Top 10 Guitarists with the Oddest Picking Techniques

Metal_Treasure
Normally guitarists hold a pick using their thumb and index finger. But some guitarists don't hold the pick conventionally. Also, the fingers' position can be odd as well as the hand position.

And when you look at their picking hand, you go O_O because it looks more than weird.

It doesn't mean they are bad guitarists, not at all. On the contrary, some of the axemen on this list are some of the best guitarists ever.

The names of the picking techniques used in this list are NOT official names - the names are just funny yet pretty accurate descriptions of how some guitarists' picking looks like.

Just to remind you - this list is about the oddest picking techniques and not about the best guitarists.

The Top Ten

1 Marty Friedman - "broken wrist" technique Marty Friedman - Martin Adam "Marty" Friedman is an American guitarist, known for his tenure as the lead guitarist for heavy metal band Megadeth which spanned nearly the full decade of the 1990s, as well as Cacophony alongside Jason Becker until 1989. Friedman has resided in Tokyo, Japan since 2003, where he has hosted ...read more.

His wrist isn't broken but looks like one when he plays. He bends his wrist too much and it looks like it hurts. In his own words, his picking technique "looks stupid as crap."
The weirdest thing is that he actually does the main 2 things traditionally:
1) he holds the pick with 2 fingers; 2) he uses his thumb and index finger.
Nevertheless, his picking style looks extremely odd because:
1) the position of his hand is very unusual
2) the angle that his wrist is at is weird ("broken wrist")
3) the position of his fingers is also unusual (no extended fingers)
Because of that his picking style looks weird as hell.
PS. I added images of the picking hands of these guitarists. - Metal_Treasure

2 Rory Gallagher - "string stretching picking" Rory Gallagher - William Rory Gallagher was an Irish blues and rock multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and bandleader.

A good example of it, when he stretched his strings too much that he made it sound like a tremolo effect/ vibrato/ whammy bar. Its Moonchild 1982 version, in Germany. Nearly at the end of his song.

In 1978 Shadow Play version, in Germany he did the same (though not like Moonchild). He also did tapping before Eddie Van Halen in the mid 70s. And tremolo picking in several songs. - zxm

Haven't seen any other picking like this. He leaves his picks, stretches his strat's strings by just shaking/stretching it. - zxm

Thanks for adding this zxm. And I'm glad to see you back! - Metal_Treasure

3 Wilko Johnson - "edge of fingers" Wilko Johnson -

Wilko Johnson was the original guitarist for the rock and roll band Dr. Feelgood. He doesn't use a pick; he instead strikes the edges of his fingers in a syncopated manner against the strings. This allows him to blend rhythm and lead guitar in a unique way. Watch any video of him with Dr. Feelgood in the mid-1970s, and then watch the video where he explains his technique. He makes it look and sound easy, but it's not. - Gg2000

4 Richie Kotzen - "no pick" picking technique Richie Kotzen -

Richie Kotzen doesn't use a pick!
He used to play with a pick but circa 2007 he changed his style and he has been playing only with his fingers ever since. - Metal_Treasure

5 Steve Morse - "metal horns / rock on" technique Steve Morse - Steven J. "Steve" Morse is an American guitarist and composer, best known as the founder of the Dixie Dregs; and since 1994, the guitar player of Deep Purple.

1) Steve Morse of Deep Purple often holds the pick with 3 fingers and not with 2 (which is unusual).

2) Also, he has the 'most metal' picking technique ever because his right hand often looks like a devil-horns hand! Or, the 'Rock On' gesture, if you prefer. - Metal_Treasure

6 Michael Angelo Batio - "pinching and tickling with a shy pick" technique Michael Angelo Batio - Michael Angelo Batio also known as Mike Batio or MAB, is an American heavy metal guitarist and columnist from Chicago, Illinois.

Michael Angelo Batio... What's not odd about this guy?

Picking style: he only moves his picking fingers - the other fingers don't move! It looks like tickling and pinching. Also, his pick usually can't be seen ("shy pick"). - Metal_Treasure

7 James Hetfield - "3-finger pen holding" technique James Hetfield - James Alan Hetfield was born on August 3, 1963. He is an American musician, singer and songwriter known for being the co-founder, lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist and main songwriter for the American heavy metal band Metallica.

He holds the pick with 3 fingers and not with 2 and he holds the pick like a pen / pencil. You can see it in the image. James Hetfield looks like a "writer". But this technique worked great for him. Obviously.
Both James Hetfield and Steve Morse of Deep Purple use 3 fingers but their hands look different while picking. - Metal_Treasure

The user of this site somekindofaguy told me that he also holds the pick with 3 fingers, just like James Hetfield. He didn't copy Hetfield or somebody else. It was how he felt it was comfortable. - Metal_Treasure

8 Eddie Van Halen - "middle finger" technique Eddie Van Halen - Edward Lodewijk "Eddie" Van Halen is a Dutch-American musician, songwriter and producer. He is best known as the lead guitarist, occasional keyboardist and co-founder of the hard rock band Van Halen.

No, it isn't what you think. He just holds the pick differently - with his thumb and middle finger. Eddie explained:

"On an Instructional book, there was an illustration of how to hold the pick. It was to be held with your thumb and index finger. Well, I couldn’t, for the life of me, hold it like that. It was very uncomfortable, and I felt like I had absolutely no control of the pick. I tend to hold it more with my thumb and middle finger with a little bit of my index finger, but mostly just my thumb and middle finger. The only time I hold the pick with my thumb and index finger is when I am using the vibrato bar. Bottom line is, and I say this a lot, do whatever works best for you! There are no rules when it comes to being creative, and playing guitar certainly falls into that category." - Metal_Treasure

9 Pat Metheny - "bug flick" technique Pat Metheny -

His picking technique is pretty odd (he's a jazz virtuoso guitarist) - Metal_Treasure

10 Kirk Hammett - "giving the middle finger" technique Kirk Hammett - Kirk Lee Hammett is the lead guitarist and songwriter for the heavy metal band Metallica and has been a member of the band since 1983. Before joining Metallica he formed and named the band Exodus.

No, he doesn't hold the pick with his middle finger (unlike Eddie Van Halen).

Kirk only gives the middle finger, haha!
Very often his middle finger is the only extended finger and it looks very funny.

He doesn't do it intentionally. It just happens. - Metal_Treasure

The Contenders

11 Willie Adler - "horror movie scenes" technique Willie Adler - William M. Adler is the rhythm guitarist in the heavy metal band Lamb of God. He is the younger brother of his bandmate, drummer Chris Adler.

He holds the pick "normally" (with his thumb and index finger) but his fingers, their position and their moves look terrifying.
When he moves his fingers, they look like creatures from horror movies or from your nightmares. It can be seen partly in the image. - Metal_Treasure

12 Tosin Abasi - "broken thumb" technique Tosin Abasi -

His thumb isn't broken but looks weird when he plays. That 90° angle is insane and I think at times it's < 90°.
(I added an image of his thumb. PS. The image got approved but doesn't show up here; same for the other images). - Metal_Treasure

13 Synyster Gates - "old lady holds a cup of coffee" technique Synyster Gates - Brian Elwin Haner, Jr., better known by his stage name Synyster Gates or simply Syn, is an American musician, best known for being the lead guitarist and backing vocalist of the band Avenged Sevenfold.

The young Synyster Gates used to hold the pick like an old lady a cup of coffee. But he changed that so no fun anymore. - Metal_Treasure

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