Learning how to hold the guitar pick correctly is one of the first things you should learn when you decide to learn the guitar. If you learn it well in the beginning, you'll never need to worry about it again, and it'll make your learning experience much easier. Many beginners instinctively hold the pick between the tips of their thumb and index finger, which is incorrect, and will result in lessened stability.

So, lets get to it.

Correct hand position

Initial hand position
Initial hand position

Curl your hand as in the picture, almost as if you were showing a loose thumbs up. Your index finger is curled, and is parallel with your thumb.

Grasp the pick

Pick placement
Pick placement

Place the pick onto your index finger, and put your thumb over it. As you can see on the picture, you're holding the pick between your thumb and index finger. The tip of your index finger and thumb are parallel, while the pick is perpendicular to them.

Correct pick position

Visible pick
Visible pick

The size of the pick to be left visible will largely depend on the style of music you are playing. If you plucking individual strings very fast, leave only a little part of the pick out. If you are strumming, you can leave more of the pick visible.

Holding the pick correctly, as described above, takes some getting used to, so don't worry if it feels a bit weird at first. Practice, get used to it, and it'll feel natural soon.

Strumming vs Plucking

There is a slight difference in the way you hold the plectrum when you're strumming, than when you're picking at single strings.

  • Strumming: You're holding the pick a little looser, so it can glide across the strings. Also, more of the pick is showing beneath your fingers, this allows for the pick to bend more as it hits the strings during a strum.
  • Picking: You're holding the pick a bit tighter, and less of the pick is showing, so that you can make more precise movements with the pick.

Common beginner picking problems

As a beginner, you're not used to holding the plectrum yet, so you'll encounter a few typical problems. It's OK, we all went through this.

1. Pick isn't stable in your hand, it flies away or turns around between your fingers.

There is a delicate balance between holding the pick too loosely, and holding it too tight. If you hold it too tight, it won't be comfortable. If too loose, the pick will move around. You'll need to practice a lot, and with time, you'll develop just the right amount of pressure.

2. Pick gets caught in strings

When you're strumming, you'll want to glide over the strings with your pick with a loose wrist, and let the angle of the pick move with each up-down strum. With the downward strum, you pick is facing down, and with the up strum, you pick is facing upwards. The exact angle of the pick versus the face of the guitar is around 15-20°.

Again, the amount of pressure you hold the pick with is also a factor. If you hold it too tightly, it won't be able to glide, and you'll get caught in the strings.

3. The pick feels too small/big

There are many shapes and styles of picks. Generally, larger picks are better for strumming, and smaller picks are better for playing lead. Also, the thickness and material of the pick affect things, so it's best to buy a pick variety pack, and try out all the different kinds of picks there are.

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  1. After roughly a year of steady practice, my pick holding is definitely improving. I fully agree that it is a fine balance and with enough regular practice you can get there. It does not happen over night!

  2. my plectrum is losing and changing its angle when iam struming 10-15 times …. is it normal and how much days it takes to learn to stum properly…. i practice 1 hour everyday


    1. Hey there, yes, it’s normal at first, and I bet your plectrum sometimes ends up falling through your soundhole 🙂 This happens to everyone, just keep at it, it’ll pass. You have to hold the pick firmly, but still gently, so it doesn’t get caught in the strings. It’s a delicate balance now that I think about it, hang in there!

  3. Coming across posts like this, it is truly a nice contribution especially to those new learners or amateur musicians who really want to improve their skills. The use of guitar picks can actually enhance the guitar playing skill and the sound of music produced especially that there are various genre to be played.

  4. Many people don’t realize the subtle tonal and timbral differences that the thickness of the pick can make. For example, a thin pick can give a ‘lighter’, more airy sound, whereas a thicker pick will produce a deeper, fuller sound.

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