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Learning Guitar - Lesson One
Part 5: Holding a Pick
More of this Feature
Part 1: overview
Part 2: guitar parts
Part 3: guitar neck
Part 4: holding a guitar
Part 6: tuning
Part 7: scales
Part 8: basic chords
Part 9: learning songs
Part 10: practice schedule

Related Content
Index of Guitar Lessons
Buying Your First Guitar
How to Read Guitar Tab
How to Change Strings
Easy to Play Songs
Guitar Chord Library

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Hopefully, you've found, bought or borrowed a guitar pick. If not, you'll need to buy yourself some. Don't be stingy, go and pick up at least 10 of them - guitar picks are easy to lose (they often don't cost more than 30 or 40 cents each). You can experiment with different shapes and brands, but I highly recommend medium gauge picks to start; ones that aren't too flimsy, or too hard.
The following documentation explains how to hold, and use a pick. When reading, keep in mind that your "picking hand" is the hand which is nearest to the bridge of the guitar, when sitting in the correct position.

  1. Open your picking hand, and turn the palm to face you.
  2. Close your hand to make a very loose fist. Your thumb should remain beside your index finger.
  3. Rotate your hand until you are looking at it's profile, with your thumb's knuckle facing you.

  • With your other hand, slide your guitar pick between your thumb and index finger. The pick should be approximately located behind the knuckle of the thumb.
  • Be sure the pointed end of the pick is pointing directly away from your fist, and is protruding by about a half an inch. Hold the pick firmly.
  • Position your picking hand over the soundhole of your acoustic guitar, or over the body of your electric guitar. Your picking hand, with thumb knuckle still facing you, should hover over the strings.
  • Do not rest your picking hand on the strings or body of the guitar.
  • Using your wrist for motion (rather than your entire arm), strike the sixth (lowest) string of your guitar in a downward motion. If the string rattles excessively, try striking the string a bit softer, or with less of the pick surface.
  • Now, pick the sixth string in an upwards motion.
  • Repeat the process several times. Try and minimize motion in your picking hand: one short picking stroke downwards, then one short picking stroke upwards. This process is referred to as "alternate picking"
  • Try the same exercise on the fifth, fourth, third, second, and first strings.
    Tips:
  1. Holding the pick in this manner will invariably feel awkward at first. You will initially have to pay special attention to your picking hand whenever you play guitar.
  2. Try and create fluidity in your alternate picking. Your downstrokes should sound virtually identical to your upstrokes.

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Related Video
Picking Basics on the Guitar

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