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Even if you’re the most dedicated fingerpicker in the world, it’s a good idea to have a plectrum or pick on hand.
I have a friend who plays guitar almost entirely with his fingers, but even he has songs that require the use of a pick.
But you might be wondering what type of pick to choose.
Picks are made from a variety of materials at different thicknesses, take different shapes and sizes, and come with various colors or designs.
Which one is the right one for you?
Here is an overview of factors to consider as you’re looking for a pick.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Pick
Picks are relatively simple devices. And yet, they come in a multitude of shapes and sizes, colors, materials and designs. And, some are even designed for specific playing styles.
That can make it harder to know which one is right for you.
So, here are a few things you should be thinking about.
The Type Of Guitar You’re Playing
Look around and you’ll see that there are jazz picks, bluegrass picks, thumb picks and a host of other style of picks.
Does this mean that you must match your pick to the type of guitar you’re using as well as the style of music you want to play?
The answer is simply “no”.
Now, there are plenty of experts out there offering recommendations for which picks to use for a specific style of playing or specific type of guitar. And it’s worth hearing them out.
But that doesn’t mean what works for them will work for you, nor does it mean you should arbitrarily limit your selection based on what someone else said.
I tend to think of nylon guitar picks as ideal for acoustic guitar, while Tortex (and similar) picks are great for electric guitar. Some use them interchangeably, however.
I find plastic picks almost entirely useless and I end up shredding them relatively quickly.
Even that is an arbitrary guideline at best, but it’s not a bad starting point.
Although I referenced nylon picks, for acoustic guitar, I almost exclusively use Wegen’s Fatone, which is a custom-made pick. I love it because it’s thick and it brings multiple tones out of my guitar.
But it costs quite a bit for just one pick – somewhere in the $20 range. So, nylon picks are more within reach for most.
I haven’t and wouldn’t use a Wegen pick for my electric guitar, as its simply too thick. I love using the Dunlop Tortex picks for electric.
But there are plenty of other picks worth checking out – D’Addario DuraGrip, Fender 551 Shape Classic Celluloid, Dava Control picks, Gravity picks, Ernie Ball Prodigy, Graph Tech TUSQ and so on.
As already noted, picks are made from a variety of materials, whether it’s nylon, leather, Tortex, Duralin, Delrin, celluloid, gels, acrylic and more.
Materials can affect your grip and comfort level, playability, the durability of the pick and the tone of your guitar.
And, some picks make it easier for you to play fast, while others make strumming a breeze. There isn’t necessarily one pick that’s perfect for everything.
Personally, so long as the pick is not made of flimsy material, and I like how it feels, I’ll often buy it. So, I tend not to pay attention to materials that much.
Still, it does make a difference.
For instance, some people like nylon picks, while others hate them. Oftentimes, it ends up being a bit of a love or hate situation.
I’ve used them in the past, and if it’s all I had, I would use one, but as I mentioned before, for acoustic guitar I prefer Wegen picks.
It’s hard to know what you might like without giving it a try. So, I’d suggest trying out a variety of picks to find the right one.
Most aren’t that expensive, so you could even buy a bunch and take them home to try them out.
Shape & Thickness
Some picks have sharper tips. Others have rounded tips. Some are thicker. Some are lighter. Some are bigger. Some are smaller.
Again, there is no right or wrong – only what feels right to you.
It’s worth trying various picks to see what feels good to you.
Do you like thick picks that don’t have any give? Or, do you like lighter picks that bend as you pick or strum notes?
Do you like big picks shaped like triangles, or do you like smaller jazz picks?
Do you like thick picks that bring out both the brightness and warmth of your guitar, or do you like thinner nylon picks that produce more attack?
Most discoveries come through trial and error, so don’t worry about trying to get this right on the first go around. I spent plenty of time experimenting.
The point is that picks come in many shapes and thicknesses, and you’ll want to find a pick that feels comfortable to you.
Beginners would generally be served well with a medium pick.
This isn’t just about looks, although that is certainly part of a pick’s overall design.
Not only are picks available in a wide variety of colors, some come with sophisticated abstract designs, bevels and grooves and some are even translucent.
Again, we can conclude from this that the design of the pick will factor into how it feels and functions.
For the most part, design is the last thing I would be concerned with. If I like how a pick feels and sounds, that comes first. How it looks comes second.
And, even though there are many cool-looking picks out there, and you might be tempted to buy based on looks, I would suggest choosing based on how the pick feels.
Okay, So How Do I Choose A Pick For Me?
Still not sure which pick to choose? Fair enough.
Start with the following and work your way out from there:
- Dunlop Tortex. Try out a few different thicknesses – 0.50mm, 0.60mm, 0.73mm, 0.88mm and 1.0mm (the last two are my favorites).
- Dunlop Nylon. 0.60mm is always a good place to start. Try something thinner, like the 0.38mm and something thicker, like the 0.88mm too.
- Dunlop Stiffo Jazz III. For those who’d like to give something smaller and thicker a try. The Jazz III is great for fast, accurate playing.
- Dunlop Big Stubby. If you’d like to give a thicker, bigger pick a try just to see how it feels and sounds, the Big Stubby is far more affordable than a Wegen pick. I used to use the Big Stubby before I got the Wegen.
- Pickboy Pos-a-Grip. The holes in the Pos-a-Grip pick offer enhanced grip and cuts down on the accumulation of moisture to reduce slip.
You can buy one of each or even several of each and test them out of yourself.
But just in case it seems like I’m referencing Dunlop a lot – the world of picks is extensive and there are plenty of great brands out there, whether it’s Fender, Planet Waves, V-Pick, D’Addario or otherwise.
It’s not all about the brand anyway, but you will likely develop some preferences with regards to brands over time too.
It’s Okay To Experiment & Use What You Like
At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong.
In my early days, I tried a lot of picks, and gradually formed an opinion around what I liked.
I’ll still try out different picks here and there, but for the most part, I stick to the old standbys. They work great for me.
Also, I always keep a few extras on hand.
You never know when the situation might require you to approach your instrument differently. You could end up shredding a pick. There are a lot of things that can happen.
For backups, keep a few different kinds of picks on hand so you can switch if needed.