The Complete Guitar Picks & Plectrum Buying Guide 

Guitar picks and plectrum guideDear reader. My goal for you is that you shall never worry about a guitar pick choice again and finally find the perfect pick for your needs as a guitar player. That’s why I created the complete buying guide to guitar picks and plectrums.

At a certain time in our career as a guitarist, be it a bedroom career or actual stage career, we have the basics under our fingers and slowly start putting attention on the actual sound of the notes we are playing. At first we’ll check out the obvious: the Guitar, amp or strings, but later we come to realise that also the pick is an important cornerstone in the development of our unique individual sound.

Mastery follows awareness, meaning that in order to fix the plectrum puzzle piece of your perfect sound you need to understand it more thoroughly. That’s our mission for today. First, let’s wind back the time and start with a short history lesson before we dive into the fascinating world of guitar picks as it exists today.

For thousands of years, musicians used some form of plectrum to pluck their instrument’s strings. Initially, mainly natural material like sea shells and feather quills were used. The first artificial material used for picks appeared in the early 20th century: Celluloid, a form of cheap flexible plastic which is still the go to material today. The biggest issue in the early days of picking was the slipperiness of the material. Many solutions were experimented with, like adding a layer of cork on top of the plastic or drilling holes into it. You’ll find these ideas still floating around today. Nowadays, the advancement of manufacturing and material science offer a wide variety of materials, shapes, textures, thicknesses and more for any need. And the picks lived happily ever after without ever slipping out of it’s players fingers again! (We all know that’s a lie but we’re working on it.)

History lesson over, back to today. See this article as glossary of what’s on the guitar pick market. We’ll look at picks from different angles and hopefully answer the question, “which pick is the right one for your needs and style of playing?” The angles of approach are:

  • Bestseller

  • Thickness

  • Shape

  • Material

  • Texture

  • Music Style

  • Design

  • Bulk Buying

  • Guitar Pick Alternatives

  • Guitar Pick Accessories

Guitar Pick Bestseller

Before we go into the nitty-gritty of guitar picks buying let’s have a look at the bestselling plectrums on the market. Through that we learn what the average pick looks like as a reference for other more extravagant versions. Maybe the common good is what you are looking for anyway. 

Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.60 mm

Dunlop is the most famous pick brand and the Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.60 mm is the most sold dunlop pick. It’s 0.60 mm in thickness so a little lighter than medium and has the standard shape. The texture is matt and thus sticky.

Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.60mm Orange 72 Pack
1366 Reviews
Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.60mm Orange 72 Pack
  • The pick used by top musicians worldwide
  • Made of the ever-popular Tortex material for a long life and bright tone
  • Maximum memory, minimum wear
  • Gauges (mm): .50, .60, .73, .88, 1.0, 1.14

Dunlop 471R3C Max-Grip Nylon Jazz III Carbon Fiber

The Dunlop 471R3C Max-Grip is made out of carbon fiber. The “Max Grip” stands for the high relief texture and non-slipperiness of this pick. The shape is a jazz style but of course you can use it for any genre you like.

Sale
Dunlop 471R3C Max-Grip Nylon Jazz III, Carbon Fiber 24 Pack
502 Reviews
Dunlop 471R3C Max-Grip Nylon Jazz III, Carbon Fiber 24 Pack
  • This is a Nylon Pick with carbon addictive.
  • Combines Max-Grip technology and Jazz III pick shape for extreme precision and durability
  • Available in red nylon, black stiffo, and carbon fiber
  • 24 picks per bag

Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks Heavy

The Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks Heavy is not as heavily sold on amazon as our other bestsellers. It’s heavy in thickness but it’s quite well known throughout the scene. 

Sale
Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks, 10 pack, Heavy
132 Reviews
Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks, 10 pack, Heavy
  • 10 picks per package
  • Heavy Gauge (43mm)
  • Custom oversized jazz shape for high precision picking in all musical genres
  • Soft-touch texture provides incredibly strong grip and smooth picking

Classic Pearl Celluloid Medium

The Classic Pearl Celluloid Medium is a good average reference for guitar picks. Medium thickness, average shape and most common material. A good allrounder! 

Planet Waves Assorted Pearl Celluloid Guitar Picks, 25 pack, Medium
2532 Reviews
Planet Waves Assorted Pearl Celluloid Guitar Picks, 25 pack, Medium
  • Premium quality celluloid provides natural feel and warm, fat tone
  • Medium gauge (70mm) works well for both strumming and articulate picking
  • Standard shape for comfortable playing
  • 25 picks per package

Fender 351 Shape Premium Pick Medium

We all love Fender! It screams value and high quality. So, why not celebrate that with a perfect pick? Look how shiny it is. 351 is a shape form, you’ll learn more about that later.

Fender 351 Shape Premium Picks Medium 12 Pack
1589 Reviews
Fender 351 Shape Premium Picks Medium 12 Pack
  • Comfortable and familiar feel provided by the traditional 351 shape
  • Celluloid picks give the traditional feel, with a smooth striking surface and a warm, round musical tone
  • Medium gauge picks are ideal for the player looking for a warmer tone of a heavy pick, but the flexibility of a thin pick.
  • Fender picks provide comfort and high-performance flexibility for every performer

Dunlop Ultex Sharp, 1.0mm

The Dunlop Ultex Sharp is the new kid on the blog. If you read the reviews on amazon you’ll see why it earned it’s place in this bestseller list.

Sale
Dunlop 433P2.0 Ultex Sharp, 1.0mm, 6/Player's Pack
220 Reviews
Dunlop 433P2.0 Ultex Sharp, 1.0mm, 6/Player's Pack
  • Thin sculpted tip for greater control and speed
  • Delivers a crisp tone
  • Seamless contoured edge
  • Virtually indestructible

Guitar Pick Thickness

The thickness or gauge of a guitar pick has a significant influence on the overall sound of your playing. Especially the attack sound (see image), which is the sound created between the first contact of pick and string and the loudest part, is shaped by the thickness. Commonly, thicknesses are classified into 5 categories: Extra light, light, medium, heavy and extra heavy. Each category has it’s strength and weaknesses and is used for particular playing styles, more on that below. In the end best is to experiment and find out which pick suits your needs.

Guitar Pick Guide

Extra Light < 0.45mm

Everything below 0.45 millimetre is considered extra light. Extra light and light picks are used for strumming as the bendable thin material creates the bright and crispy sound that we all know to well from the acoustic steel string guitar. The flappy sound is even more pronounced with picks under 0.45 mm. If you look for that property, extra light is your choice. 

Sound light, bright, high frequencies, thin
Style strumming
Properties low durability, lacks bottom, flappy, low resistance

Light 0.45mm – 0.69mm

Picks between 0.45 mm and 0.69 mm are in the light category. Similar to the extra light variant the light category suits itself well for strumming. Compared to extra light, light guitar picks are slightly louder and less flappy. For passages where you mainly strum and partly pick single strings, this thickness is probably the best.

Sound bright, light, high frequencies, flappy
Style strumming, acoustic steel string guitars
Properties low durability, low resistance

Medium 0.70mm – 0.84mm

Medium picks, 0.70mm – 0.84mm, are good hybrids that can be used for strumming as well as picking. Medium picks are a good choice for live situations, where you play different songs in different playing styles and don’t want to switch in between.

Sound more body, thicker sound, higher dynamic range
Style strumming, rock rhythm, solo and hybrid
Properties medium durability, flexible yet still stiffer than light picks, most popular choice

Heavy 0.85mm – 1.20 mm

Everything in between 0.85mm – 1.20 mm is called heavy. Heavy guitar picks suit themselves for heavy playing like rock rhythm guitar, lead solos and bass. Heavy picks provide loudness and oomph but lack the flexibility for strumming. 

Sound loud, full sound, oomph
Style rock rhythm, lead solo, bass
Properties high durability, stiff

Extra Heavy > 1.20mm

Extra heavy picks >1.20mm are not only used for heavy metal but more commonly for big body jazz solos. In combination with a smooth texture extra heavy picks are well suited for very fast jazz licks. 

Sound bottom heavy, clean, loud, warm
Style jazz, bass, heavy metal
Properties unbreakable

Guitar Pick Shape

People mostly don’t spend much time thinking about guitar pick shapes but hey, that’s what we are here for. Actually, it is an important factor to sound and handling of your guitar pick.

The shape of the pick body has an impact on the grip and your ability to move and handle the pick. For instance, playing fast licks, you don’t want a bulky pick, do you?

The shape of the tip is a factor to the sound of the attack of each note you are playing. A rounder tip will generate a rounder, smoother attack and a pointed tip causes a sharper click sound.

Here a the most conventional guitar pick shapes and their properties.

Standard “351” Shape

“Aight, just give me a pick already!” If you think along those lines you probably just want a normal good old standard “351” shape. The most produced guitar pick shape in the house and that is so for a reason!

Sound mellow, clean
Style allround
Properties firm grip, round tip

Standard Shape Sharp Tip

Standard body plus sharp tip, that is the next shape in our list. It holds the same properties than our 351 but the pointy tip creates a sharper, clickier attack sound.

Sound sharp, clicky, bright, bite
Style allround, picking, less well suited for strumming
Properties firm grip, good control for picking

Jazz III Shape

The Jazz III is a shape that originates from the jazz scene but is now also very popular under advanced players of all styles. The reason being that it’s smaller body lends itself ideally for fast picking and it’s sharp tip provides great control.

Sound clean, bright
Style Jazz, lead
Properties often comes in heavy thickness, smaller than 351, sharp tip

Tear Drop Shape Thin & Wide

The teardrop shape is a variation of the standard shape but has a rounder tip. The warm attack caused by the roundness of the tip and the ergonomic shape makes it a great choice for fast jazz licks.

Sound warm, soft
Style jazz, lead
Properties low grip, suited for precision playing, ergonomic

Triangle Shape

The triangular pick is easy to grip and suits itself well for strumming as well as medium paced solos. Often all three edges can be used, which increases the durability of the pick.

Sound depending on tip and thickness
Style strumming, medium paced lead, bluegrass
Properties multiple tips, high durability, good grip

Shark Fin Shape

The last shape for today is the cool shark fin. The unique shape of the shark fin offers some interesting features. It can be used for normal picking with the lower tip and for multi contact playing the multi-point edge on the side. The multi-point edge also lends itself for sliding down the strings to create a sound effect that is often used in punk-rock songs.

Sound clean, multi-attack
Style punk rock, multi-attack strumming
Properties multi-point edge

Guitar Pick Material

“Choose your guitar pick material wisely young Padawan! May the sound be with you.” The material of a guitar pick has a direct correlation to a variety of properties and should therefore be considered wisely. The properties it influences are:

Sound: Each material has a unique sound. Experimenting with different materials over the years will teach you which one you personally like the most.

Durability: Some materials are easily breakable but have a unique sound to them. Here it’s important to choose which one of the two is more important to you.

Flexibility: More flexible materials lend themselves better for thinner picks and strumming. Others are stiff but create a louder sound.

Grip: Some plastics are more slippery than others. Depending on the natural slipperiness of your fingers and your style of playing, more or less firm grips are important to you.

Friction: The friction of a material has an influence on the sound. Smoother material creates a smoother sound and a material with a raw surface a richer sound.

Price: How much are you willing to pay for something so small?

As plastic is the most common material I divided the chosen picks into the categories plastics and others.

Plastics

Vintage tone, first plastic ever used, very common

Popular, smooth & slick, often high friction coating, flexible, thin

Highly durable, low friction, low pick noise, round tone

Stiff, bright tone, popular among mandolin players

Glass like, glossy, hard, not durable, thick, high friction

Tough, light, clear, sticky, full harmonics

Other

Metal

bright/sharp tone, loud, durable, strong attack

Horn

natural, durable, wide variety of tones depending on material & production

Wood

Natural, less high frequencies “no brassy sound”

Ceramic

Smooth sound, low friction

Felt

Soft, fluffy, used for ukulele, no clicking sound (soft attack)

Stone

Thick, low friction, natural

Guitar Pick Texture

The texture in guitar pick is mainly an influencer of how firm the grip is. For additional sturdiness raised letter, holes or concave shapes are added. Furthermore, the texture increases or decreases the friction of the surface and thereby the sound of the attack. Here is a short guide to the different texture types of guitar picks.

Smooth

Matt

Max Grip

Concave

Holes

Carved/raised letters

Guitar Pick by Music Style

Every now and then a guitar style comes to birth that asks for it’s own unique guitar pick. Here are five example of guitar picks that are closely related to a particular style of instrument.

Jazz

Round, perfect for solos and fast picking, crispy sound

Fingerstyle

Fingerstyle guitar nail substitution

Fingerstyle Thumb

Fingerstyle guitar thumb only

Ukulele

Soft attack, perfect for ukulele strings

Acoustic Strumming

Flexible, perfect for strumming

Guitar Pick Design

Even though while playing not much of the pick is seen many people like their unique design. Maybe because they spend so much time looking for their pick they want it to look good when they finally find it. Or maybe your hobby is collecting different guitar picks? Or you want to impress the ladies? Anyway all is fine with me! Here are my guitar pick design finds.

Dragon Heart Pick

Thick, multiple edges for different attack sounds

Handmade Ceramic

Handmade ceramic guitar pick series

Luxury Custom

Life warranty, made in UK, glass

Paris Selection

Stainless steal, different phrases

Famous Art Print

Celluloid medium, famous art pictures, 12 pieces

American Flag

American flag, what more do you need?

Your Design

Print your own design on a pick

The Beatles

Beatles guitar pick box

Generic Prints

Boring generic prints 😉

Guitar Pick Bulk Buying

There is something profoundly satisfying to buying guitar picks in bulk, don’t you think? In order to meet that need I collected the cheapest of the cheapest bulk guitar pick offers I could find on amazon for you. Guitar pick shower!

72 Pack – $0.20 per Pick

Dunlop 417R.71 Gator Grip, Purple, .71mm, 72/Bag
365 Reviews
Dunlop 417R.71 Gator Grip, Purple, .71mm, 72/Bag
  • Gauges (mm): .58, .71, .96, 1.14, 1.5, 2.0mm
  • High-quality plectra
  • Incorporates quick-release beveled edges and matte gripping surface
  • Provides both playability and positive attack

100 Pack – $0.15 per Pick

Sale
100 Pack No Name Multicolor Celluloid
285 Reviews
100 Pack No Name Multicolor Celluloid
  • 100 PICKS IN VARIETY OF DESIGNS & COLORS - Compare & Save! 100 Individual Guitar Picks in an Assortment of Colors & Designs. Small Box Compact acts as a Perfect Guitar Pick Holder.
  • 3 DIFFERENT GAUGES - 50 Medium Sized (0.71mm), 25 Light/Thin (0.46mm), and 25 Thick/Heavy (0.96mm). Each Pick is labeled with it's Size/Thickness!
  • CLASSIC GUITAR PICK SHAPE - Fits in the Finger Perfectly. Wide Body with a Dense Round Tip. Provides a Wonderful Classic Tone
  • SMOOTH CELLULOID FINISH - By Far the Most Popular Finish of any Guitar Pick. Known for It's Flexibility and Durability!

100 Pack $0.11 per Pick

Sale
100pcs Acoustic Electric Guitar Picks Plectrum Various Colors 6 thickness 0.58/0.71/0.81/0.96/1.20/1.50 mm
161 Reviews
100pcs Acoustic Electric Guitar Picks Plectrum Various Colors 6 thickness 0.58/0.71/0.81/0.96/1.20/1.50 mm
  • Assorted Various Thickness And Colors
  • Quantity:100 Pieces
  • Material:ABS
  • Thickness:0.58mm 0.71mm 0.81mm 0.96mm 1.2mm 1.5 mm

100 Pack $0.07 per Pick

Tinksky 100pcs Universal Plastic Guitar Picks Plectrums for Acoustic and Electric Guitar (Random Color)
34 Reviews
Tinksky 100pcs Universal Plastic Guitar Picks Plectrums for Acoustic and Electric Guitar (Random Color)
  • 100 pieces of the plastic guitar picks in one set will be sold together by random color.
  • Material: durable hard ABS plastic and nylon.
  • Size (L*W): about 3*2.5cm. Thickness: about 0.58-0.86mm.
  • Made of good quality plastic material and provides great tone.

100 Pack $0.04 per Pick

100 Pcs Guitar Picks - Light/Thin Picks for Best Musician Guitar Player Present Premium Gift Set For Guitar Lover
5 Reviews
100 Pcs Guitar Picks - Light/Thin Picks for Best Musician Guitar Player Present Premium Gift Set For Guitar Lover
  • Classic guitar pick shape - fits in the finger perfectly. wide body with a dense round tip. provides a wonderful classic toneBy far the most popular finish of any guitar pick. known for it's flexibility and durability
  • 100 Picks in variety of designs & colors - compare & save! 100 individual guitar picks in an assortment of colors & designs.Size:Light/Thin (0.46mm)
  • Standard shape for comfortable playing.Classic guitar pick shape - fits in the finger perfectly. wide body with a dense round tip. Provides a wonderful classic tone
  • Offered in an array of attractive pearlized colors and gauges to fit every musical taste and need. pack includes assorted colors

Guitar Pick Alternatives

Wow you are still here! Therefore, I’d like to reward you with these guitar pick alternatives that make every guitar lovers heart beat faster. Check out videos on Youtube or the Amazon page to preview the sound it produces.

The Triller

Sale
GUITAR TRILLER - A New Kind of Guitar Pick
125 Reviews
GUITAR TRILLER - A New Kind of Guitar Pick
  • Dozens of new guitar sounds and playing techniques
  • For guitar, bass, mandolin, ukulele, banjo, and other string instruments
  • Voted top "10 coolest guitar gear innovations" by guitar player magazine

Plectrum Double Pulse

Plectone Double-Pulse Guitar Pick
36 Reviews
Plectone Double-Pulse Guitar Pick
  • Adds a new dimension to your guitar sounds, producing tones that are richer, fatter, and brighter.
  • Simple and intuitive to use.
  • Each string is struck twice with each strum, generating up to 12 attacks per strum.
  • The flexible coupler allows the guitarist to change the distance between the two pick strike points, easily switching between strumming and playing lead.

The E-Bow

EBow E-Bow Hand Held Electronic Effect Bow for Guitar
33 Reviews
EBow E-Bow Hand Held Electronic Effect Bow for Guitar
  • Includes 2 FREE 9v Batteries!
  • "Energy Bow" for guitar, bass, and other stringed instruments
  • Produces a variety of effects such as sustain, fades, bowing, and tonal textures
  • Replaces the pick in your right hand and inspires creativity

The Pykmax High Performance Guitar Pick

Pykmax High Performance Guitar Pick
189 Reviews
Pykmax High Performance Guitar Pick
  • Patented Design
  • Amazingly Comfortable
  • Great for Strumming
  • Absolutely Won't Slip

The Shark Tooth

Strum-N-Comfort Sharktooth Traditional Crossover Pick
52 Reviews
Strum-N-Comfort Sharktooth Traditional Crossover Pick
  • One Pick for all playing styles Achieve a universal picking technique Maximum comfort and control Less Muscle fatigue Fully adjustable Choose your own flat Pick Promotes increased speed accuracy and player confidence
  • Maximum comfort and control Less Muscle fatigue
  • Choose your own flat Pick Promotes increased speed accuracy and player confidence

A Cello Bow

Sale
4/4 Full Size Brazilwood Octagonal Horse Hair Cello Bow
38 Reviews
4/4 Full Size Brazilwood Octagonal Horse Hair Cello Bow
  • Brazil wood octagonal stick cello bow
  • Half-lined ebony frog
  • Leather thumb grip and wire winding
  • Natural horse hair

Guitar Pick Accessories

And the last category for today: Guitar pick accessories. If you are looking for a present for guitar fanatic friend, one of these or the ones in the category above will probably do the trick.

The Guitar Pick Puncher

Sale
Pick-a-Palooza DIY Guitar Pick Punch
961 Reviews
Pick-a-Palooza DIY Guitar Pick Punch
  • INCLUDED IN YOUR PACKAGE The Pick-a-Palooza + Leather Pick Holder Key Chain (holds up to 10 picks) + 15 Starter Strips (.71mm; makes 100 picks) + Info PDF Titled "It's a Pick-a-Palooza" (filled with interesting facts about guitar picks including a picture of the first guitar pick maker!)
  • Pick-a-Palooza guitar pick maker is a useful and unique gift for any guitar player. Guaranteed to be the hit of any gift giving situation, Birthdays, Christmas, Father's Day, Graduation or anytime you would like to tell your guitar playing friend or family member how much you care!
  • Heavy duty, sturdy construction and a stainless steel blade allows the user to create uniform and smooth guitar picks every time.
  • Simple to use, create custom guitar picks from old credit cards, gift cards, hotel room key cards, driver's licenses or any thin piece of plastic laying around the house.

Microphone Stand Accessory Tray with Drink Holder and Guitar Pick Tab

Gator Frameworks Microphone Stand Accessory Tray with Drink Holder and Guitar Pick Tab
212 Reviews
Gator Frameworks Microphone Stand Accessory Tray with Drink Holder and Guitar Pick Tab
  • Lightweight Durable Mic Stand Utility Tray
  • Highly Adjustable clamp allows for clamping on to mic stand up to 1.38"
  • Vented Drink holder included
  • Included Pick Tab holds up to (5) Guitar Picks

The Guitar Pick Mic Stand Holder

The Guitar Pick Mic Stand Holder
268 Reviews
The Guitar Pick Mic Stand Holder
  • A must for every performing musician
  • Made of high-quality rubber to ensure a firm hold

The Guitar Pick Clip

Sale
Guitar Pick Clip
46 Reviews
Guitar Pick Clip
  • easy to hold your picks,easy to find
  • Head stock pick holder can hold 2 pcs picks
  • Key chain pick holder bag can hold MAX 12 pcs picks,black genuine Leather

Guitar Pick Sucker Cup Holder

Sale
Guitar Pick Sucker Cup Holder
61 Reviews
Guitar Pick Sucker Cup Holder
  • Adhesive free lightweight thermoplastic leaving no residue
  • Instant access to your pick
  • Perfect for various finger / plectrum performance techniques
  • Adheres to instrument in seconds

Guitar Pick Grip Tip

Guitar Pick Grip Tip
306 Reviews
Guitar Pick Grip Tip
  • Muti-Gauge Design, Easy Grip
  • 6 Picks Per Pack

Silicon Finger Tip Protector

What Is Your Favorite Pick?

I hope you enjoyed this guitar pick and plectrum buying guide. Before you go please share your favorite guitar pick with us in the comment section below.

By | 2018-01-12T11:12:18+00:00 January 12th, 2018|Categories: Gearology, instruments|0 Comments

About the Author:

Who is writing? Dario, a german-born internet citizen, professional music producer, composer, teacher, blogger and internet entrepreneur who likes to help you become a well rounded music producer!

Leave A Comment

Get access to the 10 week mini-email course about the 10 truths that I discovered in the last 10 years of studying music. Additionally, you’ll get a free download of the snap&clap sound pack and kalimba-instrument samples!