How to Hold Your Pick to Strum Better

It’s time to learn about holding the pick for a better-sounding strumming! Yep, that matters. The full lesson is here!

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Unless I missed it I Just wondered why Justin didn’t mention how far the pick should project from your thumb. He does cover it in Module 0 Grade 1, I know the answer but not going to mention it here as it may be a deliberate omission.

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Uh oh, I am already confused. :grin: I can sit with the pick out of the side of my thumb, but I have to contort my index finger to have the tip point toward the pick point. I naturally want to hold it on the side of my index finger by the nail. Otherwise, the side of my thumb or my index fingernail seem to get in the way, and upstrums in particular are impossible. Any thoughts on what I’m doing wrong? What part of the index finger should make contact with the pick?

And what about the other fingers on the strumming hand? If it’s not too terrible, I would like to keep them as loose and relaxed as possible – I have some strain issues that seem to be irritated by having the fingers all curled up.

If anyone has any insights to share, I would appreciate it!

  • Carolyn
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FWIW, me too. I think the most important part is that the pick comes out from the side of the thumb. The position of the index finger is more variable, as far as I can tell. Some people curl the index finger more, so that the 1st segment (distal phalanx) is parallel to the thumb.

Some people rest the pick on the side of the index finger, others more on the pad of the finger. (Some even use both index and middle finger on the underside of the pick, I don’t know if that is considered poor technique or not.)

As for the other fingers, again lots of variation. I feel most comfortable with the 3 fingers hanging down loosely. Lots of people curl them under, though.

Keep in mind, these are just my observations, probably a teacher should weigh in with an opinion on the best practices for beginner students.

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Thank you! It’s reassuring to hear that I’m not the only one with questions!

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Go with the advice in that very first module. :slight_smile:

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Without seeing a photograph you are describing a good position.

Nice and relaxed and not curled in a fist is what I recommend.

This has long term benefits too.


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We all have different anatomy - so are likely to hold it different ways - perhaps I should have made that clearer in the lessons.

The key things are is that you hold it so you don’t drop it - and that your hand is relaxed and not making too much tension by curling your fingers up to much!


Thank you! The pictures are helpful too. I definitely don’t have it pointing quite so much toward the tip. My index finger is a little more curled than that. I will experiment some more.

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Thank you for the feedback – (and the lesson)!

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I find that I do indeed curl the first segment of my index finger (which I now know is called the distal phalanx, thank you!) but the second segment points towards the tip of the pick so almost the same as Justin’s method.

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I feel like I’m holding the pick correctly and it also looks the same as Justin is holding the pick in the pictures but I can feel the tip of my index finger is hitting the strings at the same time as my pick, is this normal?

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John, for me, my first knuckle (the distal interphalangeal Joint, according to the interwebs) points toward the tip. I’ve been trying to make my index finger tip point to the tip of the pick but can’t seem to do it. I’m interested to hear from more experienced folks whether this is something to be concerned about, or if it’s ok to have that first knuckle pointing toward the tip.

Judi,As Justin and others point out, we all have different anatomies. For me personally I find the the second segment of the finger (including the knuckle) is pointing towards the tip of the pick. I think this is what you are saying. After re-studying my own grip I think that the key points are the finger segment closer tour palm should be in line with your forearm and the middle segment should be more or less perpendicular to your forearm, This should give you the strumming motion that Justin is recommending. For me the segment furthest from your palm is less critical as long as the pick is held comfortably.

I’m no expert, these are just my own observations. Justin or Richard please jump in if I am giving bad advice here.


p.s. At 67 my finger joints may not be representative lol

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Something you might like to try is using the round end aka shoulder of the pick (referring to the common 351 shape). I have read of professional players who use this end for both strumming and picking. I prefer to use the round end for strumming as it both glides better (doesn’t hang up in the strings for those of you with that difficulty, as I had also when I started) and sounds warmer on my brightish GS Mini spruce.

I was reluctant to try the round end when I started out, often when I start out with a new skill I like to stick to what the teacher said/showed for fear of developing “bad / crutch” habits and not exercising patient persistence for the long ride to competency. But looking back that was maybe a bit silly. Or not. It’s really up to each of us, no answers only choices :slight_smile:

If you’re looking to try thicker picks for their tone and better grips, you might find the shoulder an easier starting ground.

I do like this better using a consistently surfaced pick like celluloid or tortex. With a nylon you often get a scratchy sound due to the grip that you might want sometimes but not all the time.


Thank you for sharing this. It’s now a couple of months that I’m exploring with the pick - 0.46 mm - I found that wider the surface of the pick on the strings is the easier it glides over the better the sound is, and more than this I can make it consistent for a longer time. I’m holding the pick in a relaxed way.

I made a picture, the silver surface (I put the silver paper only to show), is more or less that glides over the strings…

May I ask to @Richard_close2u …is this an acceptable option? I’m still really exploring and I don’t want to build one more bad habit (I already have many to work on!) - the only indicator I have is the pick not getting stuck and thus produce a grating sound but on the contrary getting a nice sound that pleases my ear.


Hi Gang. I was about to post a question about how to stop the pick moving round whilst strumming and I came across this. I always used to use fingers on my acoustic but since I got an electric guitar I’m now experimenting with a pick on the acoustic. I find strumming really hard because the pick moves all the time. It wants to rotate around until I’m strumming with the rounded “shoulder?” end and when I’m strumming with that part it works! I can do it consistently and it doesn’t move. I just thought that was wrong technique. I’ve tried different sizes, shapes and thicknesses of pick including very thin ones as recommended by Justin, and I’ve tried holding the pick in different ways but always the same. The pick is determined to spin round. If I hold it more tightly that brings other issues! Felt better when I read all these comments because it’s not just me obviously. Strumming with a pick is clearly an art form. Makingmark’s comment was a bit of an epiphany for me. Ok so use the round end for strumming. Why not? It works, it’s where the pick wants to be for me and I like the sound. (Tortex jazz III xl series picks). Sorted. Thank you Makingmark and everyone else for making me feel like I’m not struggling alone! :smiley: P.S. to the teachers and pros out there … please don’t tell me it is really bad technique! :grimacing:


No harm linking back to it for people taking SOS who didn’t start from the very first set of grade 1 lessons:

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Silvia - that indicator is a good sign. I am wondering in which direction that whole edge of the pick is striking the strings. Front and back or scraping the edge.
Ideally, you do want to use the tip and that means your arm, wrist and hand moving in an arc that arrives and departs down and up at a shallow curve so it strikes the strings then glides off again.