The poor, lowly, and often forgotten guitar plectrum. Better known as a pick, we strongly recommend you take time to experiment with a large selection of them!
When asking a new guitarist about playing many things will probably come to mind before the guitar pick will. This is unfortunate because picks vary so widely that finding a style, thickness, and material that feels comfortable in your hand can make learning so much easier.
Often times, the better the guitarist, the more particular they will be about the pick they’ll use. It will also often vary depending on the type of music they are playing.
Ultimately, the pick you play should be an individual choice based simply on what works for you. This guide
Benefits of Using A Guitar Pick
Before choosing a guitar pick, you need to choose to use one in the first place! There is really not a right way to play the guitar. Both using your fingers to strum or using a pick is appropriate. As with many things in this guide, it mostly comes down to preference.
Many beginners find that it is easier to do many things with a pick, though. Playing individual strings can be easier with a pick, as well as playing fast. Most musicians who play in bands will also prefer to use a pick as it makes achieving volume easier and it can save your fingers from tiredness.
Difference between Guitar Picks
So, what are the differences you should be aware of? We’ve broken the differences into material and size and will discuss both in detail below.
Just like so many things concerning picks the material of your pick comes down to preference. Historically all sorts of things have been used including bone, shells, and even dental crown material. Today, most picks are made with either a plastic or a basic metal.
Common plastics used today are materials like nylon, polyethylene, and celluloid. Each material will give off a slightly different sound as it brushes down the strings.
They will also all have their own smoothness and durability. Plastic picks will also vary greatly depending on how thick they are.
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A thin plastic pick will be flexible and more forgiving but may be to soft to play with other musicians or at faster tempos. A thicker plastic pick will be louder but will be less forgiving of pressure inconsistencies while strumming.
Metal is less common than the various plastics, but is easily the second most common guitar pick material. Metal picks are similar to thicker plastic ones as they will have very little flex. Metal tends to produce a bright, biting tone when played.
The size of guitar picks varies as greatly as the types of instruments they are used on. There are some generalities we will run through that will give you an idea what is available.
Thick vs Thin Pick?
Thin picks are generally .44 millimeters or thinner. Due to their slim profile they are generally more flexible and are more forgiving when strumming. They are also good for circular and alternate picking styles. Many acoustic players prefer thinner picks as they don’t produce a harsh sound and are light and accurate for hitting individual notes.
The best of both worlds. Medium picks are anywhere from .45 to .80 millimeters. This is generally a good spot for beginners to start to simply get the feel for playing while holding a pick. More advanced players who find themselves playing a wide variety of styles may stick in this range for it’s versatility.
Anything over .81 millimeters thick is classified as a heavy pick. These are great if you are playing heavy, fast or wound strings that could wear down a pick quickly. Heavy picks are generally preferred by electric instrument players but can be harder to grasp and keep in place.
Other differences you may find include a variance in shape, grip, and branding. These don’t tend to effect the playing of the pick but can be adjusted to suit the individual guitarist.
Popular Guitar Picks
To add on to the popular Dunlop Tortex Picks we mentioned earlier there are a number of others making plastic options. Ernie Ball and Steve Clayton also have great reputations and a dedicated following.
For some other variations check out StoneWorks (yes, really made of stone), while we haven’t actually played one the novelty alone may be worth the price. Another option is the Fender Steel Picks that give a crisp, biting sound and help players struggling with grip.
Got a pick that you can’t play without? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!