How to Hold a Pick

Obviously if you want to become amazing at picking you must do three things: practice, practice, practice.  But if you practice a technique wrong, you still won’t be any good.  The way that you hold the pick itself can have a big effect on your playing.  Before you embark on a rigorous practice regimen, take a look at the way you hold the pick and see if there’s anything you want to change.


The Sweet Spot

A lot of people arbitrarily hold the pick the way that they pick it up.  But there is a sweet spot where a pick is designed to fit on your hand.  Here’s how to find it.  Hold your hand out in front of you with the palm facing towards the ceiling. While keeping your hand very loose and relaxed, slowly turn rotate your hand inwards (your thumb initially points outward. rotated it so it points toward the ceiling and then inwards).  As you do this your thumb and index finger should naturally meet.  This is the sweet spot.  Place the pick between your index and thumb right where the meet.

Two or Three Fingers?

Do you use 2 or 3 fingers to hold the pick?  Do you use thumb and index only or thumb, index, and middle?  I would ask that if you use 3 fingers that you relearn how to hold the pick.  If you are comfortable with using 3 fingers and want to keep going with it, more power to you.  Lots of excellent players, including Eddie Van Halen, used 3 fingers to hold the pick.  I personally believe you have more control though if you only use 2 fingers.

Thumb Knuckle

Is your thumb knuckle bend when you hold the pick or is it fully extended?  I’ve seen very good results from both.  Players like Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen do not bend there thumb knuckle, yet Paul Gilbert and John Petrucci do.  In a video lesson from Paul Gilbert, he explains that by bending his thumb knuckle, it rolls the pick away from the flat part of the index finger and puts the pick more on the side of the finger.  Experiment with both ways: Extended thumb/flat part of index finger and bend thumb/side of index finger.  I think that the first way sounds more smooth and the second way sounds more aggressive.

As you can see there are a lot of aspects of your pick grip you can tweak. Play around. See what feels natural. Have fun with it.

If you have any questions or comments please email me at

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5 Responses

  1. favorited this one, bro

  2. […] won??t be any good. The way that you hold the pick itself can have a big effect on your playing. Playing Techniques – HomeThe first time I picked up a guitar and started learning guitar […]

  3. Great writeup. I realized that there is a much more efficient way of holding the pick. However, I had to use other websites for visual reference, so how about putting a few pictures of the different ways you are describing. I am having some trouble getting used to holding the pick this new way, because I feel so awkward, and I can’t seem to get the pick parallel to the strings. It almost makes me feel like I’m doing it wrong once again. Is that normal? I know it’s going to be awkward, but it feels pretty near impossible to ever get used to it, and I can’t get my pick parallel without bending my wrist to a point I know isn’t right. The guy in this website (url below) holds the pick the same way. The first pictures are the way we have been holding it, and the second ones are the “right” way.

  4. Hi. I feel lucky to find out your are doing a great job here.thank you very much for sharing this informative topic.

  5. Good points bringing in Vai, Malmsteen, Van Halen, Gilbert, and Petrucci. The variety of approaches makes me think that finding the right picking technique is more of an exploration of one’s own fingers and ears than of others’ techniques.

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