Should a beginner guitarist use a pick?

should a new guitar player use a pick

Learning to play guitar can be thrilling and overwhelming, with countless decisions to make. One of the first choices you’ll encounter is embracing the guitar pick or relying on your trusty fingers. I aim to help those of you learning how to play, clarifying the age-old question of pick usage. 

Join me as we unravel the benefits and drawbacks of using a pick and explore the impact of different musical styles on this pivotal decision.

The Benefits Of Using A Pick

A pick, also known as a plectrum, is a small tool typically made of basic plastic, nylon, tortex, or other materials used to strike the guitar strings. There are many types of picks, and they come in different styles, shapes, and thicknesses.

Here are some reasons why beginner guitarists might find using a pick (flatpicking) advantageous:

  1. Enhanced Precision: A pick provides a consistent surface area for striking the strings, leading to greater precision and accuracy in playing individual notes and chords.
  2. Increased Volume: Strumming or picking with a pick can produce a louder sound than using fingers alone. This is particularly beneficial when playing with a band or in a live setting.
  3. Versatility: A pick enables you to experiment with different playing techniques, including alternate picking, palm muting, and string skipping. These techniques are often associated with various music genres, such as rock, metal, and country.
  4. Easier To Play: Learning guitar is difficult at first. Many newcomers start with a pick and learn to use their fingers after getting more comfortable with their instrument.

The Benefits Of Fingerstyle: 

While a pick offers numerous advantages, it’s important to recognize that learning to use your fingers can also be a good approach to getting started on the guitar. 

Here are a few aspects to consider:

  1. Tonal Variation: Playing with fingers allows for a wider range of tonal expression and dynamics. Different parts of your fingers produce different sounds, and how you pluck the strings can change the tone. Many players use their fingernails to simulate the sound of a pick. It offers greater control over each note’s attack, sustain, and overall sound, making it suitable for Spanish guitar, classical, jazz, and folk music genres.
  2. Fingerstyle Techniques: Playing with fingers opens up possibilities for fingerstyle techniques, such as fingerpicking and Travis picking. These techniques are commonly used in genres like folk, blues, and acoustic fingerstyle.
  3. Adaptability: Using fingers alone allows you to play without relying on a pick. This can be advantageous when a pick is misplaced or unavailable, as fingers are always at hand.

Choosing the Approach For Your Musical Taste

When deciding whether to use a pick or fingers, consider the style of music you aspire to play. Here’s a breakdown of some common genres and the preferred techniques:

Types Of Music That A Pick Is Commonly Used In

  • Rock: Electric guitar-driven rock music often utilizes energetic strumming and an aggressive playing style facilitated by a pick. A pick is important for both rhythm guitar parts and playing lead guitar.
  • Metal: The fast-paced, intricate riffing and shredding associated with metal genres are best achieved with a pick. 
  • Country: The lively strumming patterns and precise note articulation in country music are commonly executed with a pick.

Music That Is Fingerstyle Guitar Is Commonly Used In

  • Classical: The delicacy and nuanced expression required in classical guitar playing is better achieved using fingers.
  • Jazz: Jazz guitarists frequently employ complex chord voicings, single-note lines, and improvisation techniques that benefit from fingerstyle playing.
  • Folk: Fingerpicking patterns and arpeggios are fundamental to folk music’s rich, melodic character.

Is It Easier To Play Guitar With A Pick?

Many find playing with your fingers difficult to grasp early on. The pick is much more straightforward and gives you a consistent sound even when just starting.

We are proponents of using whatever keeps you playing the guitar. Using a pick can provide certain advantages, particularly for new players. It offers a consistent surface area for striking the strings, enhancing precision and accuracy in playing individual notes and chords. A pick will help you play faster & begin to experiment with various picking techniques, such as alternate picking, palm muting, and string skipping.

It’s Your Choice

Ultimately, deciding whether to play your fingers or pick as a beginner guitar player depends on personal preference, musical goals, and the genre of music. While a pick may offer certain advantages, such as precision and volume, playing with fingers provides tonal versatility and adaptability. It’s worth noting that many guitarists incorporate both techniques into their playing, depending on the musical context.

Remember, the guitar is an instrument that invites exploration and self-expression. Embrace the learning process, keep an open mind, and experiment with different approaches. From there, just let your passion guide you.

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