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Can You Play Electric Guitar Without a Pick?

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So you wanna play without a pick, huh?

Do people even do that on electric guitar?

I mean, how would you play riffs, solos and shred if you didn’t have a pick…

Well, many have tried and never made it out alive.

It’s a jungle out there.

You don’t know what you are getting in to…

Stop and turn back now before it’s too late…

I’m warning you, now is your final chance!


Hahaha that was fun.

But seriously, can you actually play electric guitar without a pick?

Is it Possible and How Would You Do It?

Well, the short answer to that is…

Yes, you can play electric guitar without a pick.

But it’s easier to use a pick and it’ll take time to build up callouses on your fingerpicking hand in the beginning.

You thought that block of Lego you just stepped on hurt, think again!

Electric guitar strings are thinner and sharper than acoustic strings and so it’ll take your fingers a while to toughen up.

Particularly your thumb will be enjoying various painful blisters for a while if you want to start strumming.

But there are many benefits to playing without a pick which you should definitely be familiar with.

Benefits To Playing Electric Guitar Without a Pick

Playing electric guitar without a pick isn’t just possible, it’s actually really cool!

The sounds you get from plucking a string are way different from picking it.

It’s often much softer and and can make bends sound epic.

As well as this, you’ve got way more control over how loud or quiet you want the notes to be than with a pick.

You can smack ’em like a car horn if you’re feeling angry or stroke ’em like a dog if you’re feeling at peace.

You can also play some fresh as frick sweeping string melodies that pick players could only dream of…

Ha, losers!

I literally see you use a pick all the time, dude. That means you’re calling yourself a los-…


And if you choose to strum without a pick, that’s also great because you can get rid of the aggressive attack a pick brings when playing chords.

And there are loads of fingerpicked strumming patterns out there which give you much more freedom than pick strummed patterns.

So not only can you play without a pick on electric guitar, but you can also use it to your advantage.

Tips for Playing Electric Guitar Without a Pick

Although playing with your fingers is pretty self-explanatory, there are still some good habits you can get into to set yourself up for success.

One of them is to rest your fingerpicking hand on the bridge of the guitar as an anchor point.

That way you’ll get more fingerpicking accuracy and you’re also in spitting distance of muting the strings with your palm when necessary.

Another tip is to flick the guitar strings upwards when plucking, rather than flicking them sideways.

Think of this movement as squeezing a stress ball.

You see the way your fingers curl up the more your squeeze?

That’s the motion you want, but speed it up to get the flick towards your palm.

Do that with some strings there and BAM! Just like that, you’re a fingerpicking pro.

Wacky Ways To Play Guitar Without A Pick

One way to create some spacy sounds without a pick is to use a technique called tapping.

This may not be appropriate for any of you beginners out there, but it’s definitely something to remember for the future.

It sounds epic and isn’t super difficult.

You wanna toss your pick out the window for this one and use your picking hand to play notes on the fretboard by hammering down onto them.

For an example of great tapping, listen to the intro to Reapers by Muse, Eruption by Van Halen or Into the Lungs of Hell by Megadeth.

It has a really distinct sound that I would describe in one word as absolutely epic.

Ben Eller has a fantastic YouTube video on tapping that you may find useful if you want to learn it.

But if you wanna step it up, you can even use both at the same time…

This is also known as Hybrid Picking.

You basically mix fingerpicked notes into licks that you would normally use a pick the entire way through for.

This is really common in country music especially and blues and sounds as scrumptious as a KFC Bargain Bucket.

(Other tasty foods are available)

If you want to learn about Hybrid Picking, then Kiko Loureiro has a great video on it so you can see it in action.

Famous guitarists Who Don’t Use Picks

Just in case you weren’t yet convinced that you can actually play electric guitar without a pick, here is some proof!

Mark Knopfler is probably the most famous example. This man wouldn’t be seen dead with a guitar pick and that’s a key feature of his unique style.

Just have a listen to Sultans of Swing or Money For Nothing and you’ll be able to hear that fingerpicking flare ringing out in a way that pick players could only dream of.

Derek Trucks is another great example of a blues player who likes to grill his pick and eat it rather than use it to play stuff.

Jeff Beck also uses fingerpicking to his advantage here by making the most of its dynamic control. It also gives him the freedom to have a bit more fun with tremolo bar and volume knob whilst he’s at it.

Even John Mayer doesn’t use a pick at times, sometimes switching between picking and plucking. He shows how he does it in this video here if you’re interested.

Wrapping It All Up

Shabam! Now you’re aware that you can actually play electric guitar without a pick and how to do it for success.

A quick thank you wouldn’t harm…

Thank you, the holy founder of Beast Mode Guitar, Sam Olverson, I bow down to thee.

That’s more like it.

Our cherished lord and saviour, God Bless You!

OK, now you’ve overdone it.

Anyway, have fun playing around with some fingerpicking stuff and enjoy the rest of your day.

Now get plucking!

P.S. If you want to learn how to play all the basic chords on guitar, then click here to view my post on that.


Sam is a guitar teacher and educator, with his main goal being to give people advice that they can truly rely on. He strives to teach through modern and effective techniques that actually provide results. Getting good at guitar was always his dream, and this blog outlines the steps he took to achieve total guitar freedom from scratch.

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