When Should You Use a Pick? | Hub Guitar

When Should You Use a Pick?

Many beginners who pick up the guitar for the first time begin playing without a pick right away.

It’s as if this undertaking is already difficult enough, that even a tiny chip of plastic could throw the whole thing off.

When new students are handed a guitar pick for the first time, they often ask, “Do I have to use this?”

Who Needs To Learn To Use the Guitar Pick?

Anybody who plays the steel string guitar, whether the electric guitar or the acoustic guitar, should play with a pick from the beginning.

Picks are useful for playing lead guitar and melodic (single-note) passages as they allow the player to attack the notes more dexterously than with plain fingers. This is in great part due to the possibility of alternate picking technique, where the player alternates down and up strokes on a single string, thus potential speed.

This is not true if you play nylon guitar, also known as Classical or Spanish guitar. The strings of this instrument are made of a soft plastic, and there is an equivalent technique to alternate picking, where two fingers are alternated instead.

When Do You Need to Use the Pick?

You should use the guitar pick for:

  • Strumming rhythmic chord progressions
  • Playing lead lines and melodies
  • Improvisation

You should not use the pick for:

  • Soft chord accompaniments (broken and arpeggiated chords)
  • Solo guitar (chords, bass and melody combined into a single arrangement)

What Kind of Picks Should You Use?

  • There are many amazing and wonderful guitar picks out there if it suits your fancy, but you don’t need anything special if you’re just starting out.
  • For learning to strum chords, use an ultra-thin, super-flexible pick so you can pass back and forth over the strings with least resistance. Recommended: Dunlop .38mm Nylon Pick[?]Affiliate Link
  • For playing lead and melodies, a standard pick will do, but it should be slightly thicker, perhaps around 1mm thick. Suggested: Dunlop Primetone 351 (1mm)[?]Affiliate Link
As the creator of Hub Guitar, Grey has compiled hundreds of guitar lessons, written several books, and filmed hundreds of video lessons. He teaches private lessons in his Boston studio, as well as via video chat through TakeLessons.

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