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Choosing a plectrum

 

A pick's gauge describes how thick, or stiff it will be. Some pick manufacturers actually measure the thicknesses and stamp these numbers expressed in millimetres on the pick itself. Other companies just say “Extra Heavy", “Heavy”, "Medium", and "Thin". For beginners, thin pick are the easiest to wrangle, because they more flexible and after very little resistance when striking the strings. Medium picks are very popular, because they're stiff enough to allow you to really dig in, but flexible enough for light strumming. Heavy-gauge picks can seem unwieldy at firs but provide the fastest and mast accurate response. Most pros prefer heavy-gauge picks, because there are plenty of exceptions.


You play virtually all rhythm (chord-based accompaniment) and lead (single note melodies) using the same pick position: by holding the pick - or plectrum (the old-fashioned term) - between the thumb and index finger. So the correct way to hold a pick is with just the tip sticking out sideways from the thumb.

If you're strumming rhythm, use wrist and elbow motion. The more vigorous the strum, the more elbow action you must apply. If you're playing lead, use the more economical wrist motion. Learn to keep your wrist and hand relaxed while maintaining a tight grip on the pick. And plan on dropping your pick a lot for the first few weeks until you get used to playing with it.
When you run out of picks and are desperate like you have to go onstage in two seconds and you have no picks knowing that a quarter is extra heavy and a matchbook cover is thin is helpful. And any rock guitarist worth her salt has some amusing "war story" about how she was reduced to scouring the broom closet of a club in search of a bleach bottle to cut up for an emergency pick.

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