Does your strumming sound choppy, clunky, or just not as smooth as you would like it to be? Does your pick constantly get away from you or annoyingly flip into the sound hole of your guitar? Do you just give up on using a pick, and use your thumb and fingers instead because it is easier? There is a time to strum just using thumb and fingers; don’t get me wrong, but it shouldn’t be solely because you lack confidence using a pick. You can develop smooth pick technique.

Knowing how to read and follow a strum pattern is one thing, but delivering a smooth strummed rhythm with a pick at any tempo is another matter all together. If you need some help with your harmonic or rhythmic delivery with a pick, it’s time to rethink your pick holding technique.

To be honest, there is much more to developing a smooth rhythm than just knowing how you hold your pick, but paying attention to how you hold your pick it is the first and most important place to begin.  Body mechanics, or more precisely, thumb and finger mechanics are key.

Although the technique I am about to share with you may seem counter-intuitive or unnatural, and may take a few weeks to a month to get used to, don’t give up trying!  The new technique will become natural with awareness and time. It just seems weird at first because you are probably used to holding your pick in the most intuitive natural way that feels normal to most people.

It feels perfectly natural to pick up a pencil or any smaller object like a guitar pick, for that matter, by having your index and middle finger and thumb work together like this:

What’s wrong with this hold? Well it may work fairly well some of the time (like when your fingers are not sweaty), but not as smooth as it could be with longer down – up strums that involve 4 to 6 strings. So your kind of limited with this approach, and if you already have a well developed guitar hand technique, you might just chalk up this rhythm hand glitch you seem to be having to just needing more time with strumming practice. At this point,  it’s not the time spent strumming that will improve this skill, it’s the time learning to strum the right way that will give you killer smooth rhythms.

To hold the pick the way pictured above  to play 1 to 3 strings at a time might be a cause for major frustration and even failure because there is too much pick sticking out and if you try to choke up on it ( shorten the pick for more control),  your fingers get in the way, the pick get’s floppy and uncontrolled hitting untended strings, you drop your pick etc…

In order to play really smooth rhythms using all strings, or just a few strings, as when playing power chords that call for a short controlled fast constant down strum, or a powerful palm mute strum, or even a regular muted strum you need a totally different approach to the pick to be smooth and successful. You need control!

The pick hold I am going to show you next  will work for all types of rhythm approaches.

  1. Place the pick on top of the outer part of your index finger not the pad of the finger. Make sure the pick is hiding your index finger.
  2. Center your thumb over the finger and line your thumb up over the pick at an angle so as to hide the finger and the pick (notice the middle of thumb is centered).
  3. Make sure your thumb and index are making an okay sign and don’t scrunch them together. Keep other 3 finger relaxed.

Make the pick longer for playing multiple strings. Choke up on it for solos or power chord riffs.


Follow these instructions and you are well on your way to more controlled smooth rhythms. As I mentioned before, there is even  more involved to attain a good solid rhythm technique. If you are interested in learning more about developing good rhythm technique or just interested in learning to play guitar  give me a call or send me an email

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