When it comes to holding a guitar pick, there are a lot of different options available to you. And while each guitarist tends to find their own style, there are certain best practices that will make it easier to play.

One common question guitarists ask is this – can you hold a guitar pick with three fingers? If not, why? Are there any downsides?

The short answer is this – while you are always welcome to do what’s most comfortable for you, playing with three fingers can have a few drawbacks, which we’ll cover in a moment. Therefore, you may wish to retrain yourself to hold the pick with two fingers instead, particularly if you’re new and before muscle memory builds.

Muscle Memory, And Building Technique

This isn’t only unique to playing guitar, but to music in general.

Muscle memory can become quite strong, especially as you continue practicing something over time. This works both for you, and against you. As you build good habits, they become easier, and this is why experienced musicians are able to express themselves so naturally through their instrument.

Even if they were to take a break from practicing for an extended period of time, many musicians would be able to pick back up around where they left off quite quickly.

Unfortunately the opposite is true – if you begin playing with poor technique and then solidify it in your mind, these habits become challenging to break. This is why some guitar teachers find it easier to teach someone who is completely new to guitar, than someone who has been playing with poor technique for years and years.

Downsides To Holding Guitar Picks With Three Fingers

Now that we know why it’s best to maintain proper technique as early as possible, let’s look at some of the specific reasons why we want to avoid holding the guitar pick (or plectrum) with three fingers.

Note that if you’re a bass player, these won’t be quite as important. While bassists should still get into a habit of holding the pick with 2 fingers, it isn’t quite as big of a deal unless they plan to also play guitar later.

1. While It May Be Comfortable Now, It Might Not Be Comfortable Later

It’s important to get technique right from the beginning.

Improper technique really starts to show (and become more of an issue) as your skill level grows, and you start to try out more complex playing styles on your guitar. Unfortunately by this point, it’s also much harder to correct.

Holding the pick with three fingers may feel like the most comfortable option right now, but as your skill level grows you may find that it becomes increasingly uncomfortable.

2. Restricts The Use Of Your Middle Finger For Tapping

If you enjoy playing fast – particularly solos, you’ll want to strum with only two fingers on the pick.

The middle finger on your strumming hand is often used to tap the fretboard of the guitar. It is the strongest of your fingers and plays an important role in this style.

Yet it if is being used to hold your pick, this option isn’t available to you.

3. Watch Your Nails

If you’ve been playing with 3 fingers already, you may notice that your fingernails hit the strings, particularly on up-strokes.

This problem is unwanted and easily resolves itself when you switch to playing with only 2 fingers.

3-finger pickers also find it more challenging to do palm mutes.

4. Sweep Picking

Sweep picking is already one of the hardest techniques to learn on guitar, but it becomes even harder when you hold the pick with 3 fingers.

You need to give yourself as much control as possible, and using three fingers makes it harder to silence notes with your right hand.

5. Hybrid Picking

Hybrid picking is the act of using both your plectrum and your fingers at the same time. Although it too is a more advanced technique, it also suffers when you take one of your fingers away to hold your pick.

This is yet another technique that becomes more challenging when you hold the pick with three fingers – which is why it’s best avoided straight from the start.


All-in-all, while holding a pick with 2 fingers has noticeable and tangible benefits – particularly as your skill grows and you add new techniques to your arsenal, it isn’t the end of the world if you want to stick with three.

After all, James Hetfield of Metallica still holds the pick with 3 fingers, and nobody has ever complained about it.

Still, it will only get harder to switch later on, and with practice you’ll find it will be just as comfortable to play with 2 fingers as it is with 3.

I hope you’ve found some of these points interesting. Adjusting your picking style can be uncomfortable at first, but it gets easier over time.

Happy picking!

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