How to Hold a Pick

As you will see from the pictures below the pick can be adjusted for strumming or picking. The instructions below cover both methods of holding the pick, as they are very similar. Just remember to tuck the pick in closer to the hand while plucking and extend the finger for strumming. The curling of the index finger controls this.

Picking Grip
Strumming Grip


  1. Hold your picking hand (the one that holds the pick) so that the back of the thumb is facing upwards.
  2. Relax the hand completely, this should allow the fingers to curl up.
  3. Place the pick on to the side of your index finger. The pointed end of the pick should face toward the nail of your index finger.
  4. Place your thumb onto the pick to keep it clamped between your thumb and finger.

Make sure your grip on the pick is relaxed. Do not squeeze the pick. Have the pick positioned at a 10% angle to the string, not completely parallel. How you hold the pick is a matter of personal taste, however, there are guidelines on how to hold a pick. Fast lead playing requires small, consistent motions so only 2mm of the tip of the pick should be used (as a rough guideline), whereas strumming requires a more open grip on the pick.

Should I Use a Pick?

Not every one will chose to use a pick, especially folk guitarists and similar style players. Non pick users will use either finger picking or hybrid picking (both pick and fingers). Using fingerpicks and thumbpicks should be referred to as finger picking because using them employs the same movements and style.

Picks come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from 0.36mm to 3mm in thickness and from the size of a thumbnail to a 50p piece. Strumming chords favours a thin pick but thickness is a clear advantage for single-note pieces. Beginners tend to favour thinner picks but usually use thicker picks as they get used to the feel of them. A 0.9mm pick is a good all-rounder.

Type Thickness (approx.)
Extra light 0.38mm or less
Light 0.50-0.60mm
Medium 0.73-0.87mm
Heavy 0.88-1.20mm
Extra heavy 1.50mm or more

Your technique and style of holding the pick may take years to develop and settle but be patient. Style is a very important part of you guitarmanship, it can improve playing and originality. Follow guidelines but make your own rules.