Jul 18, 2017

What Kind of Guitar Pick to Use?

If you're a beginning guitarist, or if you just always gave more thought to which riff you were going to learn next than to what you were going to play it with, you might not know much about picking your plectrum.  

No problem, it's far from complicated, I'm just here to offer some tips that might help you along the way.

My current personal favorite - a John Petrucci Jazz III with a hole drilled in the center

Flimsier picks are generally superior for strumming but sacrifice some precision during high speed lead playing.

Thicker picks lack the airy ease of strumming that you might get with a thin celluloid, but make up for it in the speed and power you get playing single notes or smaller chords.  

In general I prefer a thicker pick because much of the ease of strumming can be made up for with a looser grip on the pick.

Small picks lend themselves to faster, more precise playing.  Another side effect of small picks is to put your thumb close to the string, and pinch harmonics become a breeze, sometimes accidental.  With sloppy playing, however, your thumb could accidentally mute strings as you're playing.

Some quick thoughts on the popular pick models I've tried:

Dunlop Jazz III Max Grip:  Something of an industry standard, the Jazz III Max Grip is an excellent pick for speed, harmonics, thrash, and more.  Comfortable, small, super grippy, not exceptional for chord work though.

Dunlop John Petrucci Jazz III:  Essentially a modified version of the above review, the John Petrucci model could be considered an elite version at a higher price.  These picks are slightly larger than the Max Grip, made of a harder, smoother material, and lack the intense grippy-ness.  I think it has a slight edge over the Max Grip in sound and durability (near indestructible) although they are fairly overpriced.  A hole drilled in the center enhances grip!

Dunlop Big Stubby:  While I generally like thick, hard guitar picks, I'm not a fan of the Big Stubby.  The size makes it feel unwieldy, YMMV.

Average light celluloid:  The thinnest, lightest celluloid picks are the staple of acoustic strummers.  I like playing leads, but the feeling of strumming with ease is always a joy.  They'll wear down hella fast but they're cheap and easy to find.

Average medium celluloid:  Obviously a bit thicker than the aforementioned, medium celluloids strike a decent balance between easy chords and precise leads and work well enough for just about everything.

Average heavy celluloid:  Heavy celluloids lack nearly all of the advantage of easy, smooth chordage, but have more precision and sharper attack suited for hard rock, metal, etc.  However, they are still the full size, and I prefer a Jazz III style/size if I'm using an inflexible pick.

*Pro tip - Altoids tins make the best pick holders!

I feel I've already overstayed my welcome - why talk so much about something so cheap?  Why not just buy them all and see for yourself?  I hope I inspired you just a bit to think about what you're holding before putting the plectrum to the metal.  Tune up and rock out.

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