Do You Need a Thumb Pick for Acoustic Blues Guitar?

thumb-pick-for-acoustic-blues-guitarThe issue of whether or not you need a thumb pick for acoustic blues guitar has been dumbfounding many a newbie player for a long time now. It all depends on where you start, of course, and whom you ask – and as true experts of the acoustic blues genre will tell you, there is no answer. However, the question remains valid. Those who take up online lessons, for instance, might find that their instructor chooses to play with a thumb pick; if they start out by playing with a regular type of pick themselves, reaching a point in the process where the need to pluck two strings simultaneously during the turn-around part of the song will leave them at a loss as to what they’re supposed to do. It’s also difficult for some beginners to start using a thumb pick if they’ve only employed standard picks before.

For all these reasons, as well as for some others, which we explore below, we are going to ask the question for you today: do you really need a thumb pick for acoustic blues guitar?

The challenges of using a thumb pick for acoustic blues guitar

Picking down is going to be difficult, at least at first, when you start using a thumb pick for acoustic blues guitar. That’s because one of the most often encountered mistakes is to put on the pick so tight it seems it’s going to cut off all circulation into your thumb.

Another issue that you are likely to encounter, when starting out with a thumb pick for acoustic blues guitar, is to adjust to the difference in height. Obviously, when wearing such a pick, your thumb is going to be substantially taller than your other fingers. You might even be tempted to use both the standard pick and the thumb one, in order to adjust to this new mode of plucking. Maintaining a consistent volume between the strings will also prove difficult – and that’s just a small part of the issues you could be facing, when adjusting to the thumb pick.

But the real question here is not if you can adjust to playing the acoustic blues like this on your guitar. It can be reasonably expected for you to get used to this – and even to get over the soreness in your thumb, when attempting to pick without a thumb pick. The actual, underlying dilemma most beginner players are faced with is whether or not a thumb pick is absolutely required, for the ‘proper’ playing of acoustic blues on the guitar.

Thumb picks for acoustic blues: The long and the short of it

Do you absolutely need a thumb pick for acoustic blues guitar? No, you don’t – so if you hate it, or if playing with it is sucking all the joy out of the experience, perhaps you should try switching instructors or courses (check out the Griff Hamlin blues guitar lessons, for instance). But while they are not mandatory and can be safely substituted with various ways of playing with a plectrum, for instance, the use of thumb picks also has a lot to do with the sound you’re trying to achieve. Playing the acoustic blues with a thumb pick definitely creates a distinctive sound, which is impossible to achieve otherwise. As such, before you decide on techniques, it’s probably more important to consider the effect and whether or not you enjoy it so much as to alter your way of playing accordingly.

Also, as many seasoned players of this musical genre will tell you, this decision has a lot to do with personal preference. Some performers choose to avoid any kind of pick. Others will grow out their fingernails and pick with their aid, since it helps them avoid sore fingers and it’s also a technique that can be mastered fairly easily.

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