Should I use my fingers or a pick?

Fingers or pick?

Great question! It depends a lot on what you play. There's no right answer though, you have to experiment and find your own style!

Both techniques have their advantages, and we highly recommend you to learn both at least a little.


Playing with fingers is most common when playing a classical guitar with nylon strings, but it's not unusual to play fingerstyle on steel string guitars and electric guitars too. With fingers you can get a soft and rich tone, but also a sharp attack, e.g. when playing double stops. It's common to play the bass strings with the thumb and use index, middle and ring fingers for the treble strings. The legendary jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery used to play using only his thumb.

Picking = using a pick / plectrum

Playing with a pick (or plectrum) is especially useful when playing lots of notes fast. Rock and metal riffs and solos are usually played using a pick. The sound of a downpicked power chord with overdrive is what pretty much defines the whole style.  Also, strumming chords on a steel string guitar tends to sound better with a pick and you get a louder sound in general. Downside to using a pick is that string skipping (jumping over one or more strings) can be more difficult than when playing with fingers, e.g. when playing arpeggio patterns.

Trick is to hold the pick between your thumb and index finger so that only the tip of the pick is visible. There are many different kinds of picks to suit different needs and styles. You should try out several to find the best match for your playing. If you play a nylon string guitar with a pick be careful not to scratch the surface, as they rarely have pick guards to protect the body.

Hybrid picking

There is also a technique called hybrid picking, that combines the use of a pick and fingers.

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