How to Develop Your Picking Technique for Beginner Guitar Players

This guitar lesson will help you to achieve the best position and feel in your picking hand that will allow you to get control of your guitar picking.

Ultimate Guitar
Nearly all beginning guitarists struggle with control, accuracy and confidence in their picking hand. Difficulty in locating the correct string when picking and a weak sounding, inconsistent tone are the primary struggles for beginning guitarists. Good guitar picking starts with using the correct picking setup that will allow your pick hand to easily and accurately play the correct string at the right time while giving you a consistent sound. Your pick hand setup is the key to good picking technique - get in a good position and you have a much better chance of getting good results.

This guitar lesson will help you to achieve the best position and feel in your picking hand that will allow you to get control of your guitar picking. You will learn the correct hand setup that will help you to create a good tone when you pick and allow you to get consistency in you picking. Learning the correct hand setup is the key to great guitar picking results.

The correct pick hand position creates a confident feel in your pick hand that will allow you to stop watching your guitar strings and hand when you pick. As you may already know, it is very hard to play in time and with any type of consistency if you have to continually move the focus of your eyes from your pick hand to your fret hand many times while playing a song. Good pick hand positioning will make it so you will not need to look at your hand and the guitar strings in order to play the correct string.

Let's look at a guitar picking song that you can play to start developing your pick hand. The fret hand part to this song is very easy since you want to be able to focus you attention on your pick hand. The picking pattern for this song uses the third, second and first strings and a pick motion where you will play them in that order. Here is the picking pattern:

Tablature 1:

This sequence of picked notes should be played using downstrokes with your picking hand. Practice this picking pattern for a few minutesplay it slowly and evenly. And most importantly, make sure that all the notes are sounding clearly.

Got it? Make sure you are comfortable playing this three string picking sequence.

Let's make things a little more difficult. Close your eyes and try to play this sequence without watching your pick hand. Do you have trouble locating and picking the correct string with your pick hand when you close your eyes? Although the three string note sequence is very easy memorize and learn, it can be difficult to play if your do not position your pick hand in the correct picking position.

You can watch this free picking video to see the correct way to set up your pick hand so you can learn to pick without having to watch your pick hand.

If you are having a difficult time locating the correct string with your hand with your eyes closed, let's look at how we can make it much easier to pick the right string at the right time. To get a more stable feeling in your pick hand, rest the side of your pick hand on the top of the guitar near the bridge. If your pick hand was floating away from the front of the guitar while you were playing before, this change in the position of your pick hand will make a world of difference in your picking accuracy.

The feeling in your pick hand should be very similar to how it feels when you write with a pen or pencil. When you write, your hand rests lightly on the desktopnot usually floating above it. If your hand floats or hovers above the table top when you write, you will feel like you don't have much control over the pen. This same idea holds true for your hand when picking notes on the guitar, as well. This one change in your pick hand position will greatly improve your single note picking accuracy.

To get your pick hand accustomed to this new hand position, play the sequence of notes for a few minutes without and fret hand fingerings. Notice the feeling of security in your pick hand and how you increase your ability to locate the correct string with your pick when the side of your pick hand rests near the bridge of the guitar.

Here is the full downstroke picking etude - a song that you can play that will help you ingrain the feel and picking motion into your pick hand. Remember the following when you play it:
  1. Rest the side of your pick hand near the bridge
  2. Play slowly and evenly with your pick hand.
  3. Don't look at your pick hand (at least part of the time) when you play it.
  4. Let your pick hand learn to feel where the correct string are.
  5. Use any finger you wish to fret the notesthis song is about developing the pick hand.

With some practice, your pick hand will become more comfortable with the position and you will be able to feel where the strings are when you are picking. The resting position of the side of the pick hand will help you feel secure in your picking.

Good guitar picking technique starts with the correct hand setup. Remember to practice slowly and pick evenly. Be aware of how your picking hand feels when you are using the correct hand setup. You will be able to feel where the correct strings are without having to watch your pick hand. Invest some of your daily practice time into playing the downstroke picking etude and your picking technique will improve in just a short time.

This guitar picking lesson video will show you how to pick and play the guitar picking etude in this lesson.

About The Author:
Paul Kleff is a guitar instructor and guitarist with the band FireWolfe. Visit for more free resources and lessons designed to help beginning guitar players improve their guitar playing.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    My Last Words
    "Guitar picking lesson video" requires name and email. Just **** off already, if you really want to help people then just upload the video on YouTube.
    smithfor ak0
    Ahem Kristopher Dahl, doing a better job at showing beginners and intermediates how to do everything, than anyone else since 2006...for free.
    Not bad, but this way beginners are gonna develop what I call a "Hetfield's right hand". You could have added some upstroke exercises as well.
    Glass Prisoner
    I don't think all downstrokes for a complete beginner is all that bad, and if he/she wants an upstoke exercise this can be played backwards? But I think the best way to play this is down, down, up. As in, down on G, down on B, up on E. That's the way most play it.
    Depends on the style of music someone wants to play. Not sure why this article has such a low rating....maybe because the video requires a name and email.
    Guys c'mon, Jon Schaffer is the king of downstrokes. Literally..
    Oh my bad didn't see the sweep part. YouTube has tons of sweep tutorials.
    I've made $64,000 so far this year working online and I'm a full time student. Im using an online business opportunity I heard about and I've made such great money. It's really user friendly and I'm just so happy that I found out about it. Heres what I do, Red97dotcom
    i want to learn how t lay the acoustic guitar can yu help by posting beginig lessons , how to start ect. thank you i relly appreciate it
    I'm a baby guitar player, I just started a week ago and been putting in 4 hours everyday from day one so far. I found this exercise and tips useful for my skill development. I don't know why a lesson meant for beginner got so much negativity about down strumming. It's for beginners! I'm a beginner and down strumming was hard enough anyways at my level. Besides, like a read from another comment, I can just do down, down, up or the whole thing backwards for complete up strumming. It doesn't require much brains for even a new player like me to find out for myself the different ways I can strum at one exercise. So I say, this was a good lesson for beginners and we are all human, no one makes a perfect lesson anyways.
    i want too learn how to sweep pick more cleanly and preferably faster any advice
    Johan Maritz
    Thanks for the lesson It helped me as beginner at the age of 50 First time leaning to play guitar. THANKS FOR THE EASY TO FOLLOW LESSONS
    I think these instructions are really good. I am 71 and just learning to play the guitar. Why not? I won't play in a band but I will enjoy learning to play the guitar in my leisure and for family or friends. As you get older you need to keep learning or you may lose the ability.