what is flatpicking

EXPLAINED: What Is Flatpicking A Guitar?

It’s entertaining and fulfilling to play the guitar. Whenever you strum the strings and listen to the melody of a song, the level of excitement and happiness is on top.

If you are planning to learn to play the guitar, there are many terms you would encounter along the way.

What Is Flatpicking?

Flatpicking is playing a guitar using a pick (also called a plectrum) to pluck the strings.

What are the common flatpicking styles and techniques? Good question and you have come to the right place. In this article, we will try to understand them all. Read on for further details!

Guitarists like Bert Casey, Scott Nygaard, Doc Watson, Steve Kaufman, Norman Blake, Byran Sutton, etc.

A Brief Overview on Flatpicking

You’re probably overwhelmed when you encounter flatpicking online. But it is simple. It is a term used to refer to people who strum the strings of their guitars using a standard pick or plectrum.

When players flat pick, they hold the guitar and pick between the thumb and a finger.

Fingerstyle acoustic guitar, on the other hand, is a term used to describe players who pluck the strings using their fingers. It can be done with or without fingerpicks as well.

Benefits of Flatpicking

It is easy to watch someone flat picks a guitar. But it is difficult when you do it on your own. This is especially true when you don’t have a prior experience.

As days pass by, you would find it simple, fun, and challenging. With enough practice and commitment, you would be able to perfect your craft. So, don’t lose hope. You will turn your goals after some time. Just believe in what you do.

Below are some of the benefits of flatpicking:

A More Consistent and Brighter Tone

Unlike fingerstyle, flatpicking guarantees a brighter and more consistent tone. It’s no surprise as the guitar pick is made of the same material.

Fingerstyle, on the contrary, produces different sounds. The difference in consistency in tone affects the sound and rhythm of your guitar.

But don’t underestimate fingerstyle. Although it produces different sounds, it allows for a wider range of dynamic expression. Before making a decision, identify your needs ahead of time. Then, the selection process will be easy and stress-free.

Avoid Discomfort

After a few hours of playing the guitar with your fingers, you would feel a little pain and discomfort. Using a pick is a different case. In fact, you can extend for another hour. But it depends.

If you are a beginner, using your fingers and flatpicking can be inconvenient and uncomfortable after some time. But everything will change after a constant practice.

It is Easier to Learn

Some aspiring guitarists encounter some trouble in flatpicking. Others experience a hard time using the fingerstyle. The secret here is to try both techniques to find out.

There’s no rule in playing the guitar. As long as you hit the note perfectly and produce the right sound, everything will be fine. So, there’s nothing to worry about.

It Produces Crisp, Bright, and Metallic Sound

Fingerstyle is known for darker, softer, or more mellow tones.

Flatpicking is the opposite. When you strum the strings accordingly, you can enjoy a bright, metallic, and crisp sound.

You can also produce this sound using fingerstyle. But it is a long process. You cannot make it happen overnight. Also, it requires a lot of hard work, commitment, and patience. Plus, working with a mentor will be a smart idea.

Common Flatpicking Styles

Once you started to learn flatpicking, you would also encounter some flatpicking styles. What are those? A few of them are highlighted below:


A very rhythmic style of guitar, bluegrass has been a common practice by many aspiring and professional guitarists in different parts of the globe.

What makes it different from other flatpicking techniques? Well, the lead clicks will go in a circular fashion, which gives players the opportunity to showcase their unique style and expertise.

How about the fretting hand? Typically, it holds the basic beginner guitar chords in a basic progression. Plus, the picking hand does all the work.

Alternate Bass Picking

Another technique is alternate bass picking. Compared to bluegrass, alternate bass picking involves picking the root note of the chord. It is usually the bass or lowest note. It also involves strumming and picking an alternate bass note in the same chord.

Let’s say you’re going to play an open A chord. It is important to pick the open 6th string and strum. Then, pick the fretted B note specifically on the 5th string. What else? Pick the 2nd fret and strum the treble strings. It’s complicated, right?

It is essential to enroll in a flatpicking class to enjoy an immediate and quality result. But be careful when choosing a mentor. Select the one with wide expertise and experience for your peace of mind.

Don’t enroll in a class that offers the cheapest rate. Always direct your attention to professionals that provide the most competitive rate for your convenience.

Boom-Chika Technique

This technique is typically compared to the alternate bass picking. But they are different. In boom-Chika, players add an upstroke after every strum, creating a chika sound.

The boom or the first note is alternated with the note located on adjacent strings. You can watch video tutorials on YouTube and other reliable platforms for inspiration.

However, don’t underestimate the advantage of working with a reputable and trusted professional. A certified expert will teach you all the important skills and steps according to your interests and unique learning needs.


Once you have learned the bluegrass and other common flatpicking techniques, level up your skills with cross-picking.

If it only takes a few hours to master bluegrass, cross-picking is a different case as it is more advanced compared to the former.

Integrating the alternate bass picking and Boom-Chika, cross-picking is difficult.

As an arpeggiated pattern, cross-picking requires each note of a chord to sound individually with accuracy. Similar to a fingerstyle, this flatpicking technique allows a player to achieve the same precision without compromising a bright and crisp sound throughout the process.

Flatpicking Tips to Remember

Let’s admit it! Flatpicking a guitar is hard to master. But don’t be discouraged. When you’re unable to achieve the sound you prefer, the constant practice can make a big difference. While learning to develop your craft, consider these flatpicking tips from start to finish:

Always Practice in Performing Position

What’s your favorite position when playing your guitar? Do you perform sitting down or standing up? Whatever your case might be, always practice in your performing position. You can also go out of your comfort zone and take a new style as a challenge. That way, you will not be shocked when adversity takes place.

Loosen Up

When you’re invited to perform in an event for the first time, you might feel pressured. It’s normal. But relax. Don’t be tense. You cannot play fast and technical stuff while trembling. Be positive, and everything will be all right.


Who doesn’t experience a hard time in memorization or mastering a complicated lick? If you’re one of them, just isolate your hands. Let’s say you’re working on a cross-picking pattern using your right hand. Then, take your left hand out of the process. All you have to do is to practice the right-hand pattern only. You will be amazed when your dexterity and skills improve.

For more information, let an experienced mentor work with you. It’s worth it.