What is a guitar pick & how do you hold one? (by Oli Braithwaite)
Holding and using guitar picks correctly is lesson one for beginner guitarists and yet it’s also something you’ll revisit as you progress on your guitar journey.
Because of this, it’s worth taking a few minutes to understand all aspects of pick use and lay a strong foundation upon which to build your technique.
What is a guitar pick?
A guitar pick or plectrum is a small flat tool used to pluck or strum a stringed instrument.
Picks are commonly made of plastic but can also be rubber, and metal. They come in varying thicknesses which produce different volumes, sounds and percussive effects.
Fun fact: the Queen guitarist, Brian May, uses a sixpence coin (old British currency) as a pick!
How to hold a guitar pick properly (3 methods)
Hold the pick between your index finger and thumb using a relaxed grip and one of these three methods:
The O Method
Hold the pick between the pad of your thumb and the side of your index finger. This grip tends to balance tone with control.
The Pinch Method
Hold the pick between the pad of your thumb and the pad of your index finger (you can even try adding your middle finger too). This works best with thinner gauge picks and for instances when you need to strum a lot.
The Fist Method
Hold the pick between the first joint of your thumb and the side of your inward curled index finger with your other fingers curled into a fist. This method is the preferred one of bluegrass players and those using a thick picks.
What is the correct way to hold a guitar pick?
The O Method is widely regarded as the ‘correct’ way to hold a pick.
We’d suggest starting there and trying the other two methods down the track once you’re comfortable with the O Method.
How to use a guitar pick
Strumming is producing a sound by striking multiple strings. It results in a rich, percussive sound that’s the mainstay of most rhythm guitar.
To strum, hold the pick using one of the methods outlined above, keeping your strumming elbow and wrist loose, then move your arm up and down lightly striking each string as you pass.
In its basic form, plucking is using only one string to produce a sound. To pluck, strike a string with your pick then pull the pick away from the other strings to avoid hitting them accidentally.
Choosing a guitar pick
Picks come in different gauges and are usually labelled as thin, medium or thick followed by a millimetre measurement. Each gauge is suited to a different purpose.
Thin gauge picks
Thickness ranges from 0.40 to 0.60 mm. They are best used for acoustic strumming which relies on treble-heavy tones and a percussive sound.
They lack the thickness needed for rock rhythm, lead and combination strumming and plucking that’s often played on more advanced acoustic pieces.
Medium gauge picks
Thickness ranges from 0.60 to 0.80 mm. They are the most common guitar picks due to their versatility. They have both the stability and flexibility needed for acoustic music and powerful rock leads.
Thick gauge picks
Thickness above 0.80 mm. They are often used by heavy jazz musicians and metal guitarists.
You are welcome to use this Amazon link to order yourself some guitar picks today.