Finding the Perfect Pick
A pick may be the smallest part of your guitar rig, but as the most direct connection between you and your instrument, its importance easily outweighs its diminutive size. In this post, we provide a brief overview of the differences between guitar picks and offer some arguments for rethinking the role they play in your setup.
Shapes and Sizes
Most picks come in some variation of the standard triangle/teardrop shape, with varying degrees of edge sharpness and in some cases, a tapering effect in the end. Shape may be the most personal decision when choosing a pick — try out different options and select the one that feels most comfortable in your fingers.Picks range in thickness from extra light (under 0.40 mm) to extra heavy (1.22 mm and above). Lighter picks are better for strumming, whereas thicker picks offer greater precision and control. If you’re new to guitar, try starting with a medium-gauge pick and, if your needs change, adjust from there.
For the sake of this post, we’re going to limit our discussion of pick materials to the synthetic plastics that account for the vast majority of commercially available products, including:
- Celluloid: Celluloid/cellulose picks have a smooth feel and a balanced tone, perfect for everything from casual strumming to playing complicated leads.
- Tortex: As the name implies, Tortex aims to replicate the feel of a tortoiseshell pick. Though that comparison may be lost to all but a few players today, the result is a pick that grips well, with a crisp, consistent tone.
- Nylon: Nylon picks are more flexible than plastic and produce a brighter tone. Most feature a textured surface for added grip.
Picks for Bass Players
There’s a persistent myth that bass players don’t use picks. The reality, however, is that picks have a definite place in the world of the low end — in fact, a versatile, well-rounded bass player will be able to switch between picked and fingerstyle playing with ease as the song demands.As for which pick is best for bass, that’s a matter of preference — many bass players find that a larger, harder pick is better suited to the fat strings of their instrument, though a standard thin guitar pick will still give you the sharp attack and defined tone that characterizes picked playing.
Picking Your Pick
If you’ve found the pick that works best for you, it’s a great idea to stock up. As any musician knows, picks tend to go missing as they move between the rehearsal space, the studio, the stage and the pocket. Always make sure you keep extra on hand — and keep a few in different places, including your gig bag, your wallet, the back of your amp and anywhere else that’s convenient.As your musicianship evolves, your taste in picks will likely change with it. Don’t be afraid to experiment! You’d be surprised how big a difference something as simple as a new pick can make. Consider switching your pick of choice for something of a different thickness, size or even color. It might be just the thing you need to regain your enthusiasm for your instrument.