When it comes to creating the perfect tone, most people typically think that it all has to do with the guitar, or the amp, or the pedals. But one thing that tends to get overlooked is the guitar pick. This small, inexpensive tool that has such an impact on your sound and playing, but it even tends to be one of the latest things that guitarists think of changing. With all options of guitar pick thickness, materials, shape, and size, it can be a lot to take in. We threw together this handy guide to help you out with a perfect guitar pick.
A guitar pick can really be made out of anything. But some of the most common materials are:
When most people think of a guitar pick, that is what they picture. That is because these are the most common types of picks out there. Celluloid picks that have a crisp, bright attack, but they are not very durable. They also tend to have a flappy sound to them from being so much flexible. Whether that is a good thing or not is totally up to you.
Some players like the Jimmy Page and Gene Simmons swear by the nylon picks. These have a bright sound and even tend to be much more pretty flexible. Most of them come with the textures on them as well to help improve the grip, which is just what you will need when your hands get sweaty doing too many Pete Townshend style windmills.
Tortex and Derlin picks are made out of this highly durable plastic. Companies started making the picks out of these materials once it became illegal to make the tortoiseshell picks in the year 1973. These are even going to be much stiffer than the nylon picks, but less stiff than Ultem picks. There are of a great choice if you are just starting out and are looking for something that is durable but also has a strong attack.
Picks made of this like the Dunlop Ultex picks are super stiff no matter the thickness, and they even produce a bright tone as well. While the guitarists use these, they have become very much popular among the mandolin players.
They have been around since the year the ’80s and are light, touch, and can be easily molded to almost any thickness. Apart from that, they are usually clear so that they look super rad.
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Guitar Pick Thickness
The thickness of your pick will play the biggest part in how the bright or how to warn your guitar sounds. As with everything, the different options of the guitar pick thickness each have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Your thin picks are usually going to range between 0.40 to 0.60 mm. These will have a lighter sound, and work best for the delicate playing of the guitar. Thin picks, especially ones made of celluloid, will produce that flappy sound. They are even great for the acoustic strumming and some other times where you want that bright and defined rhythm tone that you hear in so many rock and country albums.
Thin picks are not even going to be good for the lead playing because they don’t have that well-rounded tone that is needed for the single-note leads. These are even going to be too bright for lead playing since they don’t provide that much of a low end. You also tend to have a loss of control due to the extreme flexibility of thin picks.
Medium picks are going to range in the thickness ranging from 0.60 to 0.80 mm. Medium thickness picks are the most popular choice among the guitarists. While they may not even offer that some shimmer on acoustic strumming that thin picks do, medium picks still have enough flexibility for the good rhythm playing while still retaining the stiffness needed for those leads. They have a nice high end and mid-range of them without having the boominess of the heavier picks. Beginners tend to start here because it is a nice middle ground.
Picks that are of around 0.80 – 1.2mm are considered to be heavy. These are going to offer you the most control when it comes to your playing. Heavy picks will help you to clean up your playing, provide less pick noise, and help you solos to become much more dynamic. Long story short, if you are not normally playing lead guitar, this is the thickness of pick you will want to play.
For all those players that need an even heavier pick, then you should look into the extra heavy guitar picks. These are even considered 1.2 mm and higher. The players that use these are usually bebop and jazz guitarists looking for a super warm, mellow sound.
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Guitar Pick Shape
The shape also plays an essential part when finding the perfect guitar pick for you. The guitar pick shape will affect how easy it is held and how precise you will be able to be with your picking.
These are the picks that most of the guitarists start with. Many end up staying with these, and for a good reason. They are even tried and true pick shape. If you are not sure what to use, these guys will never let you down.
These even tend to be a favorite among the acoustic and bass players due to their easy to grip size and the blunter tip among a warmer sound as they can even be used on all the three corners, so if one wears down, just keep rotating it and keep on rocking.
While these are called by the name Jazz, they can really be used with any of the genres that require the fast, nimble picking. If you are used to playing a larger pick, such as the tri-tip or classic, these will speed up your playing immensely.
Jumbo Jazz Picks
These are the hybrid between the classical and jazz picks. They offer the speed and precision of jazz picks but the larger size of the classic picks. Do you know that Scott guy who owns StringJoy? These are his favorite pick to play with.
Guitar Pick Textures
It really comes down to your personal preference when using a textured guitar pick. Most of the people tend to like having the extra gripped that comes with the help of a textured pick, but as plenty of guitarists who just want a nice, even surface to hold on to and would rather use their teeth then play with a textured pick. When it comes to the nylon picks, moreover, these are usually going to come with a textured surface since the nylon tends to be pretty slippery and no wants their pick flying out into the audience mid solo.
Some of the guitarist’s players like The Edge, have been known to use the textured picks, but flip them around so that the textured side is actually helping to pluck the strings. He used this technique a lot in this career, since all you were wondering how he got the extra crispiness on “Where the Streets Have No Names.”
The most important thing to keep in mind when choosing the perfect pick for you is to keep experimenting until you find something you like. There are no right or wrong answers! Find out what works best for you, and buy a boatload of ’em, because we all know that guitar picks disappear way easier than they should.
If you’re looking for a new guitar, or want some of the lectures on the guitar then logon to GuitarBro.