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Pick Your Perfect Pick: A Comprehensive Guide to Guitar Pick Shapes, Sizes, and Materials

by Brett Quattrucci on March 28, 2023

As a guitar player, one of the most important decisions you'll make is choosing the right pick. There are thousands of different types of guitar picks, and choosing the right pick can make a huge difference in your playing, tone, and overall experience. In this guide, we'll explore everything you need to know about guitar picks, including different shapes, thicknesses, and materials.

 

Shapes of Picks

The shape of a pick has arguably the greatest impact on your tone and technique. There exists a massive variety of guitar pick sizes and shapes, but in this guitar pick guide, we will focus on the one's used by over 90% of guitarists. Here are some of the most common pick shapes:

 

Standard 351 Picks

Standard picks are the most common type of pick. They have a classic teardrop shape and are suitable for playing most genres of music. Standard picks come in a variety of thicknesses and materials, so you can choose the one that suits your playing style and tone.

GT Plectrums Handmade Acrylic Guitar Pick

Handmade Acrylic 351

 

Jazz Picks

Jazz picks are similar in shape to standard picks, but they are smaller and have a pointed tip. They are ideal for playing fast and intricate lines and, as their name would suggest, they are popular among jazz musicians as well as progressive guitarists. Within the Jazz category exists multiple variations like the Jazz XL, Jazz Fat, and our very own Jazz Drop.

Delrin Jazz OG Guitar Pick from Ploutone

Delrin Jazz OG Guitar Pick

 

Triforce Picks

Triforce picks, otherwise known as triangle picks are much larger than standard picks and have three points. They provide a firm grip and are ideal for playing rhythm guitar and can be especially good for beginners who struggle to finesse smaller picks. However, they usually are not as suitable for playing fast and intricate solos. Our Flanger Triforce picks feature a raised, textured grip and each point is a different thickness, making them especially great for novice guitarists who want to experiment with a variety of shapes.

GT Plectrums Handmade Acrylic Triforce Guitar Pick

Triforce Guitar Pick

 

Thumb Picks

Thumb picks are a specialized type of pick that attaches to your thumb, allowing you to use your fingers to pluck the strings. They are ideal for playing fingerstyle guitar and are popular among bluegrass and country guitarists.

Thicknesses of Picks

The thickness of a pick can have a significant impact on your playing style and tone. Here are some of the most common pick thicknesses:

 

Thin Picks

Thin picks are generally considered to be less than 0.75mm thick and are ideal for playing rhythm guitar and strumming chords. They are also suitable for beginners, as they are easier controlled by those with less experience, but they are less responsive and not ideal for fast or highly technical picking.

Delrin Standard 351 Guitar Pick from Ploutone

.71mm Delrin Standard 351 Pick

 

Medium Picks

Medium picks are typically considered to be between 0.75mm and 1mm thick and are suitable for playing most genres of music. They offer a good balance of flexibility and responsiveness which makes them great for guitarists that frequently switch back and forth between strumming and shredding.

 

.96mm Delrin Jazz Drop Guitar Pick from Ploutone

.96mm Delrin Jazz Drop Pick

 

Thick Picks

Thick picks, greater than 1mm thick, are ideal for playing fast and intricate solos. They offer less flexibility, but that is important when the goal is speed and consistency. Because thick picks do not bend, there is no rebound time after making contact with the string. This allows you to play with greater precision and speed than you could with a thin, floppy pick.

GT Plectrums 2.5mm Devilish Micarta Guitar Pick from Ploutone

GT Plectrums 2.5mm Devilish Micarta Pick

 

Very Thick Picks

Very thick (thiccc) picks are somewhere around 2mm or thicker and are becoming increasingly popular among the progressive guitar community. There are a variety of artisans such as GT Plectrums who make boutique picks out of beautiful and rare materials. For more experienced guitarists, extra thick picks can facilitate a more relaxed picking hand and therefore, better control during fast or complex sequences. 

Handmade Thick Guitar Pick from Ploutone

Handmade Maple Burl Jazz XL Guitar Pick

 

Guitar Pick Materials

The material of a pick can have a significant impact on your playing style and tone. Here are some of the most common pick materials:

 

Celluloid Picks

Celluloid picks are a popular choice among guitarists. They are flexible, and provide a snappy tone that’s not overly bright. They are available in a variety of colors and designs, making them a favorite among collectors. The downside of celluloid picks is that they can wear down quickly and are fairly brittle.

 

Resin Picks

Acrylic and epoxy resin picks are frequently used by artisan pick makers for their beauty and stunning patterns. These resins are used in a wide variety of commercial applications thanks to their hardness and durability, which also make them an excellent choice for pick materials. Resin picks strike a nice balance between brightness and smoothness when it comes to tone. If you are an avid pick collector or just starting out on your journey, they are a great addition to your arsenal of plectrums. Check out our shop to see our selection of stunning epoxy and acrylic resin picks from GT Plectrums. 

 

Nylon Picks

Nylon picks are similar in flexibility to celluloid picks, but they provide a softer, rounder tone. They are also more durable than celluloid picks and are suitable for playing most genres of music. Nylon picks are not very popular among guitarists who want a more aggressive, punchy tone.

 

Delrin Picks

Delrin picks are made of a high-strength polymer that provides a defined and balanced tone. They are more durable than most other pick materials and are suitable for playing fast and aggressive music. Delrin picks are very versatile and have been one of the most popular choices of pick materials among guitars for decades. The texture of Delrin is someone porous, but smooth, providing excellent grip while also gliding effortlessly across strings. Delrin is one of our personal favorite materials and we offer it in a variety of shapes.

 

Metal Picks

Metal picks are made of materials such as stainless steel, brass, or copper. They provide a bright, almost sharp tone and can sound quite harsh to most. It's not a very popular sound, but in the right hands they can still sound quite beautiful in their own right. Another negative characteristic of metal picks is that they wear down strings very quickly.

Handmade Guitar Picks from Ploutone

Handmade acrylic, Maple burl, and resin picks 

 

How to Properly Hold a Guitar Pick

Now that you have a better understanding of the different shapes, thicknesses, and materials available, it's important to know how to hold and use the pick properly. Incorrect picking form is a common struggle among beginner, and even intermediate guitarists. Poor form leads to an inconsistent sound, reduced accuracy, and increased effort.

  1. Grip the pick between the pad of your thumb and the side of your index finger: Hold the pick between your thumb and index finger, with the pointed end facing down towards the strings. Make sure the pick is positioned so that only a small portion is sticking out from your fingers. This amount will vary, but it’s generally ¼ of the pick or less.
  2. Keep your fingers relaxed: It's important to keep your fingers relaxed when holding the pick to prevent tension and discomfort. Avoid gripping the pick too tightly or holding it too loosely. You should have a space between your thumb and pointer finger except where they are holding the pick.
  3. Use your wrist for strumming and picking: When strumming or picking, use your wrist to make small, controlled movements. Avoid using your whole arm or hand, as this can lead to fatigue and imprecise playing. When strumming, your forearm should be mostly twisting, rather than bending.
  4. Experiment with different angles: Depending on the style of music you're playing, you may want to experiment with different angles for holding the pick. For example, angling the pick slightly towards the strings can produce a brighter, more aggressive tone. This is something to experiment with once you’ve nailed the basics.

 

Benefits of Using a Pick Versus Fingerstyle

One common debate among guitarists is whether to use a pick or play fingerstyle. Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and both methods can sound beautiful. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and playing style.

Using a pick can produce a louder, more powerful sound and is often preferred for playing rhythm guitar in rock, pop, and country music. It's also easier to play faster and more precise lines with a pick.

Fingerstyle playing, on the other hand, produces a softer, more nuanced tone and is often preferred for playing melody and lead lines in jazz, classical, and fingerstyle guitar styles. Fingerstyle playing also allows for greater control over individual strings and can produce more complex chord voicings.

Ultimately, both techniques have their place in guitar playing, and worth experimenting with both regardless of your preference.

 

Collecting Picks

Guitar Acquisition Syndrome is a real thing that destroys marriages, ruins retirement plans, and leaves thousands of guitars without hope for a financially stable future. Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s be real, guitarists love collecting gear. Fortunately, the near endless variety of picks provides us with an excellent opportunity to fill that void with gear that won’t break the bank. Though not as well known as collecting guitars, pick collecting is a hobby that is popular enough for its community members to earn the term “plectronauts”.

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, guitar picks are a small but important part of a guitarist's gear collection. Choosing the right pick can make a big difference in your playing, whether you're looking for a sharper attack, a warmer tone, or greater flexibility and control.

When choosing a pick, consider the shape, thickness, and material that works best for your playing style and musical preferences. And don't be afraid to experiment with different picks to find the one that feels just right.

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced player, using a pick can offer a number of advantages, from faster and more precise playing to a more consistent sound. And if you're interested in collecting picks, there's a whole world of options out there to explore.

So go ahead and try out a few different picks to find the one that works best for you. With a little experimentation and practice, you'll be well on your way to mastering the guitar and finding your own unique sound!

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Author Bio

Brett, the owner and founder of Ploutone, is a modern guitarist on a mission to create a sustainable future and build a thriving community through the power of music. Brett founded Ploutone to celebrate independent artists and foster connections among guitarists worldwide. With a vision of spreading positivity and promoting sustainability, Brett hopes to inspire others to push the boundaries of their instruments and contribute to a better world.

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