In order to pick and strum, the index finger and the thumb need to coordinate together. The pick needs to be held at an angle that is comfortable and still effective. You can imagine every guitarist holds the pick differently depending upon the shape of the individual hand. Some use the middle instead of the index finger. Some slant it at more or less of an angle.
Before you actually start to pick, try these guitar strumming exercises to get you physically used to holding the pick.
- Pick Push-ups. Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger. You can use your middle finger if it feels more comfortable. Draw the pick in towards your hand and push the pick away alternately. The motion looks like a push up exercise. Do 5 sets of 10
- Back and Forth. Simply hold the pick between as before but don’t move the thumb or finger. Move your wrist as if you were turning a doorknob back and forth. Make sure that only your wrist is moving, and in a twisting half rotation. Do short bursts 3 times in a set. Do 10 sets of these. Keep the elbow as motionless as possible.
- Elbow Grease. OK, all you who like guitar picking styles like Taylor Swift, this one is for you. Hold the pick and keep your fingers and wrist stiff. Pump your elbow so that your forearm moves up and down. Do 10 of these and stop. Drop the pick on a table and shake your hand out lightly. Pick up the pick and repeat 3 times. Do not move fingers hands or wrist while pumping the elbow.
- The Combo. Now you are going to do a combination of the last 3 exercises. Start with the big motion first; that would be the elbow motion. Count about 5 and then add the wrist motion. With the new motion added you could try to change the direction now and then. The forearm comes up and the wrist ‘turns the doorknob’ right. The forearm goes down, the wrist turns left. Then try the wrist moving in the opposite directions. Add the pick push-ups into the mix and you will begin to feel a fluidity of motion as you coordinate all 3 exercises.
- String Picking. You don’t need to know any notes to do this. You don’t need to know any guitar picking styles either. Take your open guitar strings and pick them down and up alternately, one at a time. If you are comfortable with fretting, then you can do this with random notes in any order. This is just a physical exercise, so it doesn’t matter what notes you play. Hit each note about 8 to 10 times in a down and up motion. Switch strings and do more.
To reiterate the last point, these exercises have nothing to do with music theory or melodies or rhythms. They are just mechanical guitar strumming exercises to help you get used to holding the pick.