Basic Picking Technique

Welcome to the second lesson of the Lead Guitar Quick-Start Series. In this video, we’ll be learning about the basics of picking on the guitar. We’ll start with some universal picking tips, downstrokes, and upstrokes. Once you’ve got the hang of those techniques we’ll combine them and learn how to alternate pick.

The first thing we’ll need to cover is picks. There are hundreds of options when it comes to choosing a guitar pick. It’s best to start with a medium, regular shaped pick. As you get more experienced, it’s worth it to experiment with other thicknesses and shapes.

The first tip for picking on the guitar is to relax. You don’t want any tension in your hand, arm, or shoulder. Everything should feel nice and loose. Playing with tension can potentially lead to injury and cause you to play inefficiently.

Quite often, newer guitar players will use big sweeping motions from their elbow when picking. Focus on picking from your wrist and keep your motions nice and small. You want to pick the string just enough for it to come through clearly. By using these efficient motions, your pick pick won’t travel so far away from the string when you need to play the next note.

As for pick grip, it really comes down to personal preference. Start by placing your thumb on the pick. Come down on the pick with your index finger. You’ll need to make some small adjustments to find what’s most comfortable to you. The important thing to keep in mind with pick grip is that everyone has a slightly different grip, so don’t worry too much if it looks different than someone else’s.

Another area of subjectivity is picking angle. Most guitar players angle the pick downward, some use a flat or parallel angle, and I’ve seen some who angle the pick upwards. Play around with different angles to find what works best for you.

Start off by just working on downstrokes. Practice making sure you’re hitting the string correctly and making small motions. Make sure you're not tensing up at all either. Stay relaxed and practice that until you feel comfortable. Once you have that down, you’ll want to try doing the same thing with upstrokes. Start slowly, and focus on relaxing. Once you’ve got the hang of both downstrokes and upstrokes you can combine them to perform a technique called alternate picking. Alternate picking is the main form of picking you’ll use when playing lead guitar.

Be sure to keep all these tips in mind while you’re practicing your picking technique. In the next lesson, we’ll take a look at your first scale: the major scale.

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