can you play electric guitar without a pick

Can You Play an Electric Guitar Without a Pick?

Can you play an electric guitar without a pick? This is a question that many people who are new to the instrument are asking themselves.

The short answer is, “yes.” However, it may not be for everyone. The long answer? Playing an electric guitar without a pick can provide some benefits and challenges as well.

On one hand, it makes playing single strings much easier because your fingers will feel more natural than they would if you were using a pick or plectrum.

It also helps you work on the strength of your fingertips which is essential when playing the strings of a guitar with fingerpicks!

On the other hand, using a pick properly can be quite confusing for a beginner. Use too much of the pick and it gets caught in a string and goes flying. Too little and you end up using the tip of your finger anyway which can hurt.

Picks are generally inexpensive, but if you don’t have one or you keep losing yours and you still want to play with a pick, then you are in luck. 

Fortunately, there are a few things you can use as a guitar pick while you’re waiting for the real picks to arrive in the mail.

A Coin – One way to emulate a guitar pick is by using a coin. Just make sure the coin is a quarter or even something a bit bigger. A dime might be too small, but it also depends on the size of your hands.

Old Credit Card – If you have an old credit card lying around that is no longer usable, you can cut it into triangular shapes and use those as guitar picks. 

Small Piece of Wood – You could also use a small piece of wood as a guitar pick. Just make sure that you smooth down the edges with some sandpaper.

A Piece of Plastic – Another trick is to go take out a plastic soda bottle from the recycling bin and cut it up into the right guitar pick for your needs. As with the wood, make sure to smooth down the edges so you don’t cut yourself when you’re rocking out.

Cardboard – This is something that almost everyone has lying around the house, and best of all, it’s pretty easy to cut into the shape you need. A cardboard pick does a decent job of imitating a thin gauge guitar pick, depending on the thickness.

It’s important to understand that guitar picks are made in different thicknesses, so almost anything that’s easy to use for strumming and also fits between your thumb and forefinger should do the job. 

Famous Guitarists Who Didn't Use a Pick

If you find using a pick a little frustrating, it may be motivating to find out that there are some famous guitarists who prefer not to use a guitar pick. 

Mark Knopfler – If you’re familiar with the band called Dire Straits, then you may have heard the songs, “Money For Nothing” and “Sultans of Swing”, just to name a few. 

Derek Trucks – You might also be familiar with this guy, Derek Trucks, who started the Derek Trucks Band and also played in the Allman Bros Band. Needless to say, he’s another infamous guitarist who doesn’t use a pick.

Robbie Krieger – Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock your whole life, then you definitely know who The Doors were. Well, Robbie Krieger was the guitarist for The Doors, and he also didn’t use a pick!

Jeff Beck – This legendary guitarist who played started the band, The Yardbirds, among other bands, was yet another electric guitarist who chose not to use a guitar pick for much of his career. 

Billy Gibbons – The guitarist from ZZ Top. Not only did he not use a pick, he also didn’t use his fingers. Actually, he used a peso! Pretty cool, huh?

There are definitely many more notorious guitarists who opted not to use a guitar pick on a regular basis. The point I’m trying to make is that not all successful guitar players use picks. So don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

Is It Better To Learn Guitar With or Without a Pick?

In the beginning, learning how to play guitar can get quite overwhelming. So you may be wondering, in addition to learning chords, strumming patterns, and the rest of the basic stuff, are guitar picks really that important?

The answer to this is that there are no wrong answers. It’s whatever you decide, and ultimately a matter of personal preference. 

Some people think that it’s better to start with a pick and then learn how to strum without one. I, personally, started my guitar journey by NOT using a pick, which I kind of regret.

The reason is that once I learned how to strum with my fingers, learning how to strum with a pick was a lot harder for me to learn. But that’s just me, and it may differ from person to person. 

My advice is to learn both ways, but start off learning how to play with a pick. I feel it will be much easier than what I did when I started. 

What Are the Best Picks for Beginners?

For beginning guitar players, the thinner the pick, the better off you will be, especially when you are just getting started.

Eventually, after you learn the proper strumming techniques and picking patterns, and you get used to holding the pick, you can start to experiment with the thicker gauges of guitar picks.

variety pack of Fender branded picks

My advice would be to purchase a variety pack that has multiple thicknesses included.

Not only are picks extremely easy to lose, but eventually you will find that certain songs are better off with a certain thickness of pick in order to get the right kind of tone.

Picks are generally inexpensive, although there are some guitar picks that are way high on the cost scale, probably because of the materials they are made of.

About Me

I love playing around with various types of guitar gear so I started this website to share my guitar gear knowledge with the world. Enjoy!

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