How to Hold a Guitar Pick

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Learn how to hold a guitar pick so you get the best tone and you aren’t dropping it all the time. This may sound stupid to you but if you start out holding it right all your picking will be easier to do.

The main thing is you want to start out holding it right so you don’t have playing problems in the future that will have to be fixed before you can get any better.

It’s just starting out with a good foundation so you have something solid to build on.

This goes for all the things you learn about playing guitar. Get the basics down and you can learn to play anything at all.

Muscle Memory
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Muscle memory is the human body’s ability to repeat a learned muscle movement.

It comes from repetition of a movement. Most of the time it happens without us thinking about it like reaching out to open a door.

You didn’t have to practice opening doors but if it was a special door that took a special movement to open it you would be aware of it and learn that movement.

Then every time you went to open that particular door your muscles would just go into action without your thinking about it.

The same is true for every movement you make especially playing guitar because you use your whole body. To move your little finger you have to move a muscle in you hand which moves a muscle in you arm which moves a muscle in your shoulder.

This is why having your whole body reaxed is essential to good guitar playing.

How Muscle Memory Works
For Guitar Players

If you repeat a movement enough times your body will remember this in your muscle “memory”. The muscles will then repeat this action without you thinking about it. This applies to every thing you do physically like hitting a baseball or pitching one. As long as your body doesn’t have any discomfort or pain your body will repeat this movement exactly like you taught it.

Bad Habits – Hard to Break

However your body doesn’t know if it’s right or wrong it just repeats what you taught it. This is why it’s hard to break bad playing habits, you have to retrain your muscles which is much harder than the initial training because your body still wants to use the first way it learned.

Your muscles don’t have a brain they just go on instinct or what you trained them to do.

This is why when you practice guitar or anything else you are learning you should take your time and pay attention to those little details that will make your playing sound professional.

Stop when you make a mistake and find out why; You didn’t change positions when you should have or maybe a different fingering or position will help.

Are you holding your guitar picks right. Firm but not tight, loose but not loose enough to drop them.

Don’t keep practicing something that’s wrong. Stop and fix it even if it means starting all over.

Pay attention to your picking hand along with your fretting hand and the rest of your body and relax your muscles when they get tense.

Use a metronome after you know the fingerings or whatever it is you are learning and start off slow playing

I wanted to explain about muscle memory above before you learn to hold the pick so you will get it right the first time.

There is no exact way for holding guitar picks because everybody’s hands are different but there are some general guidlines you can go by.

Pick Holding Guidelines

  • The pick should be held between the thumb and index finger
  • The Pick should be held Firmly not Tightly it must flex
  • The Pick should extend about a quarter of an inch past your thumb
  • The Pick should be parallel – with the strings, not tilted up or down
  • Your fingers should not hit the strings only the pick

Pick Tilting
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

  • You can tilt the pick slightly toward the tuning keys
  • This gives better tone and speed
  • This can happen naturally without you knowing as you play more

Pick tilting means you are playing the strings at a slight angle making the area of the pick that strikes the string less giving better tone and speed when playing single notes.

In other words you are almost using the edge of the pick coming in at an angle instead of laying flat across the string.

This is also good for chord playing. Chords would sound Clunky if you use too much of the pick.

The area of the pick that strikes the strings is actually pretty small.

Pick Playing Position

I hope that this will clear up what I mean by pick tilting.

First lay your pick completely flat on any string.

Now take the pick and turn it sideways so the skinny edge of the pick is touching the string.

Now lay it back down almost all the way so the pick only touches the string on one side. Got it?

This is a hard thing to explain in words.

The Sweet Spot
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

You will have to experiment until you get the right spot to hold the pick so it feels comfortable and follows the guidelines up above.

Stroking the Strings
How to Hold a Guitar Pick

Down Stroke

When you play a string you should push the pick through the string with the weight of your arm. Don’t twist your wrist to play it.

When you play a single note you want to stop the pick between the string you just played and the string that is below it without hitting it. This will take a little practice to get control of your muscles. This is important to learn for playing single notes.

There will be times when you keep the pick going down to hit more strings as when playing chords or double stops.

Up Stroke

The same is true for the upstroke as for the down stroke the will be times to stop in between the strings and times to follow through.

There will be other situations where you skips strings or mute strings as you play them.

For now you need to practice these two basic moves while you pay attention to what both hands and the rest of your body is doing. Remember. Tension is your Enemy.

More Practice

Another thing you can do is to practice playing 2 or 3 strings in a row and stop between the last string and the one below or above it depending on which direction you are going

This will come in handy for playing triad based riffs and cross picking.

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