Guitar Picks 101: How to Pick Your Pick

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Although small in size, guitar picks possess a lot of power. In fact, many beginning guitar players often don’t realize just how important guitar picks really are. While it is very possible to play the guitar without a pick (and sometimes preferred for stylistic reasons), these small, but mighty tools can have a surprisingly big impact on sound, and shouldn’t be ignored. 

Function of a Guitar Pick

Basically, a guitar pick gives a guitarist more control and precision over the strings. Like a car key, a guitar pick essentially connects a guitarist to his or her musical vehicle (i.e. a guitar) and sparks the playing process. But, unlike a car key, there are many different types of guitar picks out there, each with their own unique benefits.

Guitar Pick Varieties

Below are some of the most common factors to consider when choosing a guitar pick. As with guitar lessons, no two guitar picks are alike, so you’ll want to test out a few to find the one that best complements your guitar skills.

Thickness

Believe it or not, there is no standard thickness for guitar picks. They come in a wide range of thicknesses, depending on the manufacturer. The thickness of the guitar pick matters because it influences the overall tone. In general, thin picks (40-.60 mm or less) are known for producing bright tones while thick picks are known for mellower tones. 

Material

While plastic is the most common material used for guitar picks, it is not the only one. 

Nylon, celluloid, wood, metal, stone….all are used to make guitar picks. Nylon is the standard choice because it is flexible and produces a warm, mild tone. Celluloid guitar picks, on the other hand, are much stiffer and produce a more distinct and sharp sound. The best way to discover how different materials impact tone and playability is by simply trying them out and hearing the differences for yourself!

Shape

As a guitarist, it’s good to learn your shapes…guitar pick shapes that is! They come in varying forms and sizes: large, small, round tip, short tip, tri-tip and classic to name a few. With so many different options, the choice boils down to preference. Some guitar shapes are more suited for specific fingering and palm techniques while others are not. Experiment with a few different shapes until you find one that feels easy to use and won’t slow down your playing.

Texture

Not many guitarists consider the texture of a guitar pick, but they should. If you’re prone to dropping things, then a smooth guitar pick is probably not ideal for you. Additionally, if you tend to sweat easily, forgo the polished guitar pick as it will slip easily from your grip. For a sturdier grip, invest in raised, rough, or sanded guitar picks that are easy to grip and virtually slip-free. 

Summary

No type of guitar pick is better than the other. It all depends on the personal preferences and needs of the guitarist. Our advice is to test out a few different kinds of picks to determine which one is best for you. In the meantime, continue practicing diligently and rocking every guitar lesson to ensure your skills are on point and your guitar pick is being put to good use!

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