As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine Issue 18 Winter 2021 – Women in the Music Industry
I have mainly played acoustic guitars, first western and then more recently classical (I play the accompaniment to my own songs. I don’t play classical pieces – sometimes I hope to do that too). I would like to start playing the electric guitar more, but I don’t like playing with the plectrum. It feels unnatural to me because I am used to playing with my fingers and nails and I feel very limited. I would rather keep playing with my fingers and nails also on the electric guitar, and I know some guitarists do that, but there are certainly differences and maybe also some limitations that I don’t know about. I would like to ask you what you think about it. Does it make sense, or should I force myself to use the plectrum, although I can’t stand it? Should I try to get used to it and make this hatred go away, or is it possible to keep playing with my fingers?
I would love to hear what you think about this!
Thanks for writing in. That’s a really interesting question, and you’re not alone in that you favor playing with your fingers. A lot of people do, and it’s a really lovely style of playing—especially on an acoustic guitar. It gives your guitar a warm, soft tone, and it makes songs with a lot of string skipping (jumping over one or more strings) simpler to play.
I’d say that above anything, you should do what makes you feel more comfortable, but if you want a different sound, or you want to be able to play individual notes or other styles of music more easily, then a pick is a great thing to have in your back pocket (pun intended). Playing with a pick adds volume and fullness to your notes and chords, and it allows you to play a bit faster. If you’re playing rock or metal, for example (where solos and fast notes abound), down picking is king, and you’ll probably need a pick to really attack those strings.
To get used to playing with one, you could try hybrid picking, which combines fingerpicking with plectrum picking. Some good examples of songs incorporating this style would be “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin or “La Grange” by ZZ Top. Just search YouTube and you’ll see a ton of great tutorials explaining how to do this! You could also try a thumb pick with this method of playing, which has been used by some of the guitar greats like Tommy Emmanuel and Chet Atkins. They really help to bring out the lower strings, which can get a bit muddy when you’re fingerpicking.
The good news is that you don’t have to decide between one style of picking or the other. There isn’t a “right” or “wrong” way to pick. It all depends on the style of music you’re playing and the tone you want to get out of your guitar.
Although the pick may not be your top “pick,” it’s still a handy little tool that you shouldn’t shy away from. Let the plectrum be your pal!
~ Alexx Calise
Alexx Calise is an accomplished singer, guitarist, and songwriter. Perhaps best known for her hit song, “Cry,” which became a staple on the show Dance Moms and boasts millions of hits on YouTube, Calise’s raw emotion, heart-and-soul-lyrics, and unmistakable vibrato have impacted thousands of music fans all over the world. Calise is currently working on new solo material and songs for licensing, and she is also lead vocalist and guitarist of the band Batfarm. Besides her musical pursuits, she works in public relations and marketing. She also does the occasional modeling or acting gig. When not playing shows or writing music, she enjoys horror movies, exercising, or taking a well-deserved nap. alexxcalise.net