It there any difference between holding a pick in a fist like this

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and with your fingers sticking out like this:

enter image description here

I've found that most online guitar lessons teach it the first way, but I've noticed some bands pick using the second way.


7 Answers 7


From what I hear other players say, there is no definitive 'right' or 'wrong' way to hold your pick. It depends a lot on personal preference, comfort, and playing style.

For example, an acoustic strummer may want to hold the pick with the thumb on one side, and using the index and middle finger on the other to hold it. A folk guitarist may want to employ the technique demonstrated in the second link you provided, so they are free to fingerpick if they wish to.

If your pick holding is causing you aching in your fingers or hand, you may want to think about trying a new position, because this is your hand telling you that you are doing something not quite right.


In both pictures, the pick is being held between the thumb and index finger in essentially the same manner (it's impossible to tell quite how the index finger is placed in the first picture). The only difference is how you hold your non-active fingers. Since they are not doing anything, by definition, it doesn't really matter how you do it. It's mostly a matter of comfort and won't make a huge difference to picking style.

Personally, I use a closed fist when strumming so that I don't get my fingers caught up in the strings. I use an open hand when playing single notes or lead as I find I have slightly better articulation of my thumb and index finger to control pick attack, and occasionally to pick using just the motion of the thumb and finger (and as mentioned to do hybrid picking).

Mostly, I think it's preference though. Whatever feels more comfortable. Just make sure that if you're making a fist, it's not tense. Your right hand should always be loose.


The former gives more control and is especially good for heavy downpicking while the latter is for hybrid picking


May be when you will be good enough / satisfied by your skill level, you might end up making a new style for yourself :)


I think both images reflect same technique. That's the standard (or recommended way). The difference is in how you lean the other 3 fingers, but that's another scope.

Basically, I'd say there is three typical ways of holding the pick, and I used them all.

I tell you my experience in case it's interesting. 15 years playing acoustic guitar auto-didactly. Evolving constantly.

I started holding it like most amateurs, with index and middle in one side and the thumb in the other one. All fingers appointing the edge of the pick. I think that's the technique best suited for strumming so I still use it. It gives you plenty of control and allows you to sound very mellow and sweet, like caressing strings, just by relaxing a bit the amount of pressure.

Then I started with licks and solos, and I evolved to essentially same attach but without the middle finger. I need to press stronger, and leave less edge, and I also subconsciously rotate a bit the angle. For slow or melodic solos, I find it the most natural and sweet sound.

Then I abandoned on purpose the pick for ever and I was like 7 or 8 years only playing with fingers, and learning arpeggios (yes, it's an acoustic guitar!). But suddently I learned syncopated fingerpicking, and then the thumb became really trained.

Finally, I started studying the way guys do fingerpicking with a pick. The single way to do that is by facing the edge of the pick perpendiclarly and stroke with the whole arm instead of the wrist so you can free your remaining fingers. Steve Howe was the one that lead me to change my pattern after 15 years. Know what? All that impossible pick holdings I have tried in the past (even the fingerpicking thumb pick) made sense suddently!! Wow, it was completely intuitive for me using it that way finally, unlike before, thanks to getting the idea of travis fingerpicking.

Now I am amazed about what I have been missing. With the new adopted holding, the one in your picture, I see a milimetrical control over the stroke, I can go totally fast, using tremolo picking, free my other fingers, easier/cleaner palm mute... and the pick is much safer so it does not escape/fall.

The only drawbacks I find are that is marginally more difficult for me to jump from one string to the other, especially big jumps, and that sound is a bit more aggressive and muted, like more bluesy. The amateurish way allowed me to control the tone better, but I might be a bit picky (no pun intended :) ) on all this.

Obviously there are big virtuosos that still use their first approach and master it perfectly, but technically, I'd say that this holding is the way to go if you plan to become a versatile player in the future.

  • Great answer! Coming from finger picking only (incl. syncopated picking) but finally going back to the basics to learn how to use a pick, this answer really helped me out to decide what to begin with. Thanks!
    – dfrib
    Jul 13, 2018 at 23:01

I agree with yossarian.

I don't see a difference between those two grips. To me, the pick is being graped between the thumb and the index finger, which is "correct".

What the other fingers are doing is not that relevant - you will curl those fingers up, or perhaps hold them against the body of the guitar (for support). Fanning them out is useful when tremolo picking. You'll just do with them what feels natural depending on what you are doing.

With practice, it should just become a natural part of your technique and you won't think much about how they are placed.

The free fingers can also be used to hide the pick while you are playing, so you can switch to finger-picking.

The important part of what those pictures demonstrate is that the pick is perpendicular to the thumb. Holding the pick at that angle is what I consider the "best" approach.

You'll be able to attack the strings cleaner, harder and you'll be able to pull off artificial harmonic much easier and at will with that grip.


There is likely no "perfect" grip or hand position. However, part of more advanced playing is learning to manipulate the pick as you're playing. Extending the pick a bit for a more forceful tone, retracting it for more muting or even actively fingertip-muting (Al DiMeola refers to this as his "Mutola" technique." As well, different angles of attack can alter the tone. As long as you don't drop them all the time.....Should be good.

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