Guitar Tricks Blog
Posted: September 27, 2019

Guitar Picks - Shapes, Sizes and Materials Explained!

guitar picks

Guitar picks, or plectra are small pieces of plastic used by guitar players to pick the strings of a guitar. Guitar picks are usually shaped like a teardrop but also come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Let's take a look at some the different qualities one can find on guitar picks!

Thumb picks

Thumb picks are like guitar picks but instead of holding them between your fingers, you slip them on your thumb. It takes a bit of time to get used to a thumb pick but they’re great for finger picking. The biggest positive when it comes to using these types of picks is the fact that they help accentuate the bass notes. Usually if you’re playing a fingerpicking pattern, the flesh of your thumb may not give the bass note a full sound. But if you hit it with a thumb pick, you can really hear the note’s qualities. Learn more about thumb picks in the lesson below.

 

Thickness

Did you know guitar picks come in different thicknesses? The thickness is not only great for comfort, but also for tone. Thick picks are great for playing lead, they’re a bit easier to hold, and are great for getting a darker, heavier sound. Light, or thin picks are great for strumming since they’re a bit more flexible but they won’t be too good for playing fast, complicated single-note riffs or lead runs since they may bend a little bit. 

Guitar picks are usually measured in millimeters and come in a variety of sizes. Standard pick thickness is about 0.50mm while the thick ones are 1.00mm or more and the thin ones are usually under 0.40mm.

Different types of materials used 

Not only do guitar picks come in different thicknesses, they’re also made from a variety of materials. Picks are generally made from plastic but they can also be made from wood, metal, glass, and even animal bones. 

If you play with a metal pick, that’s going to change the tone of your guitar. Imagine taking a penny and using that as your guitar pick. Metal picks will give a brighter sound than a plastic pick. Wooden picks will give you a warmer sound.

Different shapes

Most guitar picks are shaped like a teardrop, or a rounded triangle. This may seem simple, but there are a few manufacturers who have slightly modified this timeless design. Some guitar picks are equilateral which means you can hold the pick from any direction since all sides are equal. Other guitar picks may have a sharp edge for advanced players who want a smoother feel when picking. Jazz guitar picks are also interesting because of their thickness. Jazz guitar picks are as thick as 3.0mm! 

Photo of an animal horn guitar pick by User:Jinpisces, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Techniques

Most of the time, guitar picks are held between the thumb and the index finger. The pointed end of the pick is used to strike the strings, which then vibrate and create sound. However, there are no hard rules to using a pick. There have been guitar players who use the pick backwards, or hold it in non-conventional ways. Some guitar players hold the pick with three fingers, while others may use only two.

And that’s it! There are so many ways to use a pick there are too many to list here but hopefully this was helpful to you. If you have any questions, feel free to let us know! 

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