How To Hold A Guitar Pick

I’m still struggling with this:
When I angle the pick “forward” about 20/30 degrees the down strum is so smooth…but up strum is catchy/raspy and doesn’t flow freely at all.

Oddly, my natural position rotates the pick the opposite way to the images in the below link - and this seems to work for me fairly well - except now I get excessive pick rotation :frowning:

If I stick with the “reverse” rotation will that cause me issue in the future? If so, will the pick rotation ease as I get more experienced.
Or
Should I get used to the forward rotation and practice this - and how do I get a smooth up strum?

So many questions! :smiley:

Example with images

Are you using a thick 1.5 mm pick as is recommended in the article you linked?

If so, that might be contributing to your issues with up strumming. Justin gives completely opposite advice, and suggests starting with a very thin pick for beginners.

It’s normal for up strumming to feel more difficult at first, because your arm is fighting gravity. If it is catching, rotating your wrist slightly so the tip of the pick points more towards the floor on the up strum might help too.

Thanks Tom - I’ve tried every thickness of pick from 0.28 paper up to 2mm brick - the picture was just to show the angle…and that “naturally” i do the opposite.

Rotating back, so the bridge side of the pick is low and the neck side high - opposite to that picture - feels OK to me and both down and up strumming are (relatively - I’m still noob!) smooth…but I’m worried that if I keep doing that then somewhere down the line I’ll need to completely re-adapt and rotate “forwards.” (neck side down, bridge side up)

This is something I experimented with a few years ago in my previous (failed!) attempts at guitar, because some fairly famous guitarist played that way, and wrote about it.

The tone is a little different, but I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with it. If you find your hand more naturally goes to that position, maybe just carry on and learn a few songs that way. If problems occur, you can adjust your technique then. But there may never be a problem.

1 Like

Thank you
I did google if anyone played that way but failed to find any (probably the wrong search terms)

It was Tom Verlaine of the band Television. He used to have a website, but I can’t find it now.

1 Like

YouTube teacher Marty Schwartz plays that way.

He plays pretty well :smirk:

1 Like

I get the same issue.

I’ve been looking at all of Justin’s intro strumming videos again and thinking about how I hold the pick and strum. I am using the recommended method for holding the pick now. In the first picture i show the pick starting position, in the second picture I close the thumb on the pick and in the third picture I curl the fingers in just enough to so as not to hit the string when I strum.



I tried Justin’s suggestion of pressing in the thumb and creating an angle in the pick, but this seems to make my hand overly tense. I notice that my wrist seems to turn back and forth or rotate slightly when I bend the elbow to strum up and down. It seem like a natural relaxed motion to me, like rotating the wrists as in a golf swing. I have exaggerated the rotation in these two pictures but noticed that when my wrist turns slightly so that pick is turn slightly towards my face, the pick will naturally hit the first string at an angle on the down strum. At the bottom of the strum the wrist and pick is rotated down as in the second picture and on the upswing will hit the string at the appropriate angle so as not to catch on the strings:

I’m just pulled these off of my iphone unmodified. So I apologize if the pictures are too big.

I did find that if I rotate my wrist a little when I strum, that I have to curl my index finger to avoid hitting the strings.

As I suspected, you have a “hitchhiker’s thumb”…you can bend the last joint back about 45 degrees.

I do too, but a lot of people can’t bend their thumbs back at all, so maybe that’s why the standard advice is to angle the pick downwards.

It’s been about 10 years since I last tried this, but I tried angling the pick upwards like you are. It worked absolutely fine. In fact, it might be even easier to keep the pick in place on the upstrum when you hold it this way.

If you are more comfortable and relaxed doing it this way, trust your instincts and keep doing it.

But if you run into problems, I strongly suggest you post a video…because text and still photos are very limited for troubleshooting this kind of thing. Slow motion video, if your phone supports it.

But I think you’ll be fine.

1 Like

I live in a rural location so don’t get into town quite so often. So … where to get a supply of picks?
My son left me a supply of them but they are all quite thick and stiff so I needed something thinner.
I hunted around the house and in the recycling bin until I had a pile of plastic packaging of various thicknesses. I used one of the thick picks to trace the outline and then cut it out and used a nail file to smooth the edges and voila’ a nice bendy thin pick. cost = $zero and I can have as many as I like and in a range of different colours and shapes if I so choose.
Just a tip for those into recycling or not able to travel.
Cheers.

4 Likes

clever

The plastic tags on bread bags can work as a pick.

1 Like