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.
• 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.