Before you do anything on your guitar, you should always take a deep breath, release the tension in your body, and clear your mind.
You can start by fixing your posture and relaxing any parts of your body that feel stressed or tense.
When playing with guitar picks, your wrist should be straight, and picking should feel effortless.
You want smooth & swift motions that are deliberate yet fluid, not tense & clunky.
Letting go of this tension will aid in increasing stamina, thus keeping you playing longer.
Not only that but your mind will be free of worry and more focused on your performance, it’s all about presence and staying in the moment.
Relaxing can also help to avoid cramping, carpal tunnel and general stress - both mental & physical.
Economy of energy is a recurring theme for musicians as it is for any act of performance, so minimizing your energy expenditure is always something to be mindful of. Wasting energy on unneeded tension and worry is detrimental to playing your best.
Tension and worry sap your strength and leave you less able to focus on the task at hand. They can also lead to mistakes, which can compound the negative effects.
All in all, it's important to stay calm and relaxed when playing guitar as it would be with any sport or performance activity. Taking some deep breaths and refocusing your thoughts can help you get back on track!
Form a loose fist.
Keep your middle finger, ring and pinky fingers tucked back into the palm and out of the way.
Lay the pick on the side of your first knuckle of your index finger.
The guitar tip should be parallel with your index finger and pointing in the direction of your finger.
Gently lay your thumb across your index finger with the pick to form a “T” shape.
Finally, curl your index finger towards your fist to get it out of the way of the plectrum’s playing tip. That’s it!
At this point you can also rotate the pick slightly to the left or right to get the most comfortable guitar pick angle for you.
While method 1 was a closed fist method, this 2nd variation uses more of an open hand & can be mixed with another playing technique called “Anchoring”,
which is a controversial topic in itself.
Here’s how to do it.
Just like the above method, lay the plectrum on the first knuckle of your index finger.
Again, the tip of the plectrum should be parallel with your finger and pointing outwards in the direction of your index finger.
Now gently clamp down on the pick with your thumb to form a “T” at the first joint of your index finger.
Now instead of curling your middle, ring, & pinky fingers inward, flare them straight out & away from your index & thumb.
Similar to how you would make an “Ok” sign.
This is the difference between the previous method of holding a guitar pick properly.
Finally you can curl the index finger away from the tip of the pick and towards the root of your thumb.
Adjust the angle of the pick slightly to the left or right to get the most comfortable picking angle for you.
At last you can use the middle, ring, & pinky fingers to “anchor” your hand on the guitar body or bridge.
While some guitar players consider this a reasonable method to enhance picking control, some would argue that it can increase the tension in your wrist & that it forms a bad habit.
Experiment to see what works for you & what feels comfortable with your style of playing.
A tradeoff in limited movement might be worth it for you if you exchange it for a slight boost in picking accuracy & control.
Because small scale mistakes like these are so hard to catch, proper right hand posture often gets neglected.
These rookie mistakes are very common, especially among self taught musicians.
Don’t worry if you catch yourself making any of these mistakes, we’ve all been there.
Now that you’ve been informed of a couple proper techniques, it‘s best to put forth conscious effort to fix these issues sooner rather than later.
Breaking a bad habit takes twice as long as forming a good one!
Proper pick technique feels awkward at first, but pull through and eventually it will become second nature.
Try not to move the pick with your fingers; All movement comes from subtle movements of the wrist and forearm while using a firm grip.
Use the weight of your hand to push through the strings. This may take some practice, but it will help you develop a smoother sound.
You should practice playing evenly and experimenting with different amounts of effort or adjusting your guitar picks' angle to find what works best for you.
Related: Top 10 Best Guitar Picks By Iron Age
How much of the pick protrudes from the fingertips does make a difference.
For instance, having only the very tip of the pick stick out puts your hand closer to the strings for a more controlled picking technique.
Occasionally choking down on the pick also helps tremendously when performing techniques such as pinch harmonics.
Having a bit more material exposed can loosen things up & benefit chord strumming.
One downside of having too much material come out can equate to a poor grip, which makes you more likely drop the pick while playing, or minimizes control which can result in the pick getting stuck between strings unintentionally.
When starting out, a lot of students have a tendency to grip the pick very hard to keep from dropping it.
This can lead to overuse of force and hand pain if used extensively. Playing the electric guitar should never hurt!
You need to hold the pick firmly for good grip but light enough for good momentum, bounce, and attack.
Easing up your grip will help you have more control, this is especially true with thicker picks.
Once you’re proficient with standard thickness guitar picks, maybe try a thick guitar pick.
Thick guitar picks are an overlooked option when it comes to picking control by reducing hand tension, and improving the overall fluid motion of your picking hand.
We recommend something as thin as 2mm or the sweet spot of 3-4mm which is thick enough to do the job without being cumbersome.
If you’re having this issue with guitar picks, something you could check is your grip.
Maybe you aren’t gripping the pick enough and it keeps sliding around.
This could be due to the material being too slick or maybe an accumulation of oils on the pick’s surface.
To help solve this issue, try washing your hands & the pick with soap to dissolve any oils that might have built up over time.
This will remove some of that slipperiness if it’s due to oils & not just sweat.
See our article on aiding sweaty hands while playing guitar if that’s another issue you’re having.
Also consider adding more grip to your guitar pick by modifying it and adding some cork or sandpaper.
If you’re looking for something more of a custom guitar pick, maybe try one of our handcrafted plectrums. Many of which feature grip enhancing & grip relaxation qualities.
While the fretting hand gets all the glory, it's the picking hand that does all the work.
Fortunately, there are a number of exercises that can help to improve your picking technique.
Performing these can assist you in acquiring speed and ease of playing by making you familiar with your instrument & helping to build a mind-body connection.
Don’t forget to use your metronome!
When working on your picking technique, the goal is to achieve accuracy, efficiency, and an effortless flow in the picking motion.
In this blog post, we’ve shown you a couple techniques on how to hold a guitar pick.
Which might seem obvious to some but is an often-asked question among guitar players, especially those starting out.
We’ve also highlighted some of the most common mistakes people make when holding their guitar pick, and how to avoid them.
Finally, we showed you a few exercises that will help improve your pick technique and tone.
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Iron Age Guitar Accessories
226 Douglas Way St
San Antonio, TX 78210
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~William A. Foster (MOH Recipient, 1945)
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