Your guitar pick is the medium that relays your right hand skill to the instrument. It is a crucial but often the most overlooked part of your technique. These inexpensive “plastic chips” are often underestimated by beginners until they eventually realize how picks can impact the tone and playability.
From handmade quartz picks to exotic ebony picks to customized gift picks to mass-produced nylon tips – we’re spoilt for choice with plentiful options. It can feel futile and baffling to navigate the nuances of this low-key product, which is why many guitarists just roll with the first thing they get at their local store.
In this article, we explain how to find the best pick for the job, and which picks are better for certain styles of guitar playing. Don’t miss out on the buying guide at the end where we’ve addressed all the common questions regarding guitar picks. By the end of this article, we hope you will be a) extremely picky, and b) nothing short of a guitar pick expert.
Our Top Three Choices for Best Guitar Pick Packs
Fender Premium Picks Sampler (Pack of 24) Top Pick
Fender’s Premium Picks Sampler is a smorgasbord of the ‘go-to’ picks of many guitarists and professional musicians. It includes top-quality celluloid picks of a regular size with an imprinted Fender logo along the side. The pack includes a random assortment of colors like green, blue, white, red, black, and others.
Priced slightly over ten dollars, you receive eight thin, medium, and heavy gauge guitar picks making a total of 24 high-quality guitar picks. The heavy gauge picks can be used for playing riffs and solos and the thin picks are ideal for jangly strumming. The medium picks, on the other hand, are good all-round picks for beginners.
With nearly 5k+ five star reviews, it seems like the market echoes our positive sentiments. At the time of this review, this product was also featured as Amazon’s Choice in the category. This pack doesn’t include a pouch/tin for storage, but you can buy the Fender Keychain Leather Guitar Pick Holder as an add-on purchase. Overall, the top-notch material, comfort, and feel of the picks prompted us to select this as our Top Choice for this category. It is hard to go wrong with these unless you have hands like Hagrid.
Donner Celluloid Guitar Picks 48 Pack w/ Tin Box Best Budget Option
For under $10, Donner offers a nifty tin box with 48 guitar picks of four assorted thicknesses. The thin picks are 0.46mm, the medium ones are 0.71mm, the heavies are 0.96 and the extra heavy picks are 1.2mm.
As the name suggests, these picks are made from smooth celluloid with an imprinted logo to improve grip. They are regular sized picks with standard quality material, curved tips, and a smooth finish.
Compared to the D’Addario or Fender Pack, you receive nearly twice the amount of picks with a click-open tin box for two-third the price. This pack is loaded with value and it is a no-brainer for anyone who just wants a bounteous box of standard-quality guitar picks. For these reasons, we’ve featured this as our Best Budget Option.
These guitar picks are easy to grip and thanks to the four levels of thickness – you can find something that will work in every imaginable musical context. We have encountered other Donner products and even featured some of them in our Best Guitar Wall Mount Hanger list and Best Electric Guitar Starter Kits guide. It seems they are a mainstay in the budget segment, and for good reason.
D’Addario – Planet Waves Assorted Pearl Celluloid Guitar Picks (25 Pack) KGR EDITOR’s CHOICE
D’Addario is a name we’ve come to trust when it comes to a wide variety of guitar accessories. They don’t disappoint with their proprietary “pearl celluloid” picks either. The pack includes 8 white pearl 0.50mm picks (light), 9 red 0.70mm picks (medium), and 8 black 1.0mm picks (heavy). The product has the option to include 10 blue pearl 1.25mm picks as an add-on purchase.
The flexibility of this pack is what stood out when we were comparing it to similar options. On the Amazon listing, you can order 10, 25, or 100 picks of 4 different thicknesses (light, medium, heavy and extra heavy) or you can get a combo of light/medium/thick as an assorted pack. They allow you to customize the pack with add-ons, and unlike most other packs, you can select the colors. These American series guitar picks are absolutely gorgeous, comfortable, and highly articulate picks at a reasonable price. And, for those who care, the Planet Waves packaging is eco-friendly and designed for minimal environmental impact. With ideals like those, it is compelling to reward the quality and thoughtfulness of this product with our Editor’s Choice.
Our Top Choices For Individual Picks
Best Thumb Pick: Golden Gate Pearloid GP-6
Takes a lickin’ and keeps on pickin’
For anyone who is really into thumb picks, the Golden Gate Pearloid Thumb Pick is where it’s at. Although they are relatively expensive, the vintage styling, durable construction, and heavy pearloid nitrocellulose material easily vindicate the price tag. They may seem wide on the string end but you can always file them down to your preference.
If you want a more budget-friendly option, you can get the Dunlop 9002P or the Dunlop 9073P Ultex picks. However, if you are just curious and looking for a throwaway pack to explore the technique, Planet Waves Shell Celluloid Thumb Picks will easily get the job done.
Best Bass Guitar Pick: Dunlop MHPT02
For bassists who want to add some grit to the groove.
Trying to play the bass guitar with a thin or medium guitar pick can often feel like flying a kite using a cobweb. You need a stubby bass pick that can endure the additional thickness of your strings and lend its grit to the groove.
The Dunlop MHPT02 comes to my mind, thanks to the late great Lemmy Kilmister who taught us a thing or two about chugging in the glory days of Motorhead. These 1.14mm all-black nylon monsters ship in a Lemmy-branded collectible tin. They are available as a six-pack of nylon picks with a raised tip. They feel natural, comfortable and provide a good grip.
You can also select between the Album Art version (0.73mm Tortex picks) – which is perfect for Lemmy fans – and the Warpig version (0.88mm Tortex picks). And despite the branding, they are versatile enough to pull off anything from Paul McCartney to Bobby Vega.
Best Wood Guitar Picks: TimbreGear Genuine Exotic Wood Guitar Picks
The TimbreGear 8 Pick Pack includes rosewood, sandalwood, ebony, and olive wood guitar picks – two of each – in an elegant tin-can styled guitar pick holder.
As guitarists, there is something about natural wood that makes us go weak in the knees. The wooden picks are simply gorgeous, perhaps too gorgeous to use for anything other than display purposes. That being said, these are functional picks that can produce plush tones.
However, they are quite thick and not the first thing you’d want to use for campfire strumming. The thumb groove is deep and allows you to grip it with confidence. They sound rich and warm when used with a steel or nylon string guitar. And, you can find a use for them playing a bass guitar (preferably with flat wound strings) as well. They may seem a little erudite for the beginner, but a pack like this can be an excellent gift for a musician or an interesting sonic experiment as you progress.
Are wood guitar picks good?
Wood picks have a rich and vibrant tone compared to other materials like nylon and tortex. However, they are rigid and lack flexibility. They have a learning curve, but once you adjust to the hard material, you can create some rich and unique tones.
You won’t find a thin or medium wood pick because they can be prone to cracking or chipping. However, US Blues Flex Woods picks are an interesting option that can suit all guitar types. Since wooden guitar picks lack the sharp attack of conventional picks, they tend to sound earthy and warm when you strum an acoustic guitar. The true character of wooden picks surfaces while playing licks and notes.
Best Stone Pick: StoneWorks 100% Natural Stone Guitar Pick
StoneWorks are known for making unconventional but highly functional guitar picks. These stone picks are a testament to their artistry.
This isn’t a collector’s item – they may not be as common as other materials, but they are certainly functional and useable for electric guitar riffs and solos.
These ‘jazz shape’ guitar picks are handcrafted from natural stone and meticulously beveled and polished in Iowa, USA. Each pick is unique because the texture of the stones is 100% natural and varies in every rock used.
The surface of the plectrum is nearly frictionless but the small size makes them impervious to slipping unless you have very sweaty hands. The StoneWorks stone guitar picks are unique, gorgeous and functional – they can certainly find regular use among electric guitar players.
Are Stone guitar picks good?
Stone guitar picks have a crunchy and well-defined tone that sounds great in genres like rock, metal and blues. Besides tonal clarity, they are eye-catching and last longer. However, they are “luxury picks” because a single pick can cost between $10 to $30.
It is rare to find stone picks in local guitar stores because of the low demand and the high cost. They may not be as common as nylon or plastic picks but they are just as safe. They don’t damage the strings due to the curved tips, but if you aren’t careful you can scratch the body paint.
Best Metal Pick: Quarter Guitar Pick, Made from Real USA Coin
This pick has George Washington on the front and the American Eagle on the other. GitGoods Quarter Guitar Picks are made from real American quarters that are hand crafted into plectrums upon order.
They have polished and beveled edges and the natural texture of the metal makes it really easy to grip them. If you want something more conventional, opt for the Dunlop Stainless Steel Picks or the US Blues Big West (Aluminum).
Are metal guitar picks good?
Metal picks are the least commonly used material for guitar playing. They are great for aggressive playing and articulate lead lines but they lack flexibility and may wear out your strings faster. Conversely, they yield dynamic tones and will last forever, or until you misplace them.
These plectrums would sound best with an electric guitar. They should be paired with a thicker gauge of strings. Brian May (Queen) has used a British Sixpence for most of his career and Billy Gibbons (ZZTop) also used a Mexican peso in many of his performances.
The earliest guitar picks (then called plectra) were made out of hand-cut goose feather – the same material used to make feathered quills that those wig-wearing geeks used for writing in the 19th century. After the bird feathers fell out of style, humans turned to sea turtles to fashion the next generation of guitar picks.
Many Atlantic hawksbill turtles were martyred to create tortoiseshell picks and pickguards. There came a point when they were on the brink of extinction. Luckily (for the turtles), an American inventor named Tony D’Andrea figured out a way to use celluloid to make guitar picks that were superior, cheaper, and didn’t involve chasing turtles.
Since then, manufacturers have come up with all kinds of polymers – good and great – to create patented materials and designs. Today, you can choose from ultex, tortex, nylon, celluloid, pearl celluloid, metal alloys, exotic wood, and many more. A long way from bird feather, indeed. Let us look at the important design aspects that matter when selecting a guitar pick –
Celluloid, nylon and acetal are the most popular choice of materials among guitar picks. Nylon, being the most flexible, has a soft feel and textured grip. Most intermediate and advanced guitar players prefer nylon picks for electric guitar playing. Celluloid is slick, and a tad less flexible. It is another popular choice that is comparable to nylon.
Acetal picks are a solid choice for all styles of guitar playing. They mimic the gritty magic of the original tortoiseshell picks. Different brands have trademarked different names of these polymers, so it can get really confusing i.e. Dunlop “Tortex” guitar picks are made from acetal.
Size directly impacts the gripping surface and the distance between the guitar string and your hand when you play the guitar. Smaller picks make it easy to execute certain techniques like right-hand (fretting-hand) palm muting, chicken picking and pinch harmonics.
However, a smaller pick means a smaller gripping space, which can be an uncomfortable situation for beginners. This isn’t the only pick you’d want to have at a campfire unless you can lighten your touch to use it effectively for strumming Wonderwall.
Believe it or not, flying picks have plagued musicians since antiquity. This issues prompted 19th century musicians to dabble in all sorts of DIY fixes to stop picks from slipping during a performance. These hacks include using cork or rubber disks, drilling a hole in the pick or corrugating the surface to improve grip.
This way or that, finding a reliable way to sink the fingerprint into the surface has always been an important consideration. Today, the textured surface of guitar picks create enough friction to improve grip. For instance – the Ibanez Wizard Series has a no-slip sand grip to ensure that the pick doesn’t slip out of your hand. The Dunlop Max-Grip has ‘proprietary’ Max-Grip Technology – which is an engraved crisscross pattern to create an abrasive surface to prevent slipping.
Most new age guitar picks eventually settled on a high relief imprint – an ingenious way to push the brand logo. Nevertheless, if you don’t want to get a pick specifically for the gripping aspect, you can always get an aftermarket stick-on like Monster Grip or if you’re feeling yucky… err lucky… you can try some Gorilla Snot.
There will come a time when you realize a regular sized thin pick with a curved tip isn’t the best choice for those Zakk Wylde style pinch harmonics, or a thick Dunlop Nylon Jazz III may not be ideal for acoustic strumming…
The thickness of a pick is an important factor in the tone you achieve from striking the strings. Thick picks produce a warm and dark sound while thin picks lean towards bright and airy. Thin picks are very flexible but frail – good for clean and comfortable strumming but they lack the rigidity required for striking notes with conviction. Thick picks have a better grip and offer greater control over dynamics while playing heavy distorted sounds and fast solos.
- Thin Guitar Picks: 0.40mm to 0.60mm
- Medium Guitar Picks: .60mm to 0.85mm
- Heavy Guitar Picks: 0.85mm to 1.20mm
- Extra Heavy Guitar Picks: 1.20mm+
*Thickness range and rating may vary slightly among different manufacturers.
If you look hard enough, you will find everything from a ‘shark-fin’ guitar pick to a ‘Pick of Destiny’. The stranger the shape, the sharper the decline in functionality. As a beginner, I would recommend you stick to a standard shape until you get a hang of strumming and note playing.
The standard shape has two variations – a curved tip and a pointed tip. The pointed tip is better for solo playing and the curved tip allows the pick to glide across the strings in a smoother fashion when you are strumming. Each type can do a decent job on the whole, but as you progress, you will favor one over the other based on the musical context you find yourself in.
Picking guitar picks for you to play licks might sound picky or persnickety, but guitar picks are an inconspicuous element in the feel and comfort of guitar playing. We hope this guide helped you ‘pick-up’ the salient aspects of plectra and inspired you to load up with a box full of essential (and a few ornamental) picks. After all, having a functional pick for the stage is one thing, but bragging about an exotic handcrafted sandalwood pick in the green room is another.
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