Picking Technique and Tone

In the ongoing discussion on guitar tone, picking technique is not often brought up.

But the fact is, the way you pick each note (and the object/material you pick with) has a huge impact on your tone.

Rather than trying to go through all the possibilities, I'll just bring some ideas to your attention and let you discover the resulting sounds on your own.

First, there is the discussion of what you attack the strings with. You may think there are only 2 options - pick or fingers. Here are several other options to consider.

  • Thumbpick and Fingers (Tommy Emmanuel, Scotty Anderson)
  • Thumbpick and Nails (Brent Mason, Doyle Dykes)
  • Acrylic Nails
  • Pick and Fingers, aka Hybrid Picking
  • Hammer-ons from nowhere (check out Greg Howe)

    Then there is the topic of pick material/shape, all of which affects the tone.

  • Thin vs thick pick material
  • Pointy vs rounded edge
  • Acrylic picks
  • Stone picks
  • Wood picks
  • Tortoise Shell picks
  • Metal picks
  • ...or try using random objects as picks. You may come across some unusual or interesting sounds without spending a dime.

    Here are a few other considerations:

  • Where you pick the string (close to bridge, over fretboard, etc)
  • Pick angle. Flat against the string or angled to the string. A HUGE difference in sound can be produced with just pick angle.
  • Rest stroke vs free stroke
  • Plucking up away from the guitar

    There's enough here to keep you busy for quite a while. Before you go out and buy more gear to find the tone you hear in your head, experiment with your pick material and technique. If you'd like, you can paypal me the savings.


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