Pick Basics for Beginner Guitarists


Getting the right advice on the internet on how to hold your pick is quite hard due to the ambiguity on the principles. Although there is no clear ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to hold your pick, there are some very good tried and tested instructions and principles to get you started. I will run you through my personal pick hold technique which should give you a strong foundation to build from. The principles of your pick technique will remain the same no matter how you hold your pick:

  • Don’t hold the pick too tight 
  • Don’t scoop the strings let the pick glide over them
  • Even though your pick is at the point of your fingers don’t think that your technique stops there, your wrist and arm are very important
  • Practice with a metronome
  • Most of all relax



Place the pick on the side and tip of your index finger, it should serve as an extension of your index finger nail.

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Lock the pick in place by sitting the pad of your thumb on the base of the pick running across your index finger.  This also known as the ‘O’ method as a rather elongated O or oval shape is made as you form your fingers. 

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Rest your arm on the guitar and place your wrist on the strings, don’t be afraid of getting nice and close; you might mute some notes but that will sort itself out with regular practice.

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USING YOUR PICK - Resting down pick exercise

To start, rest the pick on the B string (2nd) ready to strike down away from your body, like the picture below. 

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Now put enough weight on the pick with the wrist to get it to move through (over) the B string and onto the high E string (1st),to start  it should finish resting on the E. This is called a down stroke and the symbol for this is below.

Down Stroke.jpg


Do this quite a few times and try and feel the point at which the pick will respond and move with as less force as possible. Once you are feeling comfortable with this exercise I want you to try the same thing but stop the pick from reaching the E string, this is called a free stroke.


Remember to relax you shoulder and arm as you do this, tension anywhere is not good.

The best thing to do now is practice consistent down strokes on the B string with a metronome.




Now try this in reverse, rest the pick on the opposite side of the B string ready to move up towards you body. Apply enough force to move it through (over) the B string, it should finish resting on the G (5th) string. This is a rest up stroke.

Now try the free stroke.

Repeat this a number of times until your feeling more comfortable. Then combine down and up free strokes together, also called alternate picking

That’s the bare basics down, you’re now ready to tackle Beginner Pick Style Part 1.



Thie is extremely common in the early stages of playing and gets better with practice. In my opinion being more relaxed with the pick is better than being too tense, you will eventually gain control of the pick with more practice so don’t let it bother you too much. Keep experimenting with various amounts of pressure whilst maintaining as relaxed as you can, try and feel the pick in your fingers vibrate when it crosses the string.


You’re technique needs to accommodate various different situations and positions so it will need to adapt and change. When strumming you can afford to have more of the pick point showing, this will also make sure you don’t accidentally grate your fingers on the strings. Don’t stress too much about the pick moving around in the initial stages of playing, as long as you are relaxed and referring your pick position to the above instructions every now and then, you should be on the right track. 


No it shouldn’t, try hard not to get into this habit as like all habits it can be hard to undo. Generally this happens because you haven’t got the angle and weight of the pick going in the right direction. This is why it is so crucial to practice rest strokes as this will get your pick moving in the right direction. Sometimes people are using three fingers because their pick is too thick, I would recommend starting out with thinner pick .73 or .88.



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