Decades of playing have resulted in arthritis in my right index finger from holding a pick and playing fast. I'm going to have to radically change my rhythm technique. First step is I'm going to have to stop playing steel string acoustic guitar and move to electric guitar. Second step is changing how I sound chords and play rhythm.

How do I play rapid rhythm patterns without using my right index finger?

  • 1
    I once saw a guy playing - very well - without a right hand at all. He had a pick on a wrist strap & wielded it like a pro. Just goes to show, where there's a will, there's a way.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 5, 2020 at 10:31
  • The current answer and comment assume you are playing with a pick. Are you flatpicking or playing fingerstyle? If you use a pick, I don’t think you need to give up the acoustic. As a flat picker myself I don’t see a technique difference at all between steel string acoustic and electric. If you play fingerstyle then switching to a pick might be just what you need. It is possible to play very fast with a pick using only wrist and elbow articulation. Nov 5, 2020 at 17:10
  • @ToddWilcox The switch to electric with my style will break strings if I'm not careful.
    – empty
    Nov 5, 2020 at 18:49
  • Have you considered that your over hard style of playing may have contributed to the condition, and thought that maybe it's not that good for the future? Breaking strings isn't a good way to play.
    – Tim
    Nov 5, 2020 at 19:55
  • @Tim that's the point. Sorry I wasn't clearer.
    – empty
    Nov 5, 2020 at 21:32

2 Answers 2


Can't see why steel strung acoustic is now having to take second place to an electric. Perhaps with reference to the left hand, but there should be very little difference right hand.

It depends how you've been holding your pick previously. Some use index and thumb, I use index, middle and thumb. Try middle and thumb, but strumming generally involves not holding the pick tightly. It needs to work like the windscreen wipers - 'feathering' for each stroke. This may well mean the pick flicking all over the room for a few weeks, but surely it's a good start.

  • 2
    This is exactly how I do it. I have twice damaged my index finger and have managed reasonably well using just my middle finger and thumb while I recover. Not quite as fast or accurate, but pretty close
    – Doktor Mayhem
    Nov 5, 2020 at 11:28
  • @DoktorMayhem Yeah I definitely have a problem with liking to dig into the strings and I have almost a speed-metal/funk style of playing with heavy picks. Hence the switch to electric where my style will break strings if I'm not careful. Middle finger is a good idea. I'll try that.
    – empty
    Nov 5, 2020 at 18:47

The solution I finally came up with was to use a thumb-pick braced by the middle and index fingers on an electric guitar.

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  • I'm not clear on how this differs from the solution already suggested....
    – Aaron
    Feb 20, 2023 at 5:13
  • @Aaron the existing answer doesn't mention a thumb pick so it's easy to read them as holding a regular pick with thumb and middle finger.
    – ojs
    Feb 20, 2023 at 12:58

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