The real answer will not be found in this blog post, but for sure will help you learn more about what is available and define your playing style. Guitar picks come in different shapes, thicknesses, materials, textures, colors, and packages. With these attributes in mind, the next variable is defining the playing style. Most guitar players are versatile in the sense that they can play rhythm and lead. And while there are picks that can satisfy versatility, there are others that have a special place in the heart of discerning players.
Playing guitar with a pick produces a bright sound compared to playing with your fingertips. Picks also offer a greater contrast in tone across different plucking locations; for example, the difference in brightness between plucking close to the bridge and close to the neck is much greater when using a pick compared to a fingertip. Conversely, the many playing techniques that involve the fingers, such as those found in fingerstyle guitar, slapping, classical guitar, and flamenco guitar, can also yield an extremely broad variety of tones.
Rhythm players can find themselves strumming chords with rounded tipped picks. The classic 351 that we all know and love. Lead or soloists could take advantage of sharper edged picks as it allows for a faster attack. Jazz or teardrop picks are got examples of this. Some picks have small protrusions to make them easier to keep hold if the fingers start to sweat. Some picks are coated to help the player hold on to them and others include grips for adjustability.
The shark’s fin pick can be used in two ways: normally, employing the blunt end; or the small perturbations can be raked across the strings producing a much fuller chord, or used to apply a “pick scrape” down the strings producing a very harsh, scratching noise.
Sharp-edged picks are used to create an easier motion of picking across the strings.
Most common mass-manufactured picks are made out of various types of plastic. Most popular plastics include:
- Celluloid: Historically, this was the first plastic ever used to produce picks, and it is still of some use today, especially for guitarists aiming for vintage tone.
- Nylon: A popular material, it has a smooth and slick surface, so most manufacturers add a high-friction coating to nylon picks to make them easier to grip. Nylon is flexible and can be produced in very thin sheets. Most thin and extra-thin picks are made out of nylon. However, nylon loses its flexibility after 1–2 months of extensive use, becomes fragile and breaks.
- Acetal: Acetal is a highly durable class of plastics and most commonly know as Delrin which is DuPont’s trademarked name for a type of acetal. Delrin is hard, glossy and durable, and can also be doped to produce a matte texture. The friction between a steel or nickel guitar string, and smooth, glossy acetal is very low. Glossy Delrin picks literally glide across the string and therefore have a fast release, producing very little pick noise, while delivering a rounded tone emphasizing the lower order harmonics.
- Ultem: This plastic has the highest stiffness of all plastic picks and produces a bright tone, popular among mandolin players.
- Acrylic: Tough, light, clear, seamless polymer with great resistance to impact and weathering. Acrylic is not brittle and does not yellow or crack. Can be molded and cut to almost any shape and thickness. It renders a very full spectrum tonal range when used as a plectrum on stringed instruments. Some grades of acrylic have a unique gripping characteristic, and when warmed to the touch, become tacky or sticky feeling, causing the material to cling to your fingers. Acrylic can be heat-tempered for strength and longevity.
- Felt: The go-to for Ukulele players but bass players can also benefit from these as an alternative to finger picking. Felt picks produce a warm tone while providing a natural grip through the fibers.
Generally, a heavier pick produces a darker sound than a lighter pick, but the shape of the tip has the most influence on the sound. A pointed tip produces a brighter, more focused sound, while a rounded tip produces a rounder, less defined sound.
Most pick manufacturers print the thickness in millimeters or thousandths of an inch on the pick. Some other brands use a system of letters or text designations to indicate thickness. Our Musick Road picks are color-coded to match their specific thickness:
|Medium 0.71mm||Green||Strumming and single notes|
|Medium Heavy 0.88mm||Purple||Strumming and single notes|
|Heavy 1.00mm||Blue||Single notes and rhythm|
|Extra Heavy 1.20mm||Orange||Single notes and rhythm|
Header Photo By: Drew Patrick Miller