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.

[amazon box="B000UJHNME" title="Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.60mm Orange 72 Pack" link_title="Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.60mm Orange" description_items="4" /]

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.

[amazon box="B003MXE4JU" title="Dunlop 471R3C Max-Grip Nylon Jazz III, Carbon Fiber 24 Pack" link_title="Dunlop 471R3C Max-Grip Nylon Jazz III, Carbon Fiber 24 Pack" description_items="4" /]

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. 

[amazon box="B001PGXIIO" title="Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks, 10 pack, Heavy" link_title="Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks, 10 pack, Heavy" description_items="4" /]

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! 

[amazon box="B008BPI30U" description_items="4" /]

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.

[amazon box="B0002E2XFE" title="Fender 351 Shape Premium Picks Medium 12 Pack" link_title="Fender 351 Shape Premium Picks Medium 12 Pack" description_items="4" /]

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.

[amazon box="B002IJK0H4" title="Dunlop 433P2.0 Ultex Sharp, 1.0mm, 6/Player's Pack" link_title="Dunlop 433P2.0 Ultex Sharp, 1.0mm, 6/Player's Pack" description_items="4" /]

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

[amazon box="B003B085BC" title="0.46mm Dunlop 44P46 Nylon Standard Guitar Picks" link_title="0.46mm Dunlop 44P46 Nylon Standard Guitar Picks" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B001PGXIHK" title="0.55mm Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks Light" link_title="0.55mm Planet Waves Black Ice Guitar Picks Light" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B00BL6J6ZC" title="0.70mm ChromaCast Pearl Celluloid Guitar Pick" link_title="0.70mm ChromaCast Pearl Celluloid Guitar Pick" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B075RH24L3" title="0.96mm ChromaCast Speed Series Celluloid Guitar Picks" link_title="0.96mm ChromaCast Speed Series Celluloid Guitar Picks" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B000BMC77G" title="1.20mm Jim Dunlop Dunlop Celluloid Guitar Picks Extra Heavy" link_title="1.20mm Jim Dunlop Dunlop Celluloid Guitar Picks Extra Heavy" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B0002E2S36" title="Fender 351 Shape Classic Picks Heavy" link_title="Fender 351 Shape Classic Picks Heavy" template="widget" button="none" /]

“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

[amazon box="B002IJK0H4" title="Dunlop 433P.73 Ultex Sharp" link_title="Dunlop 433P.73 Ultex Sharp" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B003N0VQQ6" title="Dunlop 47RXLN Jazz III XL Nylon Guitar Picks" link_title="Dunlop 47RXLN Jazz III XL Nylon Guitar Picks" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B0014FC3M8" title="Dunlop Tortex Small Tear Drop 0.50mm" link_title="Dunlop Tortex Small Tear Drop 0.50mm" template="widget" button="none" /]
[amazon box="B01C2T8MGK" title="Dunlop Genuine Celluloid Tear Drop Wide" link_title="Dunlop Genuine Celluloid Tear Drop Wide" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B00TVFYE2U" title="Dunlop Primetone Small Triangle 1.3mm Sculpted Plectra (Smooth) - 3 Pack" link_title="Dunlop Primetone Small Triangle 1.3mm Sculpted Plectra (Smooth) - 3 Pack" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B0064RLO62" title="D'Andrea 390 Sharkfin Delrex Delrin Guitar Picks 0.88 mm 12 pack" link_title="D'Andrea 390 Sharkfin Delrex Delrin Guitar Picks 0.88 mm 12 pack" template="widget" button="none" /]

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

[amazon box="B000P5YDOE, B003MXE4JU, B0002D0PB4" grid="3" button="none"]

Stiff, bright tone, popular among mandolin players

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

Tough, light, clear, sticky, full harmonics

[amazon box="B00A6CXT6E, B000PTRJUK, B01N5KA6JP" grid="3" button="none"]

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”

[amazon box="B00L46JM7Q, B005H7KY52, B004TEWEZW" grid="3" button="none"]

Ceramic

Smooth sound, low friction

Felt

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

Stone

Thick, low friction, natural

[amazon box="B003VTD4FA, B00IGUTZX4, B0140U0SP2" grid="3" button="none"]

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

[amazon box="B009J8DXQW, B0002D0CIK, B003B01QSG" grid="3" button="none"]

Concave

Holes

Carved/raised letters

[amazon box="B0018O0VRO, B003VTEO4A, B00TVFYLJ6" grid="3" button="none"]

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

[amazon box="B00ISQCN2Q, B000NGVQKO, B003B0APDS" grid="3" button="none"]

Ukulele

Soft attack, perfect for ukulele strings

Acoustic Strumming

Flexible, perfect for strumming

[amazon box="B0756Q77V3, B0002E2XOU" grid="3" button="none"]

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

[amazon box="B00Q11KJ3U, B00HLRU5QO, B06XMRBLH6" grid="3" button="none"]

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?

[amazon box="B01MTJIE1F, B01JBY4JDY, B00YST88XA" grid="3" button="none"]

Your Design

Print your own design on a pick

The Beatles

Beatles guitar pick box

Generic Prints

Boring generic prints 😉

[amazon box="B0133F1H9Q, B003AJU35K, B01AUOUI9I" grid="3" button="none"]

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

[amazon box="B0032TYY3U" title="Dunlop 417R.71 Gator Grip, Purple, .71mm, 72/Bag" link_title="Dunlop 417R.71 Gator Grip, Purple, .71mm, 72/Bag" description_items="4" /]

100 Pack – $0.15 per Pick

[amazon box="B01HFRDEI0" title="100 Pack No Name Multicolor Celluloid" link_title="100 Pack No Name Multicolor Celluloid" description_items="4" /]

100 Pack $0.11 per Pick

[amazon box="B01H31ITWE" title="100pcs Acoustic Electric Guitar Picks Plectrum Various Colors 6 thickness 0.58/0.71/0.81/0.96/1.20/1.50 mm" link_title="100pcs Acoustic Electric Guitar Picks Plectrum Various Colors 6 thickness 0.58/0.71/0.81/0.96/1.20/1.50 mm" description_items="4" /]

100 Pack $0.07 per Pick

[amazon box="B00R5ZF8OG" title="Tinksky 100pcs Universal Plastic Guitar Picks Plectrums for Acoustic and Electric Guitar (Random Color)" link_title="Tinksky 100pcs Universal Plastic Guitar Picks Plectrums for Acoustic and Electric Guitar (Random Color)" description_items="4" /]

100 Pack $0.04 per Pick

[amazon box="B06XPX76DY" title="100 Pcs Guitar Picks - Light/Thin Picks for Best Musician Guitar Player Present Premium Gift Set For Guitar Lover" link_title="100 Pcs Guitar Picks - Light/Thin Picks for Best Musician Guitar Player Present Premium Gift Set For Guitar Lover" description_items="4" /]

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

[amazon box="B01G6PGQXC" title="GUITAR TRILLER - A New Kind of Guitar Pick" link_title="GUITAR TRILLER - A New Kind of Guitar Pick" description_items="4" /]

Plectrum Double Pulse

[amazon box="B00XR3U0GQ" title="Plectone Double-Pulse Guitar Pick" link_title="Plectone Double-Pulse Guitar Pick" description_items="4" /]

The E-Bow

[amazon box="B008XLITXS" title="EBow E-Bow Hand Held Electronic Effect Bow for Guitar" link_title="EBow E-Bow Hand Held Electronic Effect Bow for Guitar" description_items="4" /]

The Pykmax High Performance Guitar Pick

[amazon box="B00FSDBTHW" title="Pykmax High Performance Guitar Pick" link_title="Pykmax High Performance Guitar Pick" description_items="4" /]

The Shark Tooth

[amazon box="B004LYGAA0" title="Strum-N-Comfort Sharktooth Traditional Crossover Pick" link_title="Strum-N-Comfort Sharktooth Traditional Crossover Pick" description_items="4" /]

A Cello Bow

[amazon box="B00H8MXKVE" title="4/4 Full Size Brazilwood Octagonal Horse Hair Cello Bow" link_title="4/4 Full Size Brazilwood Octagonal Horse Hair Cello Bow" description_items="4" /]

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

[amazon box="B00C7AFDVM" title="Pick-a-Palooza DIY Guitar Pick Punch" link_title="Pick-a-Palooza DIY Guitar Pick Punch" description_items="4" /]

Microphone Stand Accessory Tray with Drink Holder and Guitar Pick Tab

[amazon box="B00YJ5C46K" title="Gator Frameworks Microphone Stand Accessory Tray with Drink Holder and Guitar Pick Tab" link_title="Gator Frameworks Microphone Stand Accessory Tray with Drink Holder and Guitar Pick Tab" description_items="4" /]

The Guitar Pick Mic Stand Holder

[amazon box="B0002D0CNA" title="The Guitar Pick Mic Stand Holder" link_title="The Guitar Pick Mic Stand Holder" description_items="4" /]

The Guitar Pick Clip

[amazon box="B00RCA4868" title="Guitar Pick Clip" link_title="Guitar Pick Clip" description_items="4" /]

Guitar Pick Sucker Cup Holder

[amazon box="B017VXNOK6" title="Guitar Pick Sucker Cup Holder" link_title="Guitar Pick Sucker Cup Holder" description_items="4" /]

Guitar Pick Grip Tip

[amazon box="B00154OJOI" title="Guitar Pick Grip Tip" link_title="Guitar Pick Grip Tip" description_items="4" /]

Silicon Finger Tip Protector

[amazon box="B0725DBGZ4" title="Silicon Finger Tip Protector" link_title="Silicon Finger Tip Protector" description_items="4" /]

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.

Gearology Bestseller

[amazon box="B00HVLUR54,B004BR20OM, B00DY1F2CS" grid="3"][amazon box="B01E6T56CM, B00PIWB2SO, B00KVEIY4E" grid="3"]
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!

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