Playing the guitar with a pick is one of the most popular ways to do it.
You might be wondering if you need a pick or not and whether there are any benefits to using one?
The answer is yes. A pick is required to play any guitar with steel strings, whether it’s acoustic or electric. Steel strings are harsh on the fingertips, and players who don’t use a pick will have sore fingers after playing.
In this article, I’ll take a closer look at why you need a pick to play guitar, and I’ll also discuss the different types of picks available.
I hope you’ll find it useful! Let’s get started…
What Is A Guitar Pick And Why Do I Need One?
A pick is a small, thin piece of plastic or tortex with three prongs.
You hold it between your thumb and index finger to strum the strings on your guitar.
The three prongs help you grip the pick securely.
They also keep your fingers in place while playing, so they won’t get in the way of your strumming hand or make it difficult to switch between chords quickly.
If you play an acoustic guitar without using a pick, you’ll damage your fingers due to the steel strings being tougher than nylon – which is what hangs in most acoustic guitars.
You’ll also have to wait for the calluses on your fingers to toughen up before you can play comfortably without a pick.
On top of that, it’s difficult to switch between chords quickly and accurately if you’re not using one.
That said, some acoustic guitarists (and players of other stringed instruments) only use their fingers to play.
The technique is called fingerstyle.
It involves using your fingertips instead of a pick – which means you don’t need much in the way of calluses.
Players who want more control over how they sound can also use fingerstyle.
By moving your fingers up and down the strings, you can create subtle variations in tone that are impossible to achieve with a pick alone.
Now let’s take a look at some of the different types of picks available…
Types of Guitar Picks
As you can probably guess, there are a lot of different types of picks out there.
However, the two most common ones are nylon and tortex picks.
Nylon Picks: These look similar to a guitar pick but they’re made from plastic instead of tortex or other materials. Nylon is softer than metal so it’s less likely to damage your strings.
It’s also less abrasive than tortex, which means it won’t wear down quickly and produce more sound when you play – although that might not be an issue for beginners since nylon picks are very cheap.
Compared to tortex picks, they’re kinder on the fingers of people who don’t have calluses.
Tortex Picks: These are made from a material called tortex, which is similar to nylon but harder and tougher – so it’s more likely to wear down your strings as you play.
It also produces brighter tones than nylon picks do because the individual strands of plastic create their own sound when they rub against the strings.
Tortex picks vary in thickness and shape, with some having a teardrop-like design that makes them easier to hold than an ordinary pick – which is why they’re also known as grip picks.
Other Picks: There are lots of other types of guitar picks too such as celluloid (which looks similar to tortex but is less hard-wearing), plexiglass, and rubber (which aren’t as soft or flexible).
Some of these picks are designed to produce a unique sound, while others make it easier for you to play certain styles.
Is It OK To Play Guitar Without A Pick?
I’ve already mentioned that playing an acoustic guitar without a pick is likely to damage your fingers.
However, some players don’t use picks because they want their sound and technique to stand out from those of other musicians.
As I said earlier, using your fingertips instead of a pick will give you greater control over the tone you produce – and that’s especially true for people who play fingerstyle.
As you can see, there are lots of reasons why guitarists use picks – and some players don’t need one to get their sound across!
Is It Better To Learn Guitar With Or Without A Pick?
As with most things in the world of guitar playing, it all depends on what you want to get out of your instrument.
It is completely fine to learn guitar without a pick. If you have calluses and are happy using them instead of a pick, then there’s no reason why not to try fingerstyle – especially if you’re interested in sounding distinctive or different from other guitar players.
However, some players don’t have calluses yet or want their sound to stand out from that of other musicians.
In that case, it’s better for you to use a pick – especially if you’re learning how to play the acoustic guitar with your fingers instead of using both hands at once.
Strumming chords on a steel-string guitar is more resonant and loud with a pick, and overall volume is greater.
The drawback to utilizing a pick is that string skipping (skipping over one or more strings) may be more difficult than when playing with fingers, e.g. when performing arpeggio patterns.
Should beginner guitar players use a pick?
If you’re a beginner, you may want to use a pick for strumming chords and playing rhythm.
However, it’s also possible to play lead guitar without a pick – especially if you’ve been practicing your fingerstyle technique from the start!
In fact, many players don’t realize that they can skip strings when they’re just starting out by using their fingers instead of a pick.
Some players also choose to play without using picks for fingerstyle because they want their sound and technique to stand out from those of other musicians – or are simply more comfortable with the lighter touch that you get when playing with fingers rather than gripping something hard in your hand!
Can I use my thumb as a pick?
It’s perfectly fine to strum with your thumb instead of a pick.
As I said before, some players don’t use picks because they’re interested in sounding distinctive or different from other guitarists – and using their thumb is one way for them to do that!
However, if you’re not a beginner and want to play lead guitar instead of strumming chords with your fingers, then it’s better for you to use your thumb as an anchor rather than trying to pick the strings.
In that case, many players prefer using their middle or index finger as a pick because they can get more speed out of their strums.
If you’re playing lead guitar, then it’s important to have a firm grip on your instrument – especially if you want to play fast!
Using just your thumb as an anchor will give you more flexibility and let your whole hand move around the neck of your guitar without having to worry about losing control over what happens.