Lesson 2 - Picking Hand

In this lesson we're going to extend your playing skills, by engaging your second hand in the process.

The picking hand is usually the right hand unless you play a left-handed instrument.

With a distorted electric guitar, licks and solos sound way cooler when you use a guitar pick (also called mediator or plectrum), instead of the finger picking. A more powerful sound comes out, and there's a plenty of guitar tricks and effects that guitar pick helps to perform.

Place the pick between the thumb and the index finger of your picking hand as shown in the second picture:

positioning the guitar pick - image 1
positioning the guitar pick - image 2

Tip: if you don't know yet what guitar pick is yours, get yourself picks of different shapes and thickness: hard, medium, soft, big, small.

Test drive every pick you have in your arsenal for some time and stick with the one that feels right to your hand, the same advice applies to guitar strings as well.

Now let's play a very simple exercise using only your picking hand

right hand exercise 1

The symbol indicates the downward picking, and upward.

In this lesson we'll focus only on the downstroke picking.
repeat sign
To play this, put the hand near the strings as shown in the picture. And strike the 6th string (the thickest one) with the pick moving towards the floor.
Picking hand positioning
Watch video

Play this exercise along with a metronome or a drum track, feel free to switch to other strings as well. The most important thing here is to play rhythmically "flatly", each note should sound the same amount of time and have equal volume.

A thing to note is that while the index and middle finger hold the pick, they are not moving in relation to the hand.

In the picking motion may participate the wrist, arm, and forearm (in some degree). You can even withdraw from using the wrist and create the motion only with your arm if it's more comfortable to you.

Throwing the fingers into the picking motion will limit your speed for the future, when you'll need to play some fast passages.

Make afford to make your moves accurate and minimized.

When you are ready, let's play the exercises from the previous lesson where we were using only the fretting hand, but now we're going to pick each 1st note on a string with the plectrum, here are some examples:

lesson 2 - lick 1

The 1st and 9th note are played with the pick, the rest of the notes is played with the hammer on and pull off legato technique as we played in the previous lesson.

lesson 2 - lick 2

In this example the plectrum is used on 1st, 5th, 9th and 13th note.

With the picking hand in action the same licks should sound more "edgy" than when they were played solely with the fretting hand.

Watch video

You can use the backing track from the previous lesson to apply the new material to the first guitar solo of the same lesson.

Here is my example:

Notice that I often play the same thing differently (altering sequences of notes, their timing, make accents and pauses)

You don't have to play whatever you're playing rigidly in the manner each time, play it as you like at the moment, it's when your own style comes through.

By the way, it's always a good idea to try a new guitar technique you learned on older licks and solos that you already mastered, enhancing and altering them.

In this situation you won't be overwhelmed by learning all lot of new things at the same time, and can concentrate on integrating the new technique into your existing arsenal.

Another remark I wanna make here is that to be able to play something cool does not mean you should be a "monster" that mastered all imagined and unimagined guitar techniques in the world and be able to perform them with the speed of Mclaren F1.

I listened to many speedy guitar players and in my opinion only a few of them could actually play testy. In the most cases I've heard some sort of a frame-saw noise combined with a lot of mistakes, it didn't sound as awesome to me as they emphasized it with their faces :)

I think in your initial stage it's more productive to master just a handful of techniques but really master them.

Here is the minus one track that belongs to this lesson, enjoy!

You can also download this track in ogg and mp3 format.

Extras for this lesson

Guitar improvisation - a few licks to use as an idea starter

Watch video
Example 1
guitar lick 1
Example 2
guitar lick 2
Example 3
guitar lick 3


In this series of lessons we very often play notes from a minor pentatonic scale that sometimes also called a "rock scale".

In particular the A minor pentatonic scale was used all around here, the following image describes where it is located on the guitar fingerboard in its basic form.

A Minor Pentatonic Scale

A Minor Pentatonic Scale
The numbers presented within the picture are fret numbers

Follow this link to see an extended A minor pentatonic scale.

Also, I found it's useful to play any simple songs like Jingle Bells or Ode to Joy to work out the downpicking.