How to Choose the Right Guitar Pick
In guitar the small things matter. All the way down to the cables and tubes in your amp, these details matter. Your cables, strap, and even the pick you use make an impact on your playing. Okay maybe your plectrum is not going to have a huge impact on tone, maybe it will do nothing to your guitar sound at all, but it does matter. Ever get stuck pick-less at a gig and then had to rely on the quarter that was (thankfully) in your back pocket? If not, believe me, it makes a significant difference in the way you play. Even in less extreme situations, your pick of choice has a role in how you use your strings. So, here are some of the most important factors when deciding on what pick your fingers should be holding.
The thickness of your pick is one of the most important parts in getting the right feel for you. In this case, thickness is being measured in millimeters in respect to the height of the pick’s dimensions. For guitar, pick thicknesses can range anywhere from 0.45mm all the way up to 3.0mm and beyond. However, most people find the sweet spot to be somewhere in the range of 0.5mm to 1.2mm. Additionally, some brands will not put millimeter sizes on their picks. These brands will typically use light(approx. 45mm), medium(approx. 60mm) and heavy(approx. 85mm) instead. A lot of players will lean towards a thinner pick for rhythm and or acoustic, while defaulting to thicker picks for lead playing. But this is just the common way of thinking, there are plenty of people who never stray from one specific type of pick as well. If you are just getting into guitar (or just starting to look at different picks) I strongly encourage you to try out several different thicknesses of picks. You can either buy pre-assorted packs or get individuals from your local music store.
Shape is one factor of guitar picks that players often overlook. Most people will tend to never stray away from the standard shape that we all know and love. However, when you stick with the standard pick shape, you are missing out on the chance to find the perfect fit for your hands. For instance, many jazz and gypsy players will use jazz shaped guitar picks that have smaller bodies and less contoured edges (making them great for more articulate playing). Another example can be found in teardrop shaped picks. Personally, I have found these to be a great option for those of us with rather skinny fingers. Having less materials on the sides make for less to control during playing, a huge improvement in comfort for those of us who need it. But these are just two shapes and examples, there are so many other guitar pick shapes to choose from. The best way to check them all out is to go to your favorite manufactures website and scroll through their categories.
The last thing you should consider when finding the right pick for you is the material. Picks are not just plastic, they can be made of wood, felt, metal, and stone. Even if you are sticking with just plastic picks, there is still Celluloid, Nylon, and Delrin to choose from. The coolest part of choosing between materials of guitar picks is the wide array of feel and tonal properties between them. The difference between a Dunlop Tortex and a Stone Works pick is a massive one. Playing on something like a stone or metal pick will provide a much more percussive sound to each strum along with yielding a rather grabby feel (not in a bad way necessarily). Again, this is just one example. You really have to play on these materials to know for sure if they will work for you. But that said, there are plenty of great videos displaying the tonal differences between pick materials. It’s worth noting that a lot of these alternative materials will add a lot to your cost per pick, so make sure to do some research before buying.
Hopefully, by now you are more open to the idea of trying out some new picks. They are certainly not the bottom line in anyone’s guitar playing. However, as stated before, the details matter. Having all parts of your rig as optimal and as can be makes for the best end result. It is more than likely that the most optimal pick for you is not the standard size, shape or material that you have become accustomed to. Or maybe it is. It is possible that you got lucky and the standard fits you perfect… but how often is that really the case? Give something different a try, you never know, you might just find your pick of destiny.