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Get to know the best pick techniques

Have you ever thought about how many ways to play the guitar with a pick there are?

With it, you can play arpeggios, strums, phrases and solos, and even make some special effects that work as arrangements when creating or playing a song.

There are many ways and styles of forms or techniques. Up and down, in circles, sweeps, etc. Some musicians use picks, coins or special picks, here we will explain the different ways to hit a string. The best-known pick techniques are the following:

  1. a) Downpicking: it consists of using only downward strokes. This technique became famous by the punk guitarist Johnny Ramone who only used downstrokes in all his playing. Downpicking generates a harder and more aggressive sound and even generates the sensation that the song is going faster than it really is. This kind of technique is often used in punk, metal and thrash metal.
  2. b) Alternate picking: consists of alternating up and down strokes. The aim is to achieve economy of movement and fluidity. The idea is that the hits are successively up and down.
  3. c) Sweep picking: the idea is to economize the movements of the pick, that is to say, to use the least amount of movements possible to play many notes of guitar scales as quickly as possible. It is used to perform arpeggios and scales in speed, and usually, the pick is used as a sweep down or up.
  4. d) Tremolo picking: also known as double picking. It describes the technique used when a note is repeatedly played in rapid succession while playing a melodic line. A good example is a song that became known from Tarantino's “Pulp Fiction” film Dick Dale & The Del Tones "Misirlou".
  5. e) Shred: it could practically be called a genre because of the large number of guitarists who apply this, but it is also a form of playing. It consists of the interpretation of passages of great technical complexity at great speed. An idea of economy picking is used, a mixture of sweep picking with alternate picking to use the least amount of movements and to play as fast as possible at the expense of the loss of feeling. The whole composition and performance are about speed.
  6. f) String skipping: consists of skipping one or more strings in the performance. It could seem silly, but it sounds different from the traditional way of playing because this technique introduces long intervals in the melodies which produces something unconventional. An example of string skipping is the introduction of the riff of “Sweet Child” O'Mine by Guns N' Roses.
  7. g) Single string picking: it consists of using a single string to make melodies, licks or solos.

The execution can be made of many forms bound, with a pick, with tapping or with string to the air. An example of this technique is the intro of the song of AC/DC “Thunderstruck” (we have great rock guitar lessons here on

  1. h) Crosspicking: another pick technique consists of playing three strings. This style is especially recognized for being used in country music. The idea of this technique is to emulate the sound of the banjo. It is also known as 'banjo rolling'.
  2. i) Pick Trilling: this is a technique where the pick is used as a means to make quick taps (a trill) on the higher frets or to hit frets that we would normally not hit with our fingers, but in a similar way to tapping. Satriani is one of the guitarists who most often uses this technique.
  3. j) Pick Scrape: it is a guitar technique very used in rock, punk and metal. It consists of holding the pick sideways against one or several strings and dragging them along while the side of the pick is scratching the strings. The most effective way is to do it with a lot of distortion and over the lowest strings. It is usually used to join phrases, or start riffs or to add noise. It is also known as ‘scratching’.
  4. k) Pick Slide: similar to the pick scrape but it consists in dragging the pick over the strings producing a small slide over the higher strings.
  5. l) Circle Picking: also known as circular pick technique. Developed by Steve Vai, the technique consists of making circular movements, not with the wrist but with the thumb and index finger.
  6. m) Inside/Outside Picking: this technique consists of how the strings are hit with the pick. Inside picking consists of hitting the strings from the inside.

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