Picks, How to Choose One and Hold It by March 3, 2016 0 comments

You have a guitar and have started in on the journey to learn…Great! Beginners often tend to jump on to their first lesson without understanding the basics most of the time. One of the most important part of learning how to play guitar is to know how to use your hands- the fretting one and the strumming one. You strum with a crucial part of guitar, known as the Plectrum. The plectrum or the pick as it is more commonly known as is a small piece to be held by you in strumming hand with which you ‘pluck’ the string and play guitar. Choose the right one, holding it properly and you shall learn better and quicker, playing melodies as easily as walking in park. But if you choose the wrong one or do not know how to hold it, you are more than just doomed as your guitar learning has already been boomed by a simple mistake. No matter how much you drop it or spin it around, it is always good to start with a pick because you can learn fingerstyle later but if you don’t get how to use a plectrum, your learning process is pretty much screwed up.


Choosing The Right Plectrum/Pick

Let us get on with the part of choosing the right plectrum. If you are a beginner, you need to understand first that not all plectrums are same and they all have different width and sizes used for different purposes. If you have an acoustic guitar, you would need a plectrum of less width which is flexible whereas if you are playing an electric guitar, you can choose a plectrum which has more width and is easy to handle for fast plucking as well as tripling. Here is my take on plectrums and how you should choose one for yourself.

As you know plectrum comes in different sizes and width and the width is measured in terms of gauge. The less the gauge, the lesser the thickness. For beginners, I personally recommend the lighter gauge picks ranging from 0.38 to 0.60. These plectrums are light, easy to hold and are bendable, giving you the perfect shift needed to strum chords and pluck notes easily. However, the light gauge plectrums are best for acoustic guitar players only.

If the beginner is starting with an electric guitar, the best plectrum for them would be a medium gauge one, somewhere around 0.70 or 0.73. In electric guitar, you need a sturdy plectrum that is going to be just right for you and does not bend easily as you wouldn’t want the sync between your fretting and strumming hand to be broken. If you have practiced enough and are ready to move on to advanced lessons of pinch harmonics as well as triplets in the metal genre, you can then change your plectrum to one of the higher gauge later on, moving to 0.77, 0.80s or 1.0.


Here are some of the few plectrums and their brands that I have loved to use over the time and I recommend for beginners as well as intermediate players.


Jim Dunlop

TortexWedgeThe Dunlops are some of the best picks that you are going to get. Their 4860 Gel picks, Tortex editions and the Nylon Standard picks have been my all time favorites. These picks come in different gauges so you can choose for yourself according to the requirement, remembering what gauge is suitable for you and your guitar.

For the electric guitar enthusiasts, my special recommendation is Dunlop 44R1 standard guitar picks which have 1 mm gauge thickness and are just the perfect things you need for those mind blowing guitar licks.



If you’re not into too expensive stuff, Kadence is one of the brands you would like to try. I can’t say they are the best as they aren’t but they can be pretty good at the price limit and can be long term virtual heroes of your struggles with learning to play guitar.



Alice is one of the other brands that give you decent picks without charging a lot. Try the light gauge plectrums from Alice for acoustic guitars. Sadly, I didn’t find their thick ones too good for electric guitar.


Jazz Series

Ahh, my favorite and undoubtedly the most recommended plectrums when it comes to electric guitars. Jazz plectrums are just the things of beauty you need to rock. The Jazz I is cool, the Jazz II is far better and then comes the hero- the most widely used pick by metal enthusiasts, the Jazz III which due to its small and sturdy design, offers control and ease to perform many sound tricks and techniques.


Planet Wave Plectrums

Planet wave picks are pretty decent as well. However, I like the assorted celluloid ones which are soft to hold and easy to play with. Perhaps, a top choice after Dunlop for acoustic guitars.


Holding the Pick right

Now that we are through with the guitar picks, the top choices for both acoustic and electric players, let us move on to some general guidelines on how to use or how to hold these picks. First, understand that there is no rule regarding how you should hold the pick. It is just that the easiest and the best way to hold one is the most commonly used way that makes it easier for players to play a variety of things, including melodies and chords.

Hold the pick between your thumb and the index finger. For starters, keep the pick on your index finger and press down with the thumb in a manner that one side of it comes out so that you can play with it. Remember, hold the plectrum from the flattened side and keep the pointy side for plucking (in case you get confused with that too!). Relax your wrist and fingers, but maintain the appropriate grip on the pick to pluck. Make sure that the pick is coming out from below the thumb or else, you might end up hitting harmonics without knowing or worse, never get the plucking right.

Plain and simple- isn’t it? Now let me tell you some of the most common mistakes that people make while holding the plectrum and how you can avoid making them.


  • Holding it too tight
    Holding the plectrum too tightly is going to strain your wrist and arm. You might be able to pluck it right and not lose the plectrum but the thing is, it is okay to have the plectrum spun around in the beginner stage. Just don’t hold the pick too tightly because in the long run, you might not be able to catch up on speed with a tight grip. Relax your fingers and wrist and let the magic happen.


  • Too Loose a grip
    Another mistake associated with the pressure of holding the pick is not holding the pick tightly enough. Too much of anything is bad and that’s true with holding the pick too. You holding it loose is probably the reason why it gets spun off and falls from between your fingers. Hold the plectrum with appropriate pressure, maintaining a firm grip without straining.


  • Using the middle finger
    No, you dare not use the second finger to hold the plectrum. Alright, I said there is no hard and fast rule for it but using the middle finger restricts your movement and puts you at a disadvantage. The angle with which you pluck is changed, and there goes a bundle of guitar techniques down the drain for you. You would not be able to do palm muting, no hybrid picking and harmonics for you- which pretty much limits you to the beginner stage.


  • Not changing the position when strumming
    Position of the strumming hand must be changed as plucking is different from strumming. You need to change the angle of the hand and make sure that your wrist is relaxed for a smooth and clear strum. More of the pick should be poking out when you strum, keeping in mind that an appropriate more pressured grip needs to be maintained this time.


  • Hitting finger on the strings
    Gosh, one of the most common mistakes I have seen beginners committing. No, not the thumb, but they tend to hit the nail or the index finger while plucking or strumming. This results in an unclear pluck or strum which of course doesn’t sound good. This is why I keep straining on the right holding manner of the pick where you bend the index finger inwards towards your palm while plucking or strumming.

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