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The best guitarists know that when it comes to gear, you’re going to need a solid set of guitar picks. That little thumb-sized accessory could make a big difference in your performance and your sound.
Think of guitar picks are an extension of your fingers, giving you more consistency and control over your guitar strings, whether you’re strumming chords or plucking away at a melody. Also known as “plectrums,” the best guitar picks help musicians glide over strings with more finesse and ease, while saving your fingers from calluses.
With a ton of options on the market, you’ll want to look at a couple of things before deciding what to pick up (no pun intended).
Start by considering the type of music you’re playing (say jazz, classical guitar, or rock and roll). Different guitar pick sizes and materials will create different sounds. Thin picks will create brighter tones, and are great for acoustic strumming or pop songs. Thicker picks — and their extra weight — will create deeper, mellower tones. They’re also better for using with electric guitars, since they can hold up to the thicker strings, and they’re great for faster playing, since you don’t need a lot of the pick to touch the strings to generate sound.
As for materials: while guitar picks were originally crafted from real tortoiseshell (taken from the Atlantic Hawksbill Turtle), the rise of manufacturing and y’know, the fact that the Atlantic Hawksbill became endangered, led to companies quickly shifting to plastic plectrums. Other popular materials used these days include celluloid, nylon, and occasionally, wood or metal. Generally speaking, celluloid picks deliver richer, rounder tones, while playing with nylon picks will get you sound that is warm and bright.
The last thing to know: guitar picks come in different shapes. A teardrop shape is the most popular, but you’ll also find shark fin shapes, rounder shapes and pointier, triangular shapes. These shapes operate exactly as you think, with the sharper points giving you more detailed attack (great for intricate guitar solos) and the rounder points generating mellowing sound (great for strumming).
Ready to start plucking? Here’s what to get.
1. D’Addario Accessories Pearl Celluloid Guitar Picks
This value-sized set includes 25 celluloid picks in different thicknesses, weights and colors. The pack includes eight lightweight picks, nine medium picks and eight heavy picks. Thicknesses range from 0.5 mm to 1.0 mm. Three different colors help you know which size is which.
The picks are cut in a standard shape for comfortable playing and consistent sound, no matter your playing style. Users say the picks are super durable and grippy, and glide easily over the strings.
D’Addario is a family-owned company and one of the most respected names when it comes to manufacturing accessories for guitars, violins and other stringed instruments. D’Addario picks are used by everyone from Vince Gill to Mark Knopfler.
PROS: Well-made guitar picks that are easy to hold and use. Users like the shiny jewel tone colors, which they say make these picks easy to find, even in the dark.
CONS: Best for pop and rock musicians; jazz musicians will want picks with a sharper tip.
2. ChromaCast CC Sampler Guitar Picks
This set gets you half a dozen “DuraPicks” (for bright, plucky sound) and six celluloid picks for warmer, fuller sound. In addition to the two materials, the picks come in six different sizes, from extra thin (0.5 mm) to heavy (1.14 mm). Each size is differentiated by a different color.
ChromaCast says their Duralin material (also known as Acetyl or Delrin) is strong and stiff, leading to less fatigue and low friction. Musicians can get better control over their playing without needing to constantly adjust their grip. The celluloid picks, meantime, provide fatter, more natural sounding tone.
The picks are all cut in a classic shape, with a wider body and rounded tip.
PROS: Great sampler pack of different sizes and weights.
CONS: Some users say the picks began to fade with heavy playing.
3. Dunlop Tortex Standard 1.0mm Blue Guitar Picks
Used by musicians on stage and in the studio, these Tortex picks feature a grippy matte surface for improved hold. The company refers to these picks as a “sonic paintbrush,” and while that may be a bit of a stretch, you can’t deny the clear, reliable sound these picks deliver.
This set includes twelve, 1 mm-thick picks in a cool blue color. The classic teardrop shape gets you more precision and decent surface area for a variety of different playing styles.
What we like: the Delrin material is designed to mimic traditional tortoiseshell, giving off a bright, crisp tone and snappy yet fluid attack. Users say the picks work well, whether you’re playing an acoustic guitar or jamming out on an electric axe.
Tortex picks were first released in 1981. These picks are manufactured in California.
PROS: Well-made picks that deliver consistent sound and good control.
CONS: This set only features one size of guitar picks.