Plectrum Technique - Finger Picking Style

OK you're tuned and ready to rock! How do you produce a sound with your right hand (left hand if you're left handed of course!)?
There are two schools for that: fingers and plectrum. Most of the rock/pop guitarists use a plectrum, whereas folk, country and blues guitarists use their fingers. My only advice is to learn both: start with a plectrum, because it is easier at start so you can concentrate more on your left hand. When your left hand becomes better, then experiment playing with your fingers. Don't neglect your plectrum technique – it is easy to produce a thick sound with a plectrum but to produce cool rhythm patterns, it requires a specific technique, including muting with your right hand, that will come in very handy for pop tunes.


Plectrum types and sizes

Different shapes and sizes and prices – get the cheapest one, because as far as i've experienced, it doesn't matter much! If you're out of plectrums and want to play, make one with a (used) thick phone card or whatever you can think of. They tend to deteriorate quickly when you play chords, so buy/make a few.
It is quite easy to produce a note this way. Hold the plectrum between your thumb and your index and place it parallel(ish) to the string. Then you can either place it above the string and strum the string down. Or you can place it below and strum the string up. If you strum down, you'll get a thicker sound. So the combination of both can help creating cool rhythm patterns. You can strum a few strings down and up, in order to play chords. Practice strumming one string with a regular beat. Then practice changing strings. A few hours and you'll "feel" the strings so you don't have to look at them ANYMORE. It's important to reach that stage where you can play whatever string you want without looking at your right hand. Even if that means missing out a few sometimes...
A common beginner's mistake is to use 3 fingers (thumb, index + middle fingers) to hold the pick as it may appear that you have more strength and control this way - inf act, this way of holding the pick will slow you down, it reduces your flexibility and you will suffer when you'll wanna play fast! So get used to the proper position (straight thumb coming sideways & arched index coming perpendicular from above)!


Plectrum technique - Finger picking style

There are side things you can do with a plectrum. You've got 3 free fingers, so you can use them as well, either to mute strings or to play on other strings. Experiment with these when you "feel" the strings without having to look at them too much.

You can either use your nails or the tip of your finger (which is going to develop hard skin if you regularly use it) to produce the sound. The problem of relying on your nails means that you need strong nails and you also need to look after them. So i've always opted for the tip of the finger approach... But most classically trained guitarists use their nails.
You'll have to overcome two problems: independence between fingers, and control of your little finger. You'll see that you'll never quite control your little finger as much as the others – and THAT'S OK, as you won't use it much anyway.

Practice on one string first, mostly using the 3 main fingers (not your thumb) and maybe your little finger once in a while. Make sure the sound remains the same whatever finger you're using – so listen to yourself! You'll find that you might have more strength in one finger than in the others, so you'll need to adjust your playing so people can't hear any difference. But the aim isn't to always produce the same sound – the aim is to be able to control the sound you're producing. So vary the pressure on the string, slightly vary your approach to the string... so you can produce a whole range of sounds with EACH finger (except the little finger). Then practice changing strings.
At this stage, you'll introduce the use of your thumb. The natural shape of our hands make it impossible for us to use our thumb for high notes and use our fingers for lower strings so don't lose sleep over it! You'll mostly use your thumb for the 3 bass strings E – B – D.
Then again, you need to adjust the pressure to be able to produce different quality of sound. The advantage of playing with your fingers is that you can fully control your sound – the downside is that there's a lot of technique to develop to be able to do so.