Do I Need a Pick to Play Guitar? Or Can I just Use My Fingers

Published Categorized as Guitar lessons, Other Lessons and Tips
do i need a pick to play guitar

A lot of guitarists ask the question, “do I need a pick to play guitar? Or can I just use my fingers?”

So, is it necessary?

I’m going to say yes.

But of course the answer is no!

Wait, what?

Of course you don’t need a pick to play guitar – you can play guitar without it. And in fact there are times when it is better to play without a pick – the obvious being when playing fingerstyle of course.

Table of Contents

What is Fingerstyle?

Fingerstyle guitar is when you play the strings on your right hand by plucking the strings with your individual fingers and thumb as opposed to strumming or flat picking where you use a pick or one finger or thumb.

Some people fingerpick with their fingernails and others with the pads of the finger.

So in this case you of course you don’t need a pick. But you won’t always be playing fingerstyle?

Why You Should Learn to Play with a Pick

So, if I’m not playing fingerstyle why can’t I just use my nail or my thumb to strum and flat pick?

Well you can – and in some cases you might even want to in order to get a certain desired sound.

However, you definitely want to learn to play with a pick because there are certain sounds you can create with a pick and you can get a certain feel with a pick that you just can’t get out of your fingers.

If you aren’t playing with a pick and only with your fingers then I definitely suggest learning to play with a pick. Of course you don’t always have to use it but there are often times when it just sounds better and more dynamic.

Also for Volume

The other reason why you should have “playing with a pick” in your repertoire is that you can extract more volume using a pick than you can with your fingers.

Couldn’t I Just Learn to Play with my Fingers and Introduce a Pick Later?

Absolutely that’s an option, but it’s not the best option in my opinion.

If you do it this way, you will become a lot more comfortable using your fingers or nails, and you won’t feel natural when introducing a pick. Some people learn how to play guitar with long nails so they don’t have to use a pick, but this can make it much more difficult using a pick later on and you may not be able to motivate yourself to play with a pick later if you know you can play better and more naturally without it.

So if you are a beginner, learn to play both with and without a pick right from the outset. This will make it easier down the line and make you a more versatile player in the long run.

Of course you can always pick up (pun intended) playing with a pick later on but it’s just a bit more effort doing it that way.

Like with learning a language it’s a lot easier to do when you are first learning to talk than after you’ve already been speaking one language for a long time.

What Type and Thickness of Pick Should I Use?

If you aren’t already aware, picks come in different thicknesses. If you look closely at the image at the start of this post you’ll see that it has the thickness written on it. In the case of that pick it’s 0.46mm.

There are a few different factors to consider when choosing the best pick for you. Check out how to find your pick for a good discussion on pick material, thickness, shape and texture.

Final Thoughts

Of course you can learn to play the guitar and never play with a pick.

But I think you are limiting what you can do on the guitar if you do that and you could a much more versatile player and, with certain songs and certain techniques, you won’t be getting the most out of your guitar.

The best time to learn is when you first start learning the guitar but it can be picked up later – it’s just a bit more effort.

Thanks for reading. I hope this answers the question whether or not you should learn to play guitar with a pick. What do you think? Do you think picks are necessary?

Learn how to choose the best pick for you over on my blog!

FAQs

Is it OK to play guitar without a pick?

Absolutely, it’s perfectly okay to play guitar without a pick! Playing without a pick, often referred to as fingerstyle or fingerpicking, is a popular and traditional way to play both acoustic and electric guitars.

Is fingerpicking better than using a pick?

Whether fingerpicking is “better” than using a pick really depends on the style of music you’re playing, the sound you want to achieve, and your personal preference. Both techniques have their unique advantages and can be used effectively in different musical contexts.

Is it easier to learn guitar with a pick or fingers?

The ease of learning guitar with a pick versus using your fingers depends largely on your personal preferences, the style of music you’re interested in, and what feels more natural for your playing.

Is it harder to play with pick or fingers?

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

5 comments

  1. I’ve tried a few times to play the guitar. I never stuck with it though. Those times I did try, I used a pick. I think the pick is easier on the fingers. I’m guessing, those who play with their fingers build up a tolerance or maybe calluses.

    I do have a question though. For those who start with a pick, wouldn’t it be as difficult to transition to thumb as it is to transition from thumb to pick?

    As I said, I’m not a serious player, so I wouldn’t know.

    1. Hey Renee

      Thanks for your input.

      I think that you’re right that it would be just as hard to transition from playing with a pick to playing with your thumb or fingers – which is why you should learn both from the beginning.

      Yeah a pick can be easier on the fingers but like you say callouses do get built up.

  2. It kind of sounds stupid but I do have this question when I start learning the guitar. I don’t like having too many tools and wanted to just play with my fingers.

    So now I see that playing with and without a pick makes a difference. I have always been using my fingers all along.

    Are there different types of picks or are they just the same (technical-wise)?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers.
    Anh

    1. Hey Anh

      Thanks for your message. Yeah my brother just plays with his fingers and always has – me and my other brother have been trying to convince him for years to use a pick!

      There’s definitely different types of picks – and they work better for different things – I’m just finishing writing up a post about how to choose the best pick for different purposes.

      I’ll post the link to that here once published. But just quickly – a thinner, more flexible pick is general good for acoustic guitar when used as an accompaniment – and is only really used for strumming. A more medium thickness is the most versatile and can be used for a bit of everything and thicker picks are typically for playing lead and usually used with electric guitars – but that’s a very quick summary – I’ll link to that other post when it’s done.

      Update: How to Choose The Right Pick for You

  3. Hi I’ve been playing ukulele for years now and have really started to learn guitar. I find what I call the ‘clacking’ sound of a pick to be so off-putting that I don’t know if I’m doing something wrong or if its just a horrendous sound that I just have to get used to. I don’t seem to hear the sound on other folks playing guitar so I feel like I’m doing something wrong…

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