Should You Use A Pick To Play The Guitar?

Beginner guitarist sometimes wonder about the small pieces of plastic that is comes with their

guitar and is sold in music shops. I am talking about a guitar pick also called plectrum. They come

in different sizes, thickness and form. A plectrum is used to pick the strings of the guitar.

Now that you definitely know what a pick is the question remains: should you use a pick to play

your guitar? The short answer is: It depends, but probably yes. Of course if you are already set on a

style that solely uses fingerstyle you should use that technique. If not we should compare the

techniques involved. At first let’s make sure we are clear on what we are comparing.

Technique when using a pick:

Your hand rests on the strings lower than the string you want to play on and

you use your wrist to flick the string with the plectrum between your thumb

and your index finger. You see a photo of that technique on the right.

Technique without a pick (“Fingerstyle”):

Your hand hovers over the fretboard. Your thumb plays the lower three

strings, your ring finger plays the highest sounding string, your middle finger

plays the second highest and your index finger plays the third highest. You

use your finger to pluck the strings and produce notes. You see a photo of that

technique on the right.

Now that we know what we are talking about let’s look into the pros and cons of using a pick.

Pros of proper use of a pick:

• Very fast picking speed is possible on a single or adjacent strings.

• Fast and clean sweep picking is made possible.

• The produced notes are louder and clearer.

• Muting lower strings is simple.

Cons:

• String skipping is harder and slower with a pick than playing with your fingers.

Strumming chords is possible with both methods so it’s neither a positive nor a negative in this

debate, but palm muted power chord rhythms need a pick to sound proper.

So the conclusion is pretty clear. You should use a pick.

About the author: René Kerkdyk teaches students to rock out on their guitar in Hildesheim,

Germany. Rock Gitarre Hildesheim is the number one spot in Hildesheim to learn to play the guitar

in the way you want to.