Improve Your Picking Technique for Beginning Guitar Players

Author: Ed Cupler

Picking Technique - Guitarist Paul KleffFor beginning guitar players, learning to control and direct their pick hand is often difficult and frustrating. Fixing the picking problem lies in getting yourself set up in the best way possible so that your picking hand will feel confident and produce the picking tone that you want. You can quickly improve your guitar picking technique by learning the best way to position your guitar pick hand and grip the pick. This lesson will help get you on the right path to confident and consistent downstroke guitar picking.

Today’s lesson will show you a simple way to get your pick hand properly set up for single note picking on the guitar. Learning the setup is easy, and if you have been struggling to get control of your pick hand, the benefits of learning the correct pick hand setup will come quickly.

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Developing the ability to locate the right string at the right time by feel is extremely important because it will allow you to pick without having to watch your pick hand and the strings.

If your picking hand feels “unsure” when you pick and you have a hard time picking the correct string when you play, this lesson will also help attain a feeling of stability in your hand and it will be much easier for you to pick the correct string at the correct time.

Learn correct picking hand placement by watching this free picking lesson video.

Before we work through the entire picking etude, let’s look at the picking part in isolation. The picking part of the etude consists of playing the third, second and first strings in that order using a downstroke. The picking sequence looks like this:

Tablature 1:

Gutar Tablature - Improve Your Picking Technique for Beginning Guitar Players

Play the three note sequence using all downstrokes. Be sure that all the notes are sounding clearly and cleanly and that your tempo is steady. Do not worry about speed—this is about getting a good, even sound out of the notes with your pick hand. Repeat the picking sequence several times.

Once you are able to play the repeating sequence at an even tempo, try playing it without watching your pick hand. Keep your eyes closed or look straight ahead. How does this feel now?

Are you able to still play the picking sequence as well as you could while watching your hand? If you are having difficulty playing it without looking at your hand, the problem most likely lies in your pick hand setup. Let’s fix this problem so you will be able to play the sequence without watching your pick hand.

Getting the best pick hand position for picking the sequence involves letting the side of your picking hand rest lightly near the bridge on the front of the guitar. The sensation in your pick hand when you place it in this position should be very similar to the feeling in your hand when you hold a pen to write.

View a free picking video demonstration of the correct picking hand position and technique.

When you hold a pen and write, the side of your hand rests lightly on the table top which gives you a feeling of stability and control over the pen. If the side of your hand is not resting on the desk top, it is more difficult to make the small, precise motions that single not picking requires. The control of the pick is very similar to the control of the pen—you need the stability that this hand position gives you in order to maintain control when you pick.

With your pick hand now in a better position, try playing the picking sequence again without looking at your pick hand. You should feel that your pick hand is more stable and in control and that it is much easier to locate and pick the correct string without looking at your picking hand.

Repeat the picking sequence several times while making sure that your hand is in the new position. Try it while looking at your pick and then while not watching your hand.

Now we can add the fret hand part and play the entire downstroke picking etude. The fret hand part is very simple so that you can focus your attention on your pick hand. Focus your eyes on your fret hand to be sure you are playing the correct notes and allow your picking hand to feel the correct position while picking the strings. Remember to pick slowly and to keep an even tempo as you play. There should be no gaps in your sound when your fret hand changes from one position to the next.

Tablature 2:

Gutar Tablature - Improve Your Picking Technique for Beginning Guitar Players

Keep in mind that the primary focus of the downstroke picking etude is to help you learn to maintain a pick hand position that will allow you to develop your picking technique so that you will be able to pick cleanly and confidently without looking at your pick hand. Maintain the pick hand position where the side of your pick hand rests near the bridge throughout the etude and let your hand learn to feel the location of the strings.

Keep your picking hand in the correct position and it will have greater stability which will give you more confidence and the ability to play the correct strings at the right time without having to watch your pick hand all the time.

Great sounding guitar playing is the result of good guitar technique. In turn, good technique is much easier to achieve with the correct setup. Whenever you experience problems with any area of your guitar technique, go back and review your setup to make sure it is sound.

See a full demonstration of the downtroke picking etude in this guitar lesson video.

About the Author

Guitarist Paul Kleff is a guitar teacher and plays in the band FireWolfe. Get more beginner guitar lessons and articles at

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