In every aspect of life, many doubts may come up as first learners, and playing the guitar is not the exception.
When you are learning this marvelous instrument you may not know how to start, should I play with a pick as my favorite guitarist?
Or do I have to begin using my fingers?
That could be an overwhelming situation for every beginner, and we all have been there.
Nevertheless, I am here to help you, don’t worry!
As a starter, you might play whether using a pick or your fingers, both methods could be developed in parallel as long as you improve your overall guitar skills. The decision on which one you should focus will depend on the style or genre you want to play in the long run.
Through this article, I will try to show you the differences between both techniques plus I will give you suggestions to build up your style and help with your decision.
In the end, you will know everything needed about playing with a pick or your fingers.
Finger or pick for completely new guitar beginners?
Choosing one of the options is always a tough task for first learners but let me tell you that you won’t have to choose at all.
Absolute beginners should use their thumbs to play easy melodies.
At first, is the best approach to get into the instrument, as you don’t know how it works and you don’t have a developed dexterity, it would be simpler to begin that way.
Although you will be using your thumb, it could be thought of as a kind of finger style but that method involves more skills than just plucking strings with one finger.
Which is harder, playing with a pick or with your fingers?
Like with everything in life, it is a matter of personal perspective, I cannot think of a technique being more difficult than the other.
Actually, both are pretty hard methods to master and they are quite different.
For some players, it is easier to play with their fingers whereas others claim that using a plectrum is way simpler.
Furthermore, it will be up to each player’s preferences.
To play fingerstyle, you will require to pluck strings with the tip of your fingers in your strumming hand.
Generally, you use your thumb to play the bass in the low E string while the rest of your fingers pluck the other five strings.
A more classical approach leaves the thumb for the 3 lower strings (E, A, D) while the finger 1, 2, and 3 are dedicated to a single high string each.
This way of playing will give you a soft warm tone and although you need to develop flexibility and speed, is something doable so, after some time practicing you could get the hang of it.
What is more, lines played applying this technique sound smoother and more dynamic.
Regarding picking style, some guitarists feel that is way difficult because as they are using an extension of their hand, they cannot control the pick well.
As you might think, that is not always the case and many players are really fond of this approach.
The most distinguishable aspect of this technique is how strings are plucked, you have to hold a plectrum and strike the guitar strings with it.
Another noticeable feature is the tone the pick provides, the sound will be sharper and more violent.
Finger or pick for beginners with a few weeks of playing?
Those who have already started playing guitar some weeks ago may doubt whether to use a pick or learn fingerpicking.
To make that choice you have to base on the genres you are interested in playing, it always depends on that.
Furthermore, if you have a classical or acoustic guitar and you are intended to play classical music, fingerstyle will suit you better.
Contrarily, if you intend to play rock, punk, or even metal, you will definitely require a pick.
That’s because every genre needs a different sound, as regards classical music or also folk you will require a soft-sounding guitar.
On the other hand, to play rock you will want to have a more aggressive, hard tone.
However, no matter the genre you want to play, remember that music doesn’t have rules.
What I mean to say, is you can experiment a bit with these two methods and choose the one you prefer or feel more comfortable with.
Why would you choose to learn to play fingerstyle?
As we mentioned before, if you are looking for a warmer tone in your guitar, you should go for fingerstyle which is wonderful to play pop or ballads and obviously classical tunes.
A remarkable aspect of this technique is that allows you to play broken chords, even if there are strings in between that you don’t want to play.
Besides, is a really helpful method to play arpeggios, mainly those that don’t use adjacent strings or to pluck more than one string at once.
Why would you choose to learn to play with a pick?
If you are in the pursuit of an aggressive tone, you should go for a pick to have that hardness needed for rock.
By playing with a plectrum you will have a more consistent tone plus tougher sound.
In addition, by using a pick you could build up a faster speed while playing lines in an easier way than if you were to do so with your fingers.
Moreover, a lot of approaches are intended to be played with a pick: tremolo picking, sweep picking, down picking, alternate, and economy picking among others.
And yes, I know that tremolo is a classical fingerstyle technique, but in a rock context, it is almost always done with a pick.
You can always learn picking or fingerstyle later in your journey
It doesn’t mind which one you choose, picking and fingerstyle can be both learned simultaneously.
What I’m trying to say is you don’t need to wait until you master one of them to continue with the other.
As both techniques are different you can develop them according to your convenience.
What is more, if you apply the two approaches you will have a wider range of opportunities in your playing.
Although it can take a longer time to master it, you can even combine them to achieve a particular playing style.
That method is called hybrid picking and is not so often seen but rather interesting.
In the end, it doesn’t even matter what you choose, the fascinating aspect is that you don’t have to stick to it.
Do most guitar players play with a pick?
Most rock players do play by using a pick but like with everything in life, we may find some exceptions.
As rock guitarists, they need that fierce punch that a pick adds to the sound.
Contrarily, we have classic guitar players that, as a rule of thumb, are more fond of using their fingers to play.
That’s because that’s the intended way to play on a classical guitar.
Nevertheless, it is common to mix both techniques as well.
Picking and fingerstyle are not methods relegated to just one way of playing, you should try to make a profit from both.
Is playing with a pick required for electric guitar?
In short, the answer to this question would be that a pick is not strictly required to play electric guitars.
Although is a common thought among musicians is not completely true.
You can definitely play the electric with your fingertips and sound amazing, if you don’t believe me look at the Mark Knopfler from Dire Strait. Knopfler is well-known for applying that technique on electric guitar and, of course, sounding wonderful.
Another perfect example could be the Italian jazz player Matteo Mancuso.
That virtuous guy plays amazing lines without using a pick showing a unique fingerstyle technique.
Can you use a pick with an acoustic or classical guitar?
This question is in a way similar to the previous one, loads of guitarists play the acoustic with a pick, so you can do it too.
Although classical pieces it is not that common, it is not prohibited plus if you feel that it sounds good and works for you, go for it.
To conclude, I’d like to say that despite having mentioned it before, in music there are no rules or laws.
Furthermore, check everything and don’t take just the first option that comes to you, try to develop your style by applying the approaches you think work for you.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.