Plectrums, or picks as they are most commonly known, are an essential item for every guitar player. They are one of the first things you should purchase when you’re new to playing guitar, and one of the things you should always have on hand when you’ve been playing guitar for awhile! For those that are new to guitar, though, picks can be confusing. There are many different shapes, sizes, and types of picks and a new player may not know which one to start with, or why there are so many different kinds of picks to begin with. So today, let’s talk about picks!
One of the first things you will notice when you look at picks at the store is that they all have varying levels of thickness. Here are the different levels of thickness you may come across as you browse picks. These numbers may seem irrelevant to playing, and a lot of choosing a pick thickness comes down to personal taste, but it can actually make a difference in your playing. Note that these measurements tend to vary and are an estimate.
Extra light: 0.45mm and under
These picks are often the choice of acoustic guitar players. They are great for strumming, and offer a softer sound than a heavier pick would. This is a great choice when you are playing an acoustic guitar as a background accompanying instrument.
Light: 0.46mm to 0.70mm
Light picks are very similar to extra light picks; they are excellent for acoustic strumming, and are gentle on your joints. They will give you a bit more volume than extra light picks, so this is a good choice if you want a flexible pick but also want more sound than an extra light pick could give you.
Medium: 0.70mm to 0.85mm
Medium thickness picks are the most versatile of the bunch. They will produce, overall, more balanced tones than the previous two options will, but their strength lies in their ability to be used for both strumming and single-note play. Medium picks are a great choice for someone who is brand new to guitar because of this.
Heavy: 0.86mm to 1.20mm
Heavy picks are great for electric guitar players that want to play songs with a lot of single notes and heavy sound. Because of that, they are used on electric guitars much more often than acoustic guitars.
Extra heavy: 1.20mm and over
Extra heavy picks offer the same benefits as heavy picks, but to a more extreme extent. They will give you a powerful, heavy metal sound that is excellent for lead parts. These picks are not particularly suited to acoustic guitars, and are best left to be used on electric guitars.
While this may give you a good idea of what thickness would be best for you, the best idea is to pick up multiple picks in varying levels of thickness to see what you like the most. Picks are overall very cheap, and it is not hard to grab a few of them so you can experiment and see what sounds and feels the best to you.
Now, there is another thing to consider when looking at guitar picks; their material. Material is very largely down to personal preference, and there are endless types of material to choose from; you can find picks made from stone and metal!
The most widely used materials, however, are plastic-based, like nylon. Nylon picks are very popular and are well known for being durable while still being flexible. Regardless of thickness, nylon picks will generally always be more flexible than picks made of other materials of the same thickness. You will find that nylon picks are very common, and it is easy to pick some up from a shop to try out. These are great to pick up as your very first pick.
Delrin is another material you will come across fairly often is another. These picks are much stiffer than nylon picks, which make them great for electric guitar playing. You will get a clean, crisp sound out of these. They also tend to have a more grippy texture than nylon picks do, both on the strings of your guitar and on your fingers.
Other types of picks, such as stone, are worth trying out too if you can get your hands on them. The best thing to do in the case of pick material is to experiment. You may be surprised at what type of material ends up being your favorite!
Here’s a variety pack of quality picks to get you started on finding your favorite.
Overall, if you are new to guitar (or even if you have been playing awhile), you should experiment as much as you can with picks and see where it leads you.