Guitar Aficionado is supported by readers. If you buy something after clicking on one of our links, we may get an affiliate commission from that & it won't cost you anything.
The guitar is a mysterious instrument and has the capability to be able to be played in a multitude of different ways. Whether you’re a beginner learning from Guitar Tricks, or somebody who has been playing the guitar for a while, you might have wondered whether you can play the guitar without a pick.
Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we will answer all of your burning questions about whether you need a pick to learn the guitar.
Table of Contents
Do You Need A Pick To Learn Guitar?
The short answer to this question is: no, you do not need a pick to learn how to play the guitar. In fact, fingerstyle guitar is defined by the use of fingers (as opposed to a pick) to create a sonic tapestry of notes.
Fingerstyle guitar is featured prominently in a number of different musical genres ranging from jazz, blues, country, folk, and beyond. If the fingerstyle guitar style is not what you’re after, you can most certainly use your fingers to strum the strings, which gives a softer touch and warmer sound to your guitar.
Examples Of Well-Known Guitarists Playing Without A Pick
There are many notable guitarists that have played without a pick. To name a few, Mark Knopfler, of Dire Straits, is one of the most well-known guitarists who primarily uses his fingers.
John Mayer, who often uses a pick, is another guitarist who will opt to play with his fingers when the music calls for it. With this approach, he emulates a sort of Wes Montgomery/Albert Collins mentality to playing the guitar. Both Wes Montgomery and Albert Collins are well-known for their pick-less approach to the guitar.
Is It Better To Learn Guitar With Or Without A Pick?
If you’re wondering which approach to take with the guitar, take note that there is no “right way” that you should be playing. Much of your approach is going to depend on the style of music you play.
Someone that has an inclination towards metal music will likely want to use a pick. This is because metal music often has musical passages of intense rhythmic phrases as well as certain techniques that will be far easier to accomplish with a pick.
However, somebody that has an inclination to be a solo singer-songwriter can find great use with fingerstyle guitar. This approach allows you to create a seemingly complex-sounding accompaniment for vocals, which can make a song sound full.
Perhaps the best answer to this question overall is to become proficient in both approaches (with and without a pick). This will make you a well-rounded and versatile guitarist and allow you to be able to accommodate any musical situation in which you may find yourself.
How Can I Learn Guitar Without A Pick?
One of the best ways you can learn how to play the guitar without a pick is by taking lessons from a resource like Guitar Tricks. This is a very well-known repository of video lessons that have taught millions of guitarists the fundamental techniques inherent in rock, blues, and country music.
By using Guitar Tricks, you will have a very clear linear path to building the necessary skills to accomplish your musical goals. You’ll also be able to accurately learn many of your favorite songs along the way.
There are currently over 11,000 different video lessons available on the site, with contributions from over 40 different guitar teachers. You can take lessons on genre-specific techniques, practice techniques, as well as comprehensive studies on different musical artists.
One of the best features of Guitar Tricks is the fact that you can have access to one-on-one lessons with a number of different instructors (each with their own specialization). With this feature, you can receive personalized advice and guidance backed by years of experience to ensure that you are on the right path and learning the correct things.
With anything, it takes years of time and practice to become a master of a craft. The quickest and easiest way to mastery is to learn from the extensive years of experience provided and available on Guitar Tricks.
An added bonus to using Guitar Tricks is having access to a number of different tools to aid you in your practices. You will have access to a metronome, comprehensive chord charts, a fretboard trainer, a tuner, and a large library of backing tracks to practice your chops.
Is It Bad To Play Guitar Without A Pick?
It is not a bad thing to play the guitar without a pick. Doing so will give you a more intimate feeling of the guitar itself.
In many musical settings, playing without a pick may be more appropriate than playing with one. Mostly, it comes down to what your own personal preference is when it comes to actually playing the guitar.
The only way that playing without a pick might be a bad thing is if you do not take the time to advance your knowledge and skill level beyond the simple strumming of the guitar. This will leave you stuck in a box and can cause you to become uninspired with the instrument.
Again, taking lessons, whether it be through Guitar Tricks or with a private teacher can really help you to advance your skills. As guitarists, it is important to be (and remain) a lifelong student of music, as one cannot truly ever know everything there is to be known in the wide world of music.
Is It Easier To Play Guitar Without A Pick?
Depending on what you’re playing on the guitar, it might be far easier to play without a pick. Then again, there are situations where it might be easier to play with a pick as well.
For instance, playing passages that feature a combination of single-string notes might be far easier to play without a pick. This is especially true if two strings (located far apart, for example, the low E string and the B string) are to be struck at the same time, which can only really be played without a pick.
Similarly, complex picking patterns might be easier without a pick as you have more fingers available to readily accommodate the passage without having to worry about how to tackle the passage with a pick.
Sometimes, playing with a pick can become overcomplicated and cause a fair bit of confusion. Do I play with alternate picking? Economy picking? Start with an upstroke or downstroke?
Without a pick, your fingers are readily assigned to a specific string. This opens up an ability to play a passage with relative ease, often by means of which is more comfortable and easier for you.
Then again, there are situations where you will likely want to play with a pick. Using the aforementioned example of metal music, playing fast and complex rhythm patterns that require a distinct accented picking attack will be much easier with a pick.
Can I Play With A Pick And My Fingers?
The journey to becoming a well-rounded guitarist involves learning and using a wide range of different techniques to be equipped for any musical situation you may find yourself in. Because of this, there have emerged several different techniques revolving around the fingers and the pick.
The first technique is called Hybrid Picking, which utilizes a combination of a pick as well as the middle finger and ring finger. This opens up a “best of both worlds” approach that can be used in a number of different ways.
One of the most effective ways that hybrid picking is used is in country music (which you can learn about in Guitar Tricks). You may have heard the term “chicken pick’n,” which refers to the clucking chicken sound that the guitar makes when played a certain way.
Chicken pick’n can only be played with hybrid picking. It relies heavily on both the sound of the guitar pick as well as the sound of the fingers plucking the strings.
Another method to incorporate both picks and fingers is to practice switching between the guitar pick and your fingers in the middle of playing. This may not seem like much, but it is quite difficult to pull off without proper practice.
The key with this approach is to be able to start out in playing position with a guitar pick and then consciously hide the pick within your hand to allow your fingers to be able to play freely. Then, of course, switch back to being able to have the guitar pick in playing position again.
Can You Learn Guitar Without A Pick? Final Thoughts
Whether you play the guitar with or without a pick is completely dependent on your own personal preferences and the style(s) of music you wish to pursue. There are no hard-set rules on how you should play, as quite often, the “norms” of guitar are confronted by someone who chooses to do things their own way.
With that being said, it is in your best interest to be able to play guitar with and without a pick, even if it does feel hard to learn both. Being the most versatile guitarist you can be will give you an endless supply of inspiration and a number of different approaches that can spice up your music.
Side note, do you want to learn to play guitar songs the easy way? Learn how here – results are guaranteed!