Guitar Picking Techniques - Green Hills Guitar Studio

Guitar Picking Techniques

Developing your guitar picking techniques is probably one of the most important skills you’ll learn in your private guitar lessons at Green Hills Guitar Studio. This article will explore the different picking techniques and offer tips to help you become a better guitarist. Whether you’re a beginning guitar player or a seasoned veteran looking to refine your skills, this article has something for everyone.

Honing your picking skills will enable you to create interesting and unique sounds in various genres. This article will provide an overview of the guitar picking techniques we teach our students at Green Hills Guitar Studio, including:

  • Flatpicking
  • Crosspicking
  • Alternate picking
  • Sweep picking
  • Fingerstyle
  • Economy picking
  • Hybrid picking
  • Gypsy picking

So grab your guitar, and let’s get started!

What is Guitar Picking?

Guitar picking includes the various hand and finger movements required to produce sounds. It can be done with a guitar pick, fingertips, fingernails, or a plectrum. Picking is a key element to guitar playing. Whether you’re strumming, brushing, or plucking the strings, it all counts as guitar picking.

Types of Guitar Picking Techniques

Having a practical understanding of different guitar picking techniques is an essential skill for any guitar player to master. It enables guitarists to create unique sounds and add depth and texture to their playing, helping them play faster and more accurately while creating beautiful music that explores the instrument’s full potential.


Flatpicking guitar is a style of guitar playing that uses a flatpick to pluck the strings (think Doc Watson). The pick is held between the thumb and first finger and is usually used in bluegrass and folk music but also in rock and jazz. It produces a bright and crisp sound and is a versatile way to play the guitar. Flatpicking technique is often used in traditional folk and country to bluegrass and even jazz. Learning how to flatpick can be very challenging, but it’s worth the effort! Flatpicking guitar is a great way to express yourself musically and to add excitement to any musical situation.


Crosspicking is a more advanced technique for bluegrass that integrates the boom-chicka and alternate bass picking techniques. Instead of the typical downstroke strum, cross-picking is an arpeggiated pattern meaning that each chord note is sounded individually with precision rather than indiscriminately sweeping the pick across the strings. This allows the flat picker to achieve the same precision as the fingerstyle player while maintaining the bright, crisp sound of the flat pick.

Alternate Picking

Alternate picking is a common technique that helps to increase speed and accuracy. It involves playing the guitar string with an up-and-down motion of the pick, alternating between up-and-down strokes. Alternate picking is a popular technique used to create fast and clean lines, as it involves alternating between upstrokes and downstrokes when playing. This technique is often used to play fast-paced songs. Alternating between down and upstrokes in a continuous manner.

Sweep Picking

Sweep picking is another popular technique used to play quickly and smoothly. It involves dragging the pick across multiple strings in one fluid motion. Sweep picking is a guitar picking technique that involves sweeping or “raking” across the strings to generate a quick succession of notes. It is often used to play arpeggios at a fast tempo.


Fingerstyle guitar players often use the hybrid picking technique. This technique combines using the pick and the fingers to create a unique sound. Fingerstyle guitar players also use the Travis picking technique, which is similar to fingerstyle picking. It involves using a thumb pick and one or two fingers to pluck the strings.

Economy Picking

Economy picking is a guitar picking technique that combines alternate picking and sweep picking. Usually, one uses alternate picking until changing strings. At this point, the player sweeps onto the next string. For example, if you are playing an ascending three-note per string sequence, you would play down up down, down up down, down up down, etc. When descending, the pattern would be up down up, up down up, up down up, etc.

Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking involves holding a pick between the thumb and first finger while simultaneously using other fingers. This guitar-picking technique allows you to pick two or more strings simultaneously, making it possible to attack two, three, and four-note chords the way a piano player would. When arpeggiating chords, it can often produce a smoother/softer result than straight fingerpicking or flatpicking. Unlike fingerpicking, hybrid picking lets you quickly revert to strumming or alternate picking or vice versa, which is handy in many playing situations.

Gypsy Picking

Think Django Reinhardt. This technique requires the substantial use of downward rest strokes (especially when changing strings) and lots of sweep picking (especially on ascending arpeggios and ascending melodic lines, for example). Gypsy jazz requires an aggressive and sometimes fierce style of playing that can only be achieved with the downward rest stroke technique. This music is played on acoustic instruments, and the only way to make them bark is to dig in with some emphatic picking. Moreover, it isn’t easy to play those lightning-fast ascending arpeggios using the up/down approach.


Guitar picking technique is an important skill to master if you want to become a proficient guitarist. With the right practice and instruction, you can improve your pick attack, accuracy, and speed and become a better guitar player. Every guitarist’s journey is unique, so keep practicing and striving to improve your skills, and you will become the guitarist you aspire to be!

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