Playing electric without guitar pick is not bad – it’s all up to your preferences and what you are comfortable with.
Generally, guitar picks are used because they are louder and provide a sharper tone – especially when in a band.
I personally had the same question when I started playing electric guitar. All the guitarists on YouTube use a pick but I was not comfortable with the pick at all – it was unnatural to me and kept slipping out.
I decided to keep practicing the electric guitar with fingers and never had any regrets. I still use my fingers to play electric guitar today.
However, I am not saying that picks have no place and they are bad – not at all. Both picks and fingers have their pros and cons.
In this article, I am going to extensively compare playing guitar with the pick and fingers – including things like pros and cons, playing fast without a pick and my thoughts on what you should play with.
After reading this article, I am sure you can decide on how to play the guitar without self doubts again.
Sounds good? Let me start with convincing you why playing electric guitar without pick is not bad like you assume it is.
Why It’s Not Bad To Play Electric Guitar Without Pick
A pick is really only required when you need to play loud – like in a band or when performing.
Pick is important when you are playing with other musicians with amplified equipment. Your fingers can never go as loud as the pick. But anything other than this, you are good.
When playing alone, or in a small crowd or even when you are recording – playing electric guitar without a pick (with your finger) is absolutely fine.
Your fingers can do everything that a pick can. This includes, playing solos, leads and even rock / metal songs – they just won’t be as loud and crisp as pick (but still good nonetheless).
There are also many great established rock guitarists that exclusively use fingers. If the greats are also using fingers to play, then there is no reason to ever doubt yourself playing with fingers.
It’s all a matter of preference really. There’s no rule saying a pick is required to play guitar.
Personally, playing guitar with fingers may even have the edge than pick. It feels more natural and you can pluck multiple strings at the same time – especially useful when arpeggiating a chord.
Now that you understand why playing without a pick is not bad, let’s compare playing guitar with fingers vs pick.
Playing Guitar: Which Is Better Pick Vs Finger?
Both pick and fingers have their own pros and cons. Pick is generally better in creating sharper and louder tone – especially when playing in a band.
Whereas fingers are more natural and better in creating a warmer tone. Playing with fingers is also more versatile where you can pluck multiple chords at the same time.
In this section I am going to compare pick vs finger in different categories – so you can decide which is better for your guitar playing. Here’s a summary table though.
NOTE: These are comparisons to help you make a decision. If you want to see my recommendation, then I cover this towards the end.
|Simultaneous notes (Arpeggio)
Tone & Volume: Pick Vs Finger
Playing guitar with pick creates a sharper tone and louder volume. Whereas fingers create a warmer tone with lower volume.
If you need to perform in a large crowd or play in a band with other musicians that use amplified equipment, then playing with a pick is better.
It’s frustrating to play guitar in a band without picking because your volume would not match and you will be drowned in the sound of other equipment.
However, if you are just playing at home or even recording with an audio interface, then playing guitar with fingers is definitely an option. Personally, I prefer playing with fingers because they are more natural to me.
Accuracy: Pick Vs Finger
Playing guitar with pick is generally more accurate than fingers – you can worry less about muting because the pick is thin and you can precisely pick the right strings.
Though, playing guitar with fingers can also be accurate – it’s just a matter of practice until you are good enough to pluck the strings accurately with your fingers.
I don’t think you should use this point to make a decision. You will have a hard time with both pick and fingers when you first start – so the point of accuracy is not really relevant.
This is more relevant when you are playing solos and difficult leads. You will have more accuracy when playing solos with pick – the sound output is clearer and precise.
Speed & Control: Pick Vs Finger
Playing guitar with a pick is generally faster than fingers. This is why playing guitar solos with pick is more popular.
Instead of having to play with your finger joints, you have more control when moving the pick with your wrist.
This is especially true if you are double jointed like me. People with double jointed often lock up their fingers unintentionally, making it challenging to control the plucking strength.
Sometimes they pluck the strings with great control – while at other times their finger joints lock up and they accidentally pluck the strings too hard when trying to unlock the finger joints.
This still happens to me and yet I still prefer to play with fingers because fingers are much more versatile than pick (more in the next section).
Playing Simultaneous Notes: Pick Vs Finger
Playing guitar with fingers is much more versatile than pick – you are free to pluck multiple strings and notes at the same time. This is not possible with pick.
Personally, this is the biggest reason why I think playing guitar with fingers is much more beneficial than a pick.
The ability to play simultaneous notes means you can play many more guitar styles other than rock – for example fingerstyle guitar.
If you are dead set on just playing rock, then training with the pick is much better. Rock riffs sound much better when played with pick – it’s louder, clearer and sharper.
However, if you also want to play other styles, then I suggest learning with fingers first. Then practice with picks later on.
Playing Slaps: Pick Vs Finger
Performing guitar slaps with a pick is much trickier than fingers. This is another example of why playing guitar with fingers is more versatile.
Techniques like arpeggios and slaps are difficult to perform when you need to hold a pick. Which is why I believe practicing with pick first is quite limiting.
If you are a beginner, I suggest learning with fingers first. Get all the techniques down, then learn the pick. I will talk more about my recommendation below.
Can You Play Guitar Solos Well Without Pick?
It’s definitely possible to play Guitar solos without a pick. Many popular guitarists do it. It’s all about your preference and what you feel comfortable with.
I don’t recommend you make a decision based on what people are doing. Instead, read my comparisons above and make your own decision.
You can safely play guitar solos with both fingers or picks. This is not a point to worry about.
Any Good Electric Guitarists That Play Without Pick?
If you are into rock bands, then Robbie Krieger from ‘The Doors’ often plays electric guitar with his fingers.
Here’s a YouTube video of him playing riffs on an electric guitar with his fingers. He also performs live with his fingers.
If a legend like Robbie Krieger plays electric guitar with his fingers, then you shouldn’t have any doubts. Again, it’s all a matter of your preference. Once you are good enough, pick or fingers don’t matter anymore.
Should You Use Pick Or Finger For Guitar? (My Thoughts)
If you are a beginner, I recommend learning guitar with fingers first. There are many techniques that are hard to perform when using picks like arpeggios and slaps.
Starting with pick first may limit you or make it quite hard to learn these techniques.
Generally, pick is used because they are precise and provide better sounds. As a beginner you don’t need to worry about the sound quality yet. You should focus on the techniques and not limit yourself.
When you have practiced enough and reach a point where you want to play in a band, perform, play solos and shreds or even record, then you can start practicing using pick.
Till then, I recommend fingers for beginners!
For Somewhat Experienced Players
If you are an experienced player, I recommend playing guitar with both pick and fingers. Some songs are suited for fingers while others for picks. Be versatile and learn both.
In fact, playing with both fingers and picks is quite common. When using fingers, you can palm the pick and hold it on your fingers when you need it on specific parts of the song.
At some point in time, you will inevitably play with both picks and fingers. I have never seen an experienced guitar player who doesn’t know how to play with both.