Learn Beginner Guitar Picking Technique – Guitar Picking Lesson to Develop Your Upstroke Picking


Most guitar players start out picking all notes they play on the guitar using all downstrokes.  This beginner guitar picking technique often feels most comfortable to the player initially.  However, it is a very limiting and inefficient way to pick the guitar—you will quickly find that your playing sometimes sounds “choppy” and it is also difficult to build your pick hand speed. 


Today’s guitar picking lesson will help you develop your upstroke guitar picking technique by learning to play a simple song that uses an upstroke picking pattern.  This beginner guitar picking lesson will help you gain confidence in your picking hand and your technique.  It will also develop your pick hand consistency, control and make your playing sound smoother.


Watch this free guitar picking lesson video that will show you how to develop your upstroke guitar picking and gain control of your picking hand.  Get the video here.


To start our guitar picking lesson, let’s review the pick hand setup first.  When picking single notes (as opposed to strumming), you should let the side of your picking hand rest on the top of the guitar near the bridge.  This will give your pick hand a feeling of being secure while playing single notes.  It should also feel somewhat similar to how your hand feels when you write—when you write, you normally rest the side of your writing hand lightly on the desk.  If your hand is floating above the desk while you write with the pen, you will have the sense that you don’t have as much control over it.  This is also true for your pick hand when playing the song in this guitar picking lesson.


The picking technique motion in today’s lesson we are going to focus on involves playing the third, second and first strings using a single upstroke.  Here is the sequence in tablature:

Play the repeating sequence of notes using upstrokes with your pick hand.  Play it several times making sure that all the notes ring out clearly and evenly.


Try to play the upstroke sequence without looking at your picking hand.  Close your eyes or look up at the ceiling while you are playing it.  Is it more difficult to play it without watching your hand?  If you are having some difficulty playing it, let’s review how you can make this picking technique easier to play.


Watch this free upstroke guitar picking video that will show the best way to practice and develop your guitar picking technique.  See the video here.


Remember the following key points about correct setup of your pick hand so that you will be able to confidently and correctly play the upstroke picking notes:

  • Rest the side of your picking hand near the bridge of the guitar to have more control over the pick.
  • Hold the pick just firmly enough so that it does not slip out of your fingers.  Gripping the pick too tightly causes tension in your hand which makes it difficult to move the pick accurately and easily when picking.
  • Try not to use more motion than is needed in order to pick the upstroke notes.  Excess motion makes picking accurately difficult.


The entire upstroke beginner guitar picking song is shown below in tablature.  Let the side of your picking hand rest on the front of the guitar near the bridge.  Focus on not watching your pick hand—relax and let your pick hand “feel” where the correct strings are located—it will take a little time and practice, but you will become comfortable with it.  When playing the song, you can use any finger on your fret hand that you are comfortable with to play the notes. 


You will need to watch your fret hand to make sure you are playing the correct notes—let your picking hand learn to feel where the correct strings are without looking.  Remember to pick the notes so that they sound clearly and evenly.

Another benefit to practicing and developing your upstroke picking technique that it will improve your ability to keep a steady rhythm with your guitar playing.  You are trying to build consistency into your beginner guitar picking technique.  Most guitar players (including more advanced players) are weaker at picking upstrokes than downstrokes.  Practicing your upstroke guitar picking now as a beginner will greatly benefit you and will help your playing improve and advance more quickly.


Think of it like this:  Your pick hand is the “engine” that makes your guitar playing go.  Make sure that your engine is finely tuned by paying attention to the details when practicing your guitar picking. Do not rush through this lesson.  Take your time and practice your picking daily. 


Watch this free upstroke guitar picking lesson video to see how to improve your picking technique and play the song in this lesson.  Get the video lesson here.



Learn to play now with guitar lessons for beginners online