Albert King always used his fingers to pluck the strings…

Stevie Ray Vaughan pretty much always used a pick…

Robben Ford uses sort of a “claw” with both the pick and his fingers…

Which one are you?

Why not all of them, or even more besides?

A lot of people think you play with your fingers OR you play with a pick…

And that seems silly to me 🙂

The choice is always clear based on the sound I want to hear. So I’ll give you some ideas and let you start playing around with getting some sounds you might not have used before.

Regardless, let’s talk about it:


    18 replies to "Pick, Fingers, Claw… Yes!"

    • Scott Snellgrove

      Or Chris Buck … all three

    • Bruce (Doc) Frazer

      Reminds me of a story Jeff Beck tells on himself. He was playing a blistering solo down on the front edge of the stage, twenty feet or more from his mic stand (which was where his spare picks were), when the “plectrum” pops out of his fingers—he watched it fall several feet into the orchestra pit. He concludes by saying that this was the end of his using a pick!

    • Thomas A Ward

      When finger-picking I can approximate the sound of a pick using my fingernails by either plucking the string with the nail that is sticking out or brushing the other side of the nails to strum.

    • Chris G

      Good lesson Griff, thank you. Vance and Glenn below mentioned losing their grip on the pick. I used to have the same problem, using a “traditional” teardrop-shaped pick; it used to slip, I’d drop it (into the acoustic !), etc. Then I found a large, triangular-shaped pick (in about 1975) and I haven’t used anything else since then. Never drop it, it doesn’t slip, and I can pick with all three “corners”. I even use the edge occasionally when strumming, for a very “feathery” sound and soft touch. I can Hybrid-pick like Griff demonstrated. It’s an all-round winner. I believe Carlos Santana uses triangular picks but it looks like he holds his with thumb and TWO fingers. Anyway, that’s my $0.02 worth.
      Chris G in Australia.

    • Donovan Hulbert

      Always love to watch Mark Knopfler play guitar.

    • Jim Lane

      One thing that will make a thumbpick more bearable is to make it custom fit your thumb. To do this, chunk it in some boiling water…no longer than 4-5 sec…retrieve it (a fork works well). Immediately place it on your thumb and run cold water over it…..perfect fit. My thumb picking hero…”Tater” gave me a Fred Kelly Slick Pick about 7 years ago and said “This little yeller pick will change your life”. It has def affected it. Good for any style.. Originally I picked it up to capture that Chet Atkins “snap” that you can’t capture w your thumb…found that it fits just as well in just about everything I try to play….def blues and jazz. Once you get the hang of it….just about any brand will work and are very highly modifiable.

    • Mick

      Great video on important subject— almost all of my play is on acoustic, play and sing lot of Americana style used to just finger pick everything but have moved on to using 3 different picks–the new Jim Dunlop Primetone Sculpted-plectra picks, they have large circle of raised grip area and I use 4 different types of thumb picks, they all produce different tone and playability. If you place side of your index finger on bottom of thumb pick you can use it as a flat pick..

    • Mike

      Griff, I love your attention to details.
      I first learned finger-picking so it feels natural to me but I liked the crisp soundvof picks so I tried thumb and finger picks but could never get used to them because they hurt my cuticles and cutoff circulation. I learned to use a regular pick with my fingers but never got the articulation I was looking for.
      Recently, I found a lightweight thumb pick that did not hurt my cuticle but it was too light to get a good pluck with so… I glued a regular pick (medium) to the light gauge thumbpick, did a little filing with an emory board and it’s like I have a brand new right hand all of a sudden. I can play much cleaner and faster than I was ever able to with a regular pick AND I’m able to use my 3 fingers for double-stops and chords.

    • tony

      The thumb pick has a very dramatic sound . I tried one years ago . My Dad and Brothers played guitar and one adopted brother who also played. They were all different sounding. I have used a match book cover when a pick was not to be found. I actually snapped the high E the first time I tried a pick. I use a medium pick and some times file it rounder at the tip . Some guitarists use a steel pick or one made from stone or even sea shells .

    • Fred Pittman

      The little bit I’ve played I’ve used my fingers. Thumbpicks slide on my thumb. My heroes,Jimmy Roger’s and Magic Slim used Thumb and Finger picks. Freddie King also. Like there tones.❤

    • Michael

      I use two sided hair piece tape applied to one side of the flat plectrum and sick it to my thumb, that frees my index finger and is strong enough to adhere to my thumb so no more dropping the pick, Thumb picks are to uncomfortable and I hate the pick moving within my grasp I don’t like to focus on the pick angle or dropping it. What do you think of that Griff?….bad habit?

    • Jack Flash

      That was great. I have a problem keeping the pick firm. I want to le get so many more of your courses. I have so much to learn and I LOVE LEARNING NEW THINGS….

    • NOWMON

      I use all them picking attacks,there`s one that gets me , sting pulling ,to slightly snap or use your nail tip to pull on a note. I think Albert Collins, and Albert King do this.. to run through a riff and accent the end or start one with the sting pick… this puts some dynamics on a line,smooth notes until you hit a stinging note,I`m sure many guitar players do this too…

    • John

      I like to use my fingers vs a pick because my fingers don’t move around or get dropped like a pick. A pick usually gives me a sharper cleaner sound than fingers but using fingers feels more natural than using a pick. Plus your fingers don’t fall into the body of an acoustic, a pick will and its a pain to retrieve them once inside the body.

    • Interstate slim

      Thanks Griff, I just started this week on trying to learn fingerpicking(Travis style), wow is that difficult for my mind and fingers after only using a pick for the last few years. Hey Vance I use gator picks pretty much solved the pick rotation problem.

    • Glenn

      Vance, I have the same problem. Been playing for decades. Always the same. Use picks with grips. Still moves around. Wish somebody had an answer -Glenn

    • eddie

      i have real issues with a pick. it tends to come out of my fingers and i am left with a paddle after some time strumming. tryingtio work on fingers and pick together, but i do not like the sound of the fingers since i cannot have finger nails due to my work.

    • Vance

      I’ve tried for years to use a pick. I just can’t seem to keep a proper grip on it. It’s always moving around between my thumb and index finger. I either end up dropping it or have to try to move it back in position mid strum., disrupting the tune. Particularly when strumming an acoustic. Maybe I’m not gripping it hard enough. So frustrating.

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