by Dan Cross

Learning to use a guitar pick can be extremely awkward. Here are some guidelines to help you learn to use a pick easily and effectively.

1 – Open your picking hand, and turn the palm to face you.

2 – Close your hand to make a very loose fist. Your thumb should remain beside your index finger.

3 – Rotate your hand until you are looking at it’s profile, with your thumb’s knuckle facing you.

4 – With your other hand, slide your guitar pick between your thumb and index finger. The pick should be approximately located behind the knuckle of the thumb.

5 – Be sure the pointed end of the pick is pointing directly away from your fist, and is protruding by about a half an inch. Hold the pick firmly.

6 – Position your picking hand over the soundhole of your acoustic guitar, or over the body of your electric guitar. Your picking hand, with thumb knuckle still facing you, should hover over the strings.

7 – Do not rest your picking hand on the strings or body of the guitar.

8 – Using your wrist for motion (rather than your entire arm), strike the sixth (lowest) string of your guitar in a downward motion. If the string rattles excessively, try striking the string a bit softer, or with less of the pick surface.

9 – Now, pick the sixth string in an upwards motion.

10 – Repeat the process several times. Try and minimize motion in your picking hand: one short picking stroke downwards, then one short picking stroke upwards. This process is referred to as “alternate picking”

11 – Try the same exercise on the fifth, fourth, third, second, and first strings. Play any scales you know using this alternate picking method (down, up, down, up, etc.)


1 – Holding the pick in this manner will invariably feel awkward at first. You will initially have to pay special attention to your picking hand whenever you play guitar.

2 – Try and create fluidity in your alternate picking. Your downstrokes should sound virtually identical to your upstrokes.

3 – Pay attention to the rhythm you are playing when picking. Are your upstrokes and downstrokes identical rhythmically? Practice until they are

See Also: Plectrum – Which one to Pick?

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