5 Most Important Picking Techniques

Picking techniques are very important for the development of guitar players. If you play electric or acoustic guitar, these techniques will make the difference when you’re playing guitar songs.

In this article, I’ll explain the best guitar picking techniques, and how you can achieve mastery of them. Let’s go.

Why Improving Your Picking Techniques?

Using the pick to play the guitar is not necessary, but it is a highly regarded skill, especially if you’re playing electric guitar.

The most important thing to develop here is a combination of techniques that will give you a greater range of music expression. This is essencial for your development as a guitar player.

Single Picking

The basic picking technique is needed to play single notes on the guitar.

The strategy for good picking play is based on hold the pick at a comfortable position. You need to hold it between the thumb and the index fingers, and directly again the desired string.

The movement for single picking should be precise and fast. It may be a little difficult for beginners, but if you practice a few minutes each day you can achieve excellent skills.

Alternate Picking

The next important technique to practice is alternate picking. In this mode of picking the goal is to be able to use the pick with down and up strokes. 

The movement for alternate picking is similar to single picking, but needs to be repeated to the upside.

When using alternate picking you will be able to play with higher velocity, because you need to spend less time between strokes. The result is a more fluid way of playing, and faster notes.

Brush Strokes

Brush strokes are a technique of using the thumb to play the guitar strings. You can do this to play simple or complex accompaniments on the guitar.

While brush strokes are more useful with acoustic instruments, and not frequently used on the electric guitar, it  is still useful to be able to play fast brush strokes. 

This style of playing is very easy to practice, since you can use several rock songs and play chords over them. This is how many guitar players started to use the instrument.

Sweep Picking

The sweep picking technique is used to improve even more the speed of playing the guitar. With sweep picking, you move the pick quickly across two or more strings, in a fluid movement.

Sweep picking is different from normal picking in which you don’t move the pick up after attacking each string. 

It is also different from simple strumming, because you have to make each string sound individually.

Sweep picking is a more advanced style of playing, because it take more time to get used to the necessary hand movements. Also, you need to be able to effectively damp the strings that are not being played. This may not be so easy when starting to practice this style.

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Economy Picking

Economy Picking is a mix of sweep picking and alternate picking. Effectively, this is a style that tries to reduce at the maximum the number of movements needed to play a sequence of notes.

Some guitar players like Frank Gambale became associated to economy picking, having developed complex methodologies to reduce your guitar picking effort.

Finger Picking

Finger picking is the technique of playing the guitar with your fingers. This is the preferred method used by classical guitar players, because it gives the most independence and speed for complex pieces.

Finger picking is also used on regional styles that use the acoustic guitar. Moreover, it can also be used on the electrical guitar for certain effects.

A few jazz guitar players are also adept to finger picking.

When it comes to classical guitar players, there are two main styles for finger picking:

  • Nail picking, when the guitar player uses the nail to pluck the strings. This method is used by most classical guitar players, because it gives great control and higher sound volume.
  • Finger tip playing, when the player uses only the flash in the tip of the finger. This way, a more mellow sound is produced.

Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking is the combined use of a pick and finger playing. By doing this, you can get the best of both worlds. 

Usually, the player will use the pick to play the bass notes and lower strings, while use the fingers to play on the higher strings.

Some jazz players are adept of hybrid picking, but it can also be used in pretty much any musical style.

Learning More About Picking Techniques

If you want to learn more about guitar picking techniques, you should get our complete guitar picking manual. In this concise but complete manual you’ll learn about extended picking techniques, exercises, video information, and sample songs for practice.

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