Guitar Picks, Which One is Right For You?

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Brands, Styles, Shapes and Materials

There are as many brands, styles, shapes and materials for guitar picks as you can count on the fingers of ten hands. From basic celluloid, nylon and plastic, to the exotic tonewood or semi-precious stone, guitar flat picks are offered in any material you can imagine. Add to that all the shapes available and the decision on which one works best is pretty daunting.

What Does My Hero Use?

Most of us tend to favor a couple of guitar heroes when we first start out. Some of us never outgrow that… and that’s okay. (I find new ones almost every day so my list has to be about 100 by now!) My point is, we tend to use the gear that our heroes use so the picks we buy are what they use. Or, maybe our teacher said, “here, use this pick,” for better or worse, and we dutifully labored on with a pick that we finally got used to but never really liked. Some of us never really experimented with other picks because the pick became an integral part of our playing and we stuck with it rather that upset the apple cart.

Why Should I Change Now?

First off, nothing says you should. A flat pick is a subjective thing, just like the guitar you choose to play. I’m saying that, if you don’t like your pick, or you’ve never experimented, you should try others to see if there is one that might fit your playing, or your hands, better than the one you’re using. It’s totally cool if you find out yours is the best for you, but don’t make that assumption if you haven’t sampled others.

A Short Story

Doug's Favorites
Doug’s Favorites

Years ago (oops, there’s that “back in the day” stuff again), I showed up at a gig with the other 4 members of my band and discovered at sound check that I had forgotten my pick case at home. The other guitar player in the band only used heavy picks and I was a dedicated Fender Thin guy. I only grudgingly used Fender Mediums when playing acoustic at home. My first thought was, “Oh crap! What am I gonna do?” (No, that’s not really what I thought but this is a family site!) Well I had no choice, I used a heavy pick.

I found that, once I quit thinking about it, I was just as fast and played just as well as with the thin. To this day, I rarely use anything but mediums. They sound better and last longer. I’d go through 3 or 4 thins in an evening. The mediums last a couple of weeks. Saving money is always good.

The Weight of the Pick Makes a Difference

After my “pick changing event” above, I still didn’t experiment with other picks but stubbornly stuck to my Fender brand. I just changed to mediums for all my playing. I found I could dig into the strings much better, and keep my thumb out of the strings, too. The level of expression I could get out of my amp went up as well because my attack was much more pronounced when I wanted it to be. When I didn’t, the medium worked just fine there, too.

Moral of the Story

In a nutshell, don’t be afraid to try other picks out. My favorite is still the Fender, but I’m diving into other shapes than the traditional teardrop just to see if I can hold them better. Several people have told me that the more rounded, and slightly smaller, “jazz” shape, works better in their hands. It doesn’t have a tendency to spin as you play.

Popular Picks

Below is the Dunlop Tortex, probably the most popular pick in existence. It comes in 6 thicknesses, each a different color.

Dunlop Tortex
Dunlop Tortex

Here’s the Dunlop Ultex.
Note the triangular shape. Some people like this as there is more to grip.

Dunlop Ultex
Dunlop Ultex

The Dunlop ‘Jazz’ is the shape I was talking about above.

Dunlop Jazz
Dunlop Jazz

Clayton makes tons of picks in all shapes, sizes and thicknesses. The one shown is an Acetal-Polymer.

Clayton Acetal-Polymer
Clayton Acetal-Polymer

Here’s a Fender Steel pick.

Fender Steel
Fender Steel

Strum-N-Comfort Picking Systems brings you Agate picks with designs.

Strum-N-Comfort
Strum-N-Comfort

Maybe you’d like a Cherry pick from Pick-Your-Axe.com.

Cherry Wood
Cherry Wood

Or maybe something like the coveted Speed King would be more up your alley.  These are just a small sample of what’s available. If you can’t find a pick you like, you are in deep trouble!


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Doug Knight

Our “Man on the Street” reporter, with his “What’s New in Music Stores?” series, resides in Coos Bay, OR. You can find him on Friday nights at The Small Events Center at OrCoast Music in Coos Bay.

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