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Do I Need a Pick to Play Guitar? Or Can I just Use my Fingers

Last updated: June 14, 2019 by Nate 5 Comments

A lot of guitarists ask the question “do I need a pick to play guitar” or can I just use my fingers?

So, is it necessary?

I’m going to say yes.

But of course the answer is no!

Of course you don’t need a pick to play guitar – you can play guitar without it. And in fact there are times when it is better to play without a pick – the obvious being when playing fingerstyle of course.

What is Fingerstyle?

Fingerstyle guitar is when you play the strings on your right hand by plucking the strings with your individual fingers and thumb as opposed to strumming or flat picking where you use a pick or one finger or thumb.

Some people fingerpick with their fingernails and others with the pads of the finger.

So in this case you of course you don’t need a pick. But you won’t always be playing fingerstyle…

Why You Should Learn to Play with a Pick

So, if I’m not playing fingerstyle why can’t I just use my nail or my thumb to strum and flat pick?

Well you can – and in some cases you might even want to in order to get a certain desired sound.

However, you definitely want to learn to play with a pick because there are certain sounds you can create with a pick and you can get a certain feel with a pick that you just can’t get out of your fingers.

If you aren’t playing with a pick and only with your fingers then I definitely suggest learning to play with a pick. Of course you don’t always have to use it but there are often times when it just sounds better and more dynamic.

Also for Volume

The other reason why you should have “playing with a pick” in your repertoire is that you can extract more volume using a pick than you can with your fingers.

Couldn’t I Just Learn to Play with my Fingers and Introduce a Pick Later?

Absolutely that’s an option…. but it’s not the best option in my opinion.

If you do it this way you become a lot more comfortable using your fingers and don’t feel natural using a pick. This will make it much more difficult using a pick later on and you may not be able to motivate yourself to play with a pick later if you know you can play better and more naturally without it.

So if you are a beginner, learn to play both with and without a pick right from the outset. This will make it easier down the line and make you a more versatile player in the long run.

Of course you can always pick up (pun intended) playing with a pick later on but it’s just a bit more effort doing it that way.

Like with learning a language it’s a lot easier to do when you are first learning to talk than after you’ve already been speaking one language for a long time.

What Type and Thickness of Pick Should I Use?

If you aren’t already aware, picks come in different thicknesses. If you look closely at the image at the start of this post you’ll see that it has the thickness written on it. In the case of that pick it’s 0.46mm.

There are a few different factors to consider when choosing the best pick for you. Check out the link below for a good discussion on pick material, thickness, shape and texture.

Final Thoughts

Of course you can learn to play the guitar and never play with a pick.

But I think you are limiting what you can do on the guitar if you do that and you could a much more versatile player and, with certain songs and certain techniques, you won’t be getting the most out of your guitar.

The best time to learn is when you first start learning the guitar but it can be picked up later – it’s just a bit more effort.

Thanks for reading. I hope this answers the question whether or not you should learn to play guitar with a pick. What do you think? Do you think picks are necessary?
>>Learn how to choose the best pick for you

A lot of guitarists ask the question, do I need a pick to play guitar or can I just use my fingers? So, is it necessary? Learn more!