Right Hand Guitar Techniques

play with a pick

Right Hand Technique (Pickstyle)

Now we will look at correctly positioning the right hand. There are two right hand techniques, the fingerstyle and the pickstyle. In the fingerstyle technique, we will use our fingers for picking the strings. This is called fingerpicking. In the pickstyle technique, we will use the pick for picking strings. Fingerstyle is usually played on acoustic and classical, and the pickstyle is prefferred by electric rock/blues guitarists. The picking style you choose will largely depend on the style of music you intend to play.

Pickstyle – Holding and Positioning the Pick

There is not really any ‘correct’ way to hold the pick. Different people prefer different holding styles. Usually, the pick is held between the thumb and the pointer. I don’t want to get into a long explanation, so here are images displaying the standard holding position of the pick. I prefer a different style, but this is the one that people usually use.

Note that your grip on the pick should be firm (not super-tight) and your wrist should be loose.

Now we come to positioning the hand. Here is image showing the correct right hand positioning. Note, the hand should not be resting anywhere on the bridge, or the strings, although it may lightly touch these parts, as they can serve as a guide for finding strings.

You will only rest your arm on the top of the body. Also, make sure that your shoulder is not raised. The pick will be at an angle to the strings, i.e. it will be a bit tilted, as you can infer from the image (more on this below). I recommend you look at yourself in a mirror and see how much your right hand looks like the one in the image.

Right Hand Technique (Fingerstyle)

Fingerstyle, as we learned earlier, is a picking style usually used with classical or acoustic guitars. In this lesson, we will look at the basics of fingerpicking.

Positioning Your Hand

Below is an image showing the correct hand positioning for the right hand. Note, the knuckles are parallel to the strings. Your fingers should be curled, but not too much curled (refer to the image). Your hand is not supposed to be resting anywhere on the guitar, only your arm will rest on top of the body. Some people develop a habit to rest their pinky on the pickguard, but i recommend not to do so. Think of it as training wheels in a bicyle. They seem great at first, but they can really get in the way in the long run.


Picking may be done by the nail (and it usually is done by the nail), or by the fleshy part of your fingers. Picking with nails give a crisp sound, and picking by fingers gives a more soulful sound.

For picking using nails, your nails should be a little long. They should be seen just coming up from behind your fingers when you look at them from the front. You will also need to keep them filed. An alternative to long nails is fingerpicks. These are small picks that you can put on your fingers, and you won’t have to worry about nails.

Now we will play an easy little tab, that will exercise our fingers. Playing may seem awkward at first, but you will be comfortable in a little time.