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Guitar Picking For Beginners–Learn How to Develop Your Pick Hand Control

Beginning guitar players often experience frustration with their pick hand technique. Their pick hand may feel unstable, it is difficult to play in time with the music and get a good guitar tone. This downstroke guitar picking lesson will help you learn how to get your picking hand in the best position so that that you can get a confident feel and sound in your guitar picking. The end result is an increase in your picking confidence and the ability to locate and pick individual strings without having to watch your pick hand all the time.

Learning and using 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.

Watch a guitar picking video that will demonstrate how to set yourself up for guitar picking success.

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.

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:

picking for beginners

This sequence of picked notes should be played using downstrokes with your picking hand. Practice this picking pattern for a few minutes—play 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.

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 desktop—not 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.


Tablature 2:

 Guitar Picking For Beginners

 Remember the following when you play the etude:


  1. Play slowly and evenly with your pick hand.
  2. Rest the side of your pick hand near the bridge
  3. Let your pick hand learn to feel where the correct strings are.
  4. Don’t look at your pick hand (at least part of the time) when you play it.
  5. Use any finger you wish to fret the notes—this song is about developing the pick hand.


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.

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.

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.

See and hear the downstroke picking etude in this free guitar downstroke picking video.


About the author: Paul Kleff is a guitar teacher in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has written instructional articles and lessons and presented guitar instructional clinics throughout the USA. For more articles and lesson videos visit

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