Pick, No Pick...Can I do Both?

I’m finding it much easier and more comfortable strumming without a pick. Advantage, disadvantage moving forward? Don’t want to form bad habits, but I’m much happier with the sound. I know I need a pick for some things, but can I have it both ways and not totally screw myself up? Thanks

You’ll end up playing with a pic, without and fingerpicking, all 3 have different uses and sounds, So its worth practicing all of them

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I am like you. I dislike the pick and would much rather play without it. My interests also lean towards finger style and classical styles as I learn.

I don’t think there is a right or wrong here, necessarily. I do think we should not abandon the pick completely. There is a lot of value to it and may be the better place for us beginners.

Additionally, learning both means moving a little slower. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just is.

I would venture that the sticking point may be when we start getting to songs that have some picking and some strumming. At this stage, I notice that this is harder without the pick. Quite a bit harder, probably because I am not yet very good at finger picking. So it makes a fun set of late beginner songs less reachable for a bit longer. If that makes sense.

In additional thought is that, if you are playing with others, you may find strumming without a pick leaves you in the background more. So you may want to feel comfortable if you need to pick (pun intended) one up sometime.


John, I think you can achieve many goals and play wonderful music without ever touching a pick. And no rule hard and fast rules. That said, there may well be music that demands a pick.

So I don’t see an issue in working through the first grades with just fingers. And if you find a need for a pick down the line then the price for that choice will be to pause at that point to pick up learning to play with the pick.

Perhaps the choice depends on your longer term musical aspirations?


Mark Knopfler and Lindsay Buckingham and a good many others don’t use a pic, I don’t very often but there are certain genres that wouldn’t be accessible (like Fusion or Metal), it might be useful to try it sometime.


The day will come when I will forsake my fingertips
The day will come when I will strike my strings with a plastic pick
The day will come when I shall shred
… But today is NOT that day!


Aragorn is back !!


You mean this fella?


I can’t find it on his new site (Richard I’m sure will remember) but Justin did a series of 1-2-1 lessons with lady and she had only ever used her fingers and never a pick. I think that would be a useful watch here as Justin explained quite well the advantages of using a pick (particularly in terms of dynamics for rhythm playing) AND she then started to apply this over a number of lessons.

Found the lessons they are here >> Tammys Lessons | JustinGuitar.com


Yes of course you can learn both. Nothing bad will come from that.

Using a pick gives a brighter sound and for me at least more control over the strings.

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I do wish I could strum without a pick. Some friends of mine can, it just doesn’t work for me.


Same here Tony but trying again recently on acoustic. Side of thumbs seems to be the best option opposed to fingers but what ever I use I end up getting snagged ! Guess its back to slow down and reset !



you might feel that you progress slower both mixing both and knowing when to use what technique is very valuable.

i still find using my hands the most direct and tactile and crucial when I do my solo stuff; quiet, intimistic, driven by deeper feeling.
When I rock out with my heavy metal band, I HAVE to use a pick or I’ll litterally shred my hand of :stuck_out_tongue:

by all means, do both and do what you feel like.
There will be lessons explaining you how to pick it best, up or down etc but that all changes when you pick with your hands. you’ll find out soon enough where it works and where it doesn’t.

you could have a preference but don’t drop playing with a pick completely.


I might not be an advanced player but I think the root of your question is what “forward” means. There are a lot of places you could aim for. I personally find both very appealing. This is why I am currently practicing Nothing else Matters combining both pick and fingerstyle (I stash the pick between the first and second finger for the intro and aim to pick-manipulate my way just before the harmonics).

To illustrate my point:

(Credit to @stitch for posting the welcome to the jungle cover)


I strum up with the back of my thumbnail, which I have a little long for fingerpicking, and down strum with the backs of all fingers (probably not the pinky, too short). Sometimes my down-strum may be a little flamenco like, of course without the flamenco flare and attack, because it feels good to me. If I need a cleaner sound on the strum, I can us just the index finger, but I really am not where I need that yet.

My advice is to develop at least basic proficiency with both (i.e., with a pick and without a pick). It’s okay to have a preference, and to be better at one than the other, but being able to do both is useful.


Yep, I’ve always been useless without a pick, and I really wish I could use thumb and index finger on an acoustic to strum. It’s something I’d like to work on along with the million other things lol

I’ve very occasionally pulled it off. It just needs more time and attention. Along with that other million things

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Fingernails men, fingernails. If necessary get thee to the nail salon for some acrylics. Justin used to use them. :nail_care:

Here’s John Butler’s acrylic nails. I’ve also seen his thumb nail shaped or perhaps worn down on the inner side into a crescent shape.


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Not really an option for me, as my preferred style is fingerstyle with the pads of my fingers :slight_smile:

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