Guitar Picking Technique for Beginners
Apr 3 2015
Beginners sometimes have substantial issues when they start learning guitar as they try to play individual strings. They hit the wrong string, too many strings, completely miss the guitar or hit the strings out of rhythm with the song. All these issues tend to stem from the same technical issue. After learning basic guitar chords, most beginners initially learn how to strum the guitar, first. The problem is that strumming and picking the guitar are different techniques. Even most skilled guitarists would have trouble trying to strum individual strings. In addition, while strumming does work well in the situations it is used, it is a very inefficient technique for hitting individual strings, even if you are capable of strumming that accurately.
One thing that helps to pick strings properly when learning guitar is to get out of the mindset that you are trying to hit the string. It might seem like a minor distinction, but it can make a difference in how you subconsciously try to move your hands. In addition, take it slow when you first start picking the strings as you learn guitar. It is more important to be accurate than fast. Once you can hit every string at will, building speed with this technique is actually fairly easy. However, trying to build accuracy after building up your speed is extremely difficult.
Start by resting the pick on top of the string you want to play. The pick should look like you paused your hand midway through playing the string. Once the pick is in place, push the pick through the string so that it ends up on top of the next string down. It takes some practice to get the amount of force just right. You do not want to use too much force and accidentally play more than one string.
The method mentioned already is referred to as a down stroke. The up stroke is played using a fairly similar technique. Instead of resting the pick on top of the string, you place it on the bottom of it. Once the pick is in place, you pull the pick through the string so that the pick is resting on the bottom of the next highest string.
The picking motion might seem a little slow as you start to learn guitar, but it speeds up significantly with practice. Picking is not actually a two step process once you get the hang of it. Breaking it down into those steps is just a useful training method for developing accuracy as you learn. The main difficulty is developing the accuracy to hit the correct guitar string each time. The two step process helps condition you into not hitting the wrong string, since you are not going to play a string until after your pick is on the correct one. You can tell your picking abilities are progressing once this feels like one step.
This technique can also be used to hit multiple strings. It is very useful when you need to hit specific strings during a song. For example, trying to strum the two middle strings without hitting any of the other strings is fairly difficult. The exact same technique is used. The only difference is that instead of pushing through one string, you are going to push through two or three strings. As you learn guitar, you should get used to picking individual strings before learning to do this on multiple strings.