Take Your Pick

Posted on October 30, 2010


Last week I wrote about cables and how many people don’t put too much thought into their choice of cable.  No big deal, if it works right?  Well with many players, guitar picks are the same.  Maybe you use whatever you find in the couch or something you picked up on the floor at your show since you forgot one of the most important pieces of gear, the pick! 

Picks come in many different shapes, sizes and material.  They are also some of the cheapest mods you can do to your technique and overall sound. 

The kind folks at Dunlop and V-Picks sent me some samples to try out.  V-Picks is on top of their game.  I’d describe their product as the gourmet fine-dining of guitar pick manufacturing.  They included a detailed booklet about what picks work for what style.  I’ll mention some of their thoughts as well as others.

Thin, Medium, Thick?
Thicker picks tend to offer a fatter, bigger more accurate tone.  A thicker plectrum will allow your thumb and index finger to relax more.  Thick picks are popular amongst bass, jazz and metal players.

Thin picks will give you brighter, looser tone.  Great for strumming.  You can do more dynamically with a thinner pick since it will flex more.  Depending on how hard you play, you can easily rip a thin pick.  Always good to have spares.  Discard  chipped or sharp picks as they will ruin your strings. 

Mediums.  Well I’m going to sound like a cop out, but mediums are the best of both worlds.  A great place to start for a newer player or any player that is trying out a new pick. 

A round pick will give you, wait for it, a rounder tone.  The clarity will not be as dominant, but if your guitar tone is sounding thin it will help to fatten things up.

A sharp, pointy pick will give you a brighter more articulate sound. 

Easy DIY test:  Take a standard guitar pick and pluck with the pointy end taking note of how clear what you just played sounds.  Now, flip that pick so you’re plucking with the rounded, top end of the pick and note the chunkier, muddier sound. 

They make picks out of just about anything these days: plastic, nylon, glass, stone, metal, wood, tortoise, tusk, coins etc. 

Each material will offer a unique sound.  Plastic is a nice middle of the road tone, metals will offer a much brighter tone.  Just watch with some metals and plastics, when they wear down, sharp edges can form and do a number on your strings as well as the finish on your guitar (hence the pickguard) 

The ability to grip should play a role in your pick selection.  Dunlop came out with Tortex finished picks that have a duller, satin finish and a little bit of grit on them.  If you tend to get sweaty hands when you play, this will give you firmer grip.

If Your Current pick does this you should try a:

-Keeps breaking, you need a thicker pick

-Cramps up your hands, try a thicker pick.  V-Picks can help out.  They make picks up to 8.85mm thick!  (FYI the average pick is only about .8mm thick)

-Sound isn’t cutting through enough, try a pointier pick.

-Continue to fall out of your hands, try a gritty pick or file the glossy finish down with a light grit sandpaper.

-Keeps getting stolen by other guitarists, install a micro-GPS tracking device and contact your local authorities for proper search warrants. 


From left to right, top to bottom: James Hetfield Dunlop Signature picks, unknown Heart, Billy Sheehan, Gravepicker.com pick, Fender Medium, star grip pick, Dunlop Tortex Jazz Pick, Dunlop Max-Grip .60mm, Dunlop Tortex .88mm, Fender Medium mandolin pick, Dunlop L thumb pick, Dunlop Gator Grip .96mm, Dunlop Max-Grip .88mm, Gibson Heavy, Wirething.com, Dunlop Ultex .73mm, Dunlop Pick Holder

V-Pick Line top to bottom, L-R: Tradition, V-Pick Lite Medium, Tradition, Dimension, SwitchBlade, Medium Pointed, Freakishly Large Rounded, Large ULP, Small Pointed.

The Buddy Holly pick holding method!

Well there you have it, a ton of different picks in all shapes and sizes.  This Tuesday, November 2nd, I want you to get out to the poles…then your local music store and bulk up on your pick selection.  It’s a cheap and easy way to make a big difference in your sound and playing ability.  Thanks again to Dunlop and V-Picks, please check them out online:

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