Today I’m addressing a classic question. This question is often brought up by beginner guitar players, and tends to have a simple answer.
That question being “Should I play guitar with pick or fingers?”
There are times when you’ll need to use a pick, and times when you’ll need to use your fingers. Choosing when to play guitar with pick or fingers depends on desired tone, musical genre, execution of techniques, and personal preference.
Let’s explore this a bit more in-depth.
Table of Contents
What is picking and fingerstyle?
Picking is the use of a pick, also called a plectrum, to play notes.
Here’s an article on how to hold a guitar pick the right way.
Fingerstyle is the use of your fingers in order to play notes.
Fingerstyle is usually used for acoustic and classical guitar but is sometimes used on electric guitar as well.
The most common fingerstyle formation is called PIMA. You can read more about PIMA in this article.
Advanced technique using both: Hybrid picking
Hybrid Picking is the use of both the pick and fingers at the same time.
I personally use hybrid picking in my playing every day!
There are some incredible hybrid-picking guitar players. Some of my favorites are Shawn Lane, Eric Johnson, Tom Quayle, Gustavo Assis-Brasil, Tim Miller, and Brett Garsed.
The necessary technique needed to play something is oftentimes the deciding factor in choosing to use a pick or fingers.
You’ll definitely need a guitar pick to play metal guitar. On the contrary, you’ll definitely use fingerstyle if you’re playing classical guitar.
Some genres, such as jazz or blues, could go either way. It’s all based upon situation.
Is it easier to play guitar with pick or fingers?
As a whole guitar is easier to play with a pick. Using a pick will allow you to use more techniques than fingers alone permits.
I especially find it much easier to play lead guitar techniques with a guitar pick instead of fingers.
This does not mean that it’s impossible to play advanced techniques without a guitar pick, though! But it isn’t common.
One exception to this rule is Matteo Mancuso. He has an amazing fingerstyle technique.
When deciding to use a pick or fingers you’ll need to consider tone.
As a general rule, you have a wider diversity of tones available when you are using a guitar pick.
But that does not mean you should dismiss the use of fingers. Fingers are necessary for some genres!
When is it better to play guitar without a pick?
It is better to play guitar without a pick when you need softer tones or dynamics. This is especially true for classical music and fingerstyle acoustic guitar.
A guitar pick is better to use when playing louder music, on the contrary. This includes rock, blues, country, funk, and even bluegrass. Most of the best bluegrass guitar players are incredible flatpickers!
In the end it will depend on what’s necessary for the music!
Pick or Fingers Summary
To sum up, the decision to play guitar with a pick or fingers depends on the techniques and tones being used in your playing.
You’ll want to use a guitar pick for advanced guitar techniques and loud tones. You’ll use fingerstyle for songs that originally use it, and for songs that need softer tones.
Most importantly, don’t forget that it usually comes down to your preference!
Experiment with using the pick and fingers separately, or work to bring them together using hybrid picking!
And lastly, remember to have fun, and rock on!