Which is usually marked on the pick. A thin pick is .38 mm. And they go up from there. On an electric guitar you will use a thicker pick. For example .88 mm.

Picks come in different thicknesses. Different materials like Nylon or Plastic. Some have better gripping ability than others. Built into the pick. So that it is easier for you to keep the pick in your hand.

When you are starting out and getting comfortable holding a pick. You should use a thinner pick. Because they are more flexible. And it will be easier for you to play your guitar. I recommend getting an assortment of picks to start. I found a good assortment at a low price here on Amazon and added to my kit Accessories.

Use the Pointed Part of the Pick on the Strings

Like I said there are many different kinds of picks. Most have one part that sticks out to a point. Some picks have three to four different points. They will all work. The best pick is the one you are more comfortable with. That’s the right one for you.

When you first start learning to play the guitar. Use the pointed part of the pick facing the strings. This will make picking the strings easier. You will be able to be more intentional when you pick the strings.

Then after you have been playing for quite some time. You could use the round part of the pick. This will give you a softer sound. But for now lets concentrate on picking the strings effectively.

Related Articles: Beginner Guitar Quiz.

Holding the Pick Firmly

When you first start holding the pick. Then trying to play the guitar. It’s going to feel awkward. The pick will move around. And possibly even fly out of your hand, when you are using it. You need to get comfortable using a pick. And hold it Firmly between your finger and thumb.

To help prevent the pick from flying off. When you use a pick. You want to make sure that the pick is centered. Between finger and thumb. With only a little bit of the pick sticking out. So that you have more control over the pick.

You don’t want to much of the pick sticking out. Then it will be more difficult to keep the pick in your hand when playing your guitar. You want just enough pick sticking out from between your fingers. To easily pick the strings without your fingers hitting the strings.


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Position Your Hand Over the Sound Hole on an Acoustic Guitar

Now that you know how to hold the pick. Let’s look at the position of your hand on the guitar. You need your hand close to the strings. But you don’t want to touch the strings with your hand. This is in the beginning later. You may want to learn how to mute guitar strings by using your picking hand.

The best position is to hover over the strings. In the center of the body of the guitar. At the sound hole. This is if you are picking individual strings. Strumming of course your hand will be moving.

Face the Pick Adjacent to the Strings

The pick is just sticking out free from fingers. Mounted on the side of your first finger. And between your thumb. With your hand hovering over the strings. Place the pick adjacent to the strings. Now you want to practice picking down.

Start with the 6th string. Which is the thickest string. Don’t worry about your fretting hand. Right now just concentrate on this:

  • Pick the string down and stop before getting to the 5th string. Just sit and pick the 6th string 2-3 times. Stopping before you get to the 5th string. After that go to the 5th string.
  • Pick the 5th string and stop the pick right below the 5th string. Do not hit the fourth string. Once you have practiced picking the 5th string.
  • Go to the fourth string. Practice picking the 4th string, without hitting the 3rd string.
  • Then pick the 3rd string and stop at the top of the 2nd string.
  • pick the 2nd string and stop at the top of the first string.

This seems so simple and easy. And it may be. But you are getting familiar with what it feels like to pick the strings. And be intentional when picking the string. You want to make the string ring out without hitting the bottom string. Go slow and be mindful of watching how the pick hits the string, and what it sounds like.

This is not a speed test. You want to practice picking like this until it becomes comfortable. The more you practice this way then picking the string will become second nature to you.

Related Article: Elvis Songs on Guitar (Easy Beginner Lessons).

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Relax your hand and wrist when strumming the guitar with the pick

We are not going deep into this subject. But just to touch on the issue. Which is holding a pick when you strum. You are going to hold the pick as we previously discussed. Between your thumb and index finger. To strum you want to start at the top of the guitar. With the pick above the 6th string. You are going to strum down.

Then bring your arm and hand back up to the top. Where you started the strum. Do not hit the strings when you come back up.

Then strum down again. And bring your hand back up. Don’t hit the strings on your way up. Do this four times through and that is a measure of music. Of course with your hand fretting some strings. When you hold the pick in your hand and strum down. There are a couple of things to remember.

First you don’t want to hit at the strings with the pick. You want to play the strings evenly. Sweeping the pick across the strings. You want to keep your hand moving like a pendulum. Your hand and wrist should be relaxed. When strumming stay even. Meaning even timing and the distance of the strum.

Keep the distance of the strum the same. If you go past the strings an inch. Then every strum should be like that. Not one inch on the first strum then 5 inches below the strings the second strum. And so on and so forth. Also the timing should be even 1 2 3 4. Not 1 2 3 stop and then strum 4.

These are all easy things one at a time to accomplish. But put it all together and it might take some time to get the technique of strumming with a pick. But go slow and take your time. And it will be as if you have been strumming all your life.

Pick the Individual Strings All Up, Down, & Up and Down

Now you know how to hold a pick. But how do you play guitar with a Pick? There are some exercises to help get you more comfortable with playing a guitar with a pick.

  • Pick Rest (was discussed earlier in this article.
  • Next pick the individual strings down
  • Practice picking the strings up. (From the thinnest string up)
  • Then pick the individual string up and then down

When you practice this remember to go slow. There are a lot of things to learn with the guitar. If you are ready to take your playing to the next level then you might want to consider the Guitar bootcamp course.

Recap:How Do You Play Guitar With a Pick?

  • Place pick between First finger and thumb
  • Hold the pick firmly in the middle of your thumb
  • As a Beginner Use a Thinner Pick
  • Use a Medium pick on an electric guitar
  • Use a smaller portion of pick on individual strings
  • Play with more pick and relax when strumming

If you enjoyed this lesson. And want to learn more secrets to chord transitioning, strumming exercises & more. You definitely should catch the Bootcamp Course. On sale for a limited time.

Related Questions

Palm Muting – Hold Pick Tight or Loose?

When muting strings with your strumming hand. You are using your palm. But you should use proper picking technique. The pick is always held the same. Placing your pick between your index finger and thumb. Centering the pick on your thumb. Holding it firmly between your thumb and finger.

The distance that the point of the pick is sticking out should very. If you are strumming you will want the pick further exposed. From your thumb and first finger. If you are picking individual strings. You will have more control with the tip of the pick shorter. Or closer to your fingers.

Which has nothing to do with muting the strings.

So to answer the question Palm muting hold the pick tight or loose? The answer is hold the pick firmly not to tight. But firm so that you have a good grip. And the pick can not move around.

How Tight Should You Hold a Guitar Pick

To prevent the pick from moving around. You need to grip the pick firmly between your thumb and finger. The pick should be centered on your thumb. When picking individual strings like when playing arpeggiated chords. The pick is over the finger just enough to control the pick on the stings.

How to Hold a Guitar Pick for Strumming

When strumming the guitar. You still want to center the pick on your thumb. Between the thumb and first finger. The difference though. When you are strumming. Is the position of the exposed part of the pick. You want to have the pick positioned further out. So that you can strum the strings with ease.

After your thumb and finger is pinched together. With the pick in it. You bring your other fingers together. Towards your palm. Source

With the pick in position your ready to start playing. If you want to learn some more guitar tips and tricks. Guitar Lessons, Songs and Gear Reviews. Consider YourGuitarGuide Which is my YouTube Channel.