How to Start Using a Guitar Thumbpick

If you are anything like me you've always wondered if you should be using a thumbpick in your guitar playing. Well, about a year and a half ago I started to make a concerted effort to use a thumbpick. I'm not going to lie, it was very strange and hard to get used to at first. There were lots of things along the way that I wish I'd know when I started. In this video, I want to share some perspective on if you should even use a thumbpick and how to best get used to it if you decide in favor of one.

So, should you use a thumbpick or just your thumb? I can't answer that because the real answer is... It Depends! It depends on what you like, what works for the style of music you are playing, and the sound you are going for.

I grew up learning how to play fingerstyle guitar from the classical school where you float your arm so getting used to planting the heel of my hand on the guitar and using a thumbpick was quite a change. I still use the classical method to play sometimes but I also use a thumbpick. The biggest deciding factor for using a thumbpick for me is the actual song I'm playing. If I'm playing some Bach or more of a classical oriented song like "Classical Gas" I use the classical approach. If I'm doing more of a Travis Picking style song or a song that requires muted bass strings I tend to lean more toward a the thumbpick.

The next biggest deciding factor is the tone that I want. If I want a more mellow tone I generally go without a thumbpick. If I want a more aggressive tone I'll go with the thumbpick. The tonal options you get with both techniques is great.

So how do you get into playing with a thumbpick. I'm not going to lie, it's very odd at first but the best way to get used to is it to abandon your flat pick and just dig in. I know that not everyone can do this because of gigs and other situations but the more you force yourself to use a thumbpick the faster you will get used to it. If you can’t jump all of the way in 100%, I would recommend at least setting aside some of your practice time in every session to work with the thumbpick.

Simply picking one string over and over again to work on your accuracy is a great place to start. Once you feel comfortable with that you can move to alternating strings. Start SLOW!

You may be wondering which thumbpick you should use. I know I did when I was first starting. I tried several different ones that I really didn't like but I eventually landed on a brand called Slick Picks. They come in a few different sizes and thicknesses and they made my life a lot easier when I was first learning. You may find something else that works better for you but these are a great place to start in my opinion.

Getting into fingerstyle guitar can be challenging and starting to use a thumbpick can be downright frustrating at first. If you need help with anything as you work on this new skill you can always email me or schedule a private video lesson with me here. Keep me posted on your progress.

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Need advice on strings, picks, and other guitar gear? Here is the gear used in this video.

Acoustic Guitar Strings - D’Addario EJ16 Light Phosphor Bronze

Acoustic Guitar Coated Strings - D’Addario EXP11 Coated Light 80/20 Bronze

Guitar Footstool