Hold a Guitar Pick Like a Pro

The perfect way to get a perfect sound: 10 tips that will help you to improve your guitar picking speed and accuracy
James Delaney BY JAMES DELANEY 09 FEBRUARY 2022
Hold a Guitar Pick Like a Pro
Table of Contents
[Show]

Holding your pick is one of the first things you need to learn when playing guitar. Holding your pick correctly you may think seems trivial, but in reality, can make a huge impact on your ability to play guitar. The position, angle, and motion of your pick (or plectrum) impact everything from your tone to speed, to flexibility. There are also other factors like string height, action (distance between strings and fretboard), fretboard radius, and scale length that affect the way you hold your pick.

The pick is used to pluck the strings of an electric or acoustic guitar.  Picks are generally made of celluloid, nylon, tortoiseshell, wood, metal, felt, rubber and plastic. There are many different types of guitar picks including fat or thick plectrums for use with electric guitar and basses meanwhile thin picks can be used for acoustic guitars and electric guitars.

In order to achieve optimal playing technique and performance, it’s best to learn how to hold a pick correctly. By doing so, you can develop the proper playing habits that will allow you to be more comfortable and efficient when playing your guitar. Of course, this is one of the many things you must learn when you're a guitar beginner. We covered in the article Learning guitar for beginners all the aspects you need to know in the process of learning this amazing instrument called Guitar.

To hold a pick correctly, you need to understand exactly what you’re doing and what is involved in the process.

Holding your pick correctly is a simple thing to do, but it’ll take some time and practice to get used to it if you’ve never experienced anything like it before. Here are 10 basic tips that will help you. If you follow them closely and practice often, you’ll eventually get more comfortable with the shape and size of your pick - and then playing guitar well will sound like a musical work of art. The most important thing is to have fun!

 

1. Pick a grip shape that works for you

One of the most important things when picking a grip shape is finding one that feels comfortable and natural to use in your hands. This is incredibly important - if a pick doesn’t feel right in your hands, then using it will make playing harder than it needs to be.

There are a variety of grip shapes available to guitar players, and most pick brands manufacture a handful of different options.

There are three main grip shapes for guitar picks: classic, triangular, and jazz. Classic grips have one side that is flat and one curved - they’re very common and are probably what you imagine when you think of a guitar pick. The triangular grip is the kind most commonly used by bass players but is also great for guitarists looking for a big grip to use with alternate picking. Finally, jazz grips have rounded edges with slightly beveled sides that can reduce tension in the hand while playing - this makes them a great option for guitarists who want to avoid soreness while practicing.

 

Choosing a guitar pick is not just a matter of taste, but also a matter of compatibility. There's no objective "right" or "wrong" when picking out the right grip shape; it's more about what fits your playing style and preferences. Choose one that feels comfortable and natural to you, and you won't have to expend any extra energy on gripping it!

 

2. Avoid using just one grip

Some guitarists grip their pick directly between their thumb and forefinger, while others find it more comfortable to wrap their whole hand around the pick... or perhaps you like a more relaxed grip between your thumb and first two fingers? The best way to find what works for you is simply to experiment.

Players can hold the pick in a variety of ways. Bellow, we present three of the most used techniques on how to hold a guitar pick:

• many players hold the pick between their thumb and the joint of their index finger using a "thumb grip" while applying pressure with the tip of their index finger. This index finger is commonly used to efficiently flip between strings during strumming;

• other players hold the guitar pick like a coin, between the index and thumb, without making use of the joint of their index finger as a pivot, by applying pressure with their thumb alongside index finger;

• some guitarists hold the plectrum between the index and middle fingers, not in the palm of their hand but near the knuckles on both hands. This makes for faster picking ability and less movement when playing lead work, by forming "barres" with the left hand to stop notes across several strings.

The experienced guitarist never stops experimenting, trying to achieve the perfect picking style.

 

The way you hold your pick affects everything from the tone and attack of your playing to the way you speed pick. There are dozens upon dozens of different ways people hold their picks, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t experiment until you find something best suits your playing style.

 

3. Don't squeeze the pick too hard

The only thing worse than having a bad grip on your pick is squeezing too hard while you play. Over-squeezing causes calluses which makes playing much more difficult, but also increase stress on your fingers and wrist which could lead to long-term issues down the road.

Carefully let loose. Once you have found the best grip for your overall playing style, you will still have to adjust it a little as you go along and your hands heat up. The tighter you hold the pick, the more control you have. But by over-gripping, the pick is harder to move between strings and you are more likely to push down in an uneven way causing notes to sound unclear or dissonant.

 

4. Choose softer picks if possible

If you struggle to successfully wield a standard guitar pick, consider choosing one that is made of a softer material.

Picks made out of brass are particularly useful since they don't dig into flesh nearly as easily when pressure is applied while those who have trouble gripping normal plastic will enjoy using flexible picks.

Flexible picks are also a good alternative for those who struggle with plastic versions. The flexible picks are particularly useful since they allow you to have a better grip on the pick without having to squeeze it too much. This prevents your fingers from getting sore from gripping too tightly.

 

5. Make sure your guitar pick isn't too big

One of the biggest conventions of guitar picking is that the pick should be big enough to comfortably grip. Although this is true to an extent, it’s also true that people tend to use large picks because they’re bigger and easier to hold - even though that benefit isn’t worth compromising precision and speed. Remember, the key is proper positioning of the fingers, not a large pick.

People tend to use large picks because they're bigger and easier to hold, but that benefit isn't worth compromising precision and speed.

If you’re using a pick that is too large for your hand, you’re more likely to make mistakes while playing. Using the right size pick will help you play much faster and more accurately.

 

6. Try going up an inch with length

So you’ve found the perfect guitar pick size. While size definitely matters with guitar picks (the smaller the better), length matters less so. Go up an inch or two from whatever size is easiest for you to handle and adjust accordingly; moving up even an inch means you’ll have more surface area contact between your fingertips and strings which improves accuracy considerably - your level of precision will skyrocket, as if by magic.

 

7. Keep that pick from slipping out of your fingers

When you've got an audience in the palm of your hand, you want to keep it there. You don't want a guitar pick to slip out of your fingers and into the void.

Did you know that inside of some guitar pick is a series of deeply grooved ridges?

The truth is that some guitarists are aware of these ridges and even use them to anchor the pick between their thumb and index finger. The grooves increase friction to keep the pick from slipping out of your fingers.

 

So, if you have trouble keeping a guitar pick from slipping out of your fingers, choose a guitar pick with grooves inside.

 

8. Hover your pick above the strings, rather than rest it on them, as you strum

Beginners often make the mistake of resting the pick on the strings as they strum, resulting in a muffled sound. Instead, imagine the pick hovering over the strings – just close enough that you can hear the pick make contact with each string.

Hovering your pick above the strings, rather than resting it on them, ensures an even sound and keeps you from accidentally muting another string with the side of your pick.

When using a pick to strum chords, hold the pick in front of your strings instead of resting it on top. When you strum downwards with a pick resting on the string, your pick will hang up on the strings, causing unwanted muting or muffled sounds. By letting the pick glide over the strings and fall freely, you'll get a much more accurate sound.

 

9. Use varying amounts of pressure on guitar pick

With a guitar pick, you can use varying amounts of pressure to produce different sounds. A quick strum with little pressure produces a softer sound, while an aggressive strum with lots of pressure can produce a louder sound.

As a musician, you have control of your sound. Many guitar players use a lighter strum to begin a song and then increase their strumming as the song progresses.

It's about how hard you strum, so subtle variations in pressure can add dynamic definition to your sound.

 
 

Conclusion

In summary, the most important tip I can give you here is to experiment. Experiment with different motions, speeds, etc. Also, experiment with several different types of picks and determine what pick makes you happy. Personally, I love using .71-inch Dunlop nylon teardrop-shaped picks and the red one is my go-to. I have also settled on a "claw" type hold because it gives me some added flexibility. You should find something that works for you because that will lead to you actually enjoying playing guitar, which will, in turn, make you improve faster.