How to Hold a Guitar Pick

When it comes to holding a guitar pick, hold it with your thumb and pointer finger.

Curl the index finger in and place the thumb over it.  Hold the pick with the thumb against the index finger.

Notice that if my thumb is horizontal, the pick is pointing straight down at the floor, at a 90 degree angle.

It’s like holding a key when you’re going to unlock a door.

This is what I have found to be the best way to hold a guitar pick, both for myself as a player of 27 years and through teaching students for 15 years.

How to Use a Guitar Pick

When it comes to how to pick guitar strings it’s important to note that Picking begins in the wrist, as an up and down movement.

Try picking up and down on one of your strings (known as alternate picking).

When you strum chords, the movement still begins in the wrist, and the elbow follows.  In other words, it’s a whole arm movement, fluidly moving together!

Correct Way to Hold a Guitar Pick

The reason why we have the index finger in, and not out with an extended position, is because this extends the thumb out…

Which, if we look at it through the lens of proper mobility, internally your thumb connects just behind the wrist, and when we extend it out (as is quite common to do as people are feeling out how to comfortably hold a pick), we separate it from the hand and this can actually do damage to the thumb and wrist over time.

It is also common to lose control of the pick when you hold it in this loose-goosey kind of way (which sometimes results in the picking dropping or going flying) 😋

How to hold guitar pick

So this is what picking looks like when viewed from the lens of proper mobility, or a knowledge of how the body actually works and moves…

How to Hold a Guitar Pick for Speed

For those of you more experienced players, you will notice as you get used to this position that it actually tightens (or hones in) your playing, making your movements smaller and more efficient (and faster)!

So even if this feels a little awkward at first, give it a try and feel it out.  It is common for people to need some time to adjust to holding the pick this way, whether you’re a beginner or more advanced guitarist, if it’s not what you’re used to.  And this position holds good for both picking single notes and is also how to hold a guitar pick for strumming chords!

It’s not to say that you will never loosen your grip a little, but take this as your starting position and feel it out.

How do you hold a guitar pick?

I’m also not knocking anyone that holds their pick differently.

The law of the jungle is: do what works!

And many greats have developed their own style and positioning of playing as they have figured out what works for them!  What I am showing you is what I have found to be the best way to hold a guitar pick in over 27 years of playing and believe me, I’ve been through all kinds of ways of holding my pick in figuring it out! 😂

What I usually see students do after I show them this way of holding the pick is: as they are feeling out using a guitar pick over time they slowly start to  expand their position to a more open, extended position; and then over time they start to tighten it and bring it back in to what I originally showed them.  Almost like a process they have to go through to realize how to correctly hold a guitar pick, or find the more efficient position for them.

And that’s ok!  It’s important for people to explore and see what works for them!

To quote Bruce Lee, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.”

Best Way to Hold Guitar Pick

Again, when learning how to play guitar with a pick there are certainly different ways to hold a guitar pick; and I give plenty of guitar pick lessons to my students so they can explore guitar picking in different scenarios like playing chord arpeggios, triads, soloing, even doing finger tapping with a pick…  We have fun!

Guitar Pick vs Fingers

Do you need a pick to play guitar?  No, you can also use finger picking.  I use both, and they are each their own skill.  Some people even thumb pick guitar.  Get in touch with me if you want to know how to finger pick guitar for a private lesson.

Here you can see neoclassical shred master Matt Mills (who’s also a friend of mine) holding a guitar pick like I have described:

Guitar Pick Thickness for Beginners

There are many different guitar pick types and sizes.  When it comes to choosing a guitar pick, you really want to try a variety of different picks so you can get a feel for what you like.  You may find, for example, that you like a thin pick when it comes to the best pick thickness for acoustic guitar; while maybe you think a medium is the best pick for electric guitar.

The different measurements of a guitar pick and dimensions of a guitar pick do vary, as do things you can use as a guitar pick.  On the song “I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls their guitar player Paul Reynolds reportedly used an english penny as his guitar pick. 😂  Talk about a custom guitar pick!  So there’s really no limitation of what to use as a guitar pick!

The guitar pick dimensions, guitar pick shape, guitar pick thickness, etc. doesn’t really matter.  It’s all about personal preference.  So if you’re asking what can I use as a guitar pick, just get yourself a variety pack of guitar picks and start feeling it out.  And it’s natural if you go through different phases of liking a certain guitar pick size for a while, then trying another…  It’s all part of the process of finding what you like!

Where to Put Pick Holder on Guitar

It’s also a good idea to get a guitar pick holder.  Where you put the pick holder on guitar is up to you!  Think about putting it in a place that makes it easy for you to grab a pick while you are playing, but also still looks good on your guitar.  I even have a guitar pick holder on my amp!

Virtual Guitar Lessons

Thanks for reading!!!

If you’re interested in signing up for virtual guitar lessons feel free to give me a call or you can sign up using the contact button at the top of the page. And if you’re interested, sign up for my newsletter on the Home page, where I send deeper insights, inspirations, and guitar lessons!!!

Until next time, have fun playing!!!
Coren Smith
Divine Guitar Lessons