Improve Your Picking Speed

If you have been practicing your picking technique for awhile but haven’t yet seen the results you were hoping for, then this article will help you with improving four key areas of picking that most guitar players struggle with.

Pick Thickness

All great guitar players prefer different picks in terms of size, shape and material (this is largely a matter of preference).  However all of the fastest guitarists use thick picks.  Picks that are thinner than 1mm can be fine for strumming chords and other types of playing, but they won’t work for playing fast.  They simply aren’t strong enough to handle very fast playing.  Because the pick bends when you play a note, it takes an extra fraction of a second for it to come back to its natural point of “rest” and these accumulated delays add up and make it impossible to play really fast.

So if you are analyzing the type of pick you are using, remember that the most important dimension of your pick is its thickness, rather than its size, shape, tip, or the material it is made out of.  Of course, these other things are also important, but they make a much smaller impact on your overall progress in building guitar picking speed than thickness does.

Pick Angle

When it comes to building speed, the angle in which you hold the pick is key.  If your pick isn’t angled correctly towards the headstock of the guitar, then you end up using much more picking motion than is necessary.  The angle of the pick to the strings determines how easy it will be for your pick to cut through the strings and how much extra movement will result from each pick stroke.  Many guitarists hold the pick too close to perpendicular on the strings and make playing more difficult for themselves than it needs to be.

For maximum speed, the appropriate pick angle needs to be about 45 degrees towards the head of the guitar.


Not Holding the Pick Firmly Enough or Holding It  Too Tightly

Many guitar players mistakenly think that they need to hold the pick very lightly in order to pick fast.  The reality is that if you do this, your pick will likely fall out of your hand as you speed up.  On the other extreme, if you attempt to grip it too tightly, your entire arm will become so tense that you will not be able to play well (or play fast).  Rather than thinking about how much pressure to apply to the pick, find a position where the pick does not move at all in your hand, while at the same time you don’t hold it so tight that you're arm and hand are tensing up.


This problem comes from the belief that you must play with “as little tension as possible all the time” in order to play fast.  As a result, many guitarists develop the habit of picking everything with a very light touch and when they try to play faster, they are able to apply even less power to each note.  This means that the faster you play, the less your playing is heard.

Fortunately, the solution to this problem is simple.  You need to begin putting greater focus to this area of your playing even when you practice slowly, and you will see great results.  Remember that the goal isn’t just to “pick the strings harder”, but you also need to avoid accumulating tension in your picking hand as you play.  This is possible to do by consciously relaxing before and after playing each note.

Most of the great virtuoso players have the ability to play fast and articulate at the same time.

Think carefully about the points in this article and apply them to your playing. You will see great results when you do!