So you ultimately decided to learn to play the guitar – that’s great! Aside from memorizing the cords, you will also find yourself learning the proper way of strumming to develop more control over your wrists as you play.
For beginners, we recommend using a plectrum/guitar pick to help you learn how to play. These tiny pieces can help you improve your control while also helping you develop your playing technique.
In most cases, beginners feel overwhelmed by their options so they just end up buying the first plectrum they come across – and this shouldn’t be the case. It may not be obvious, but the right guitar pick thickness, shape, and size can help improve your overall playing. This is why it’s important to know more about them first.
And this is what this article is all about. We’ll inform you of everything you need to know about guitar picks to help you choose the perfect one for you.
What is a plectrum?
Simply stated, a plectrum (the formal name of guitar pick) is a small and thin object with a flat surface that’s used to strum stringed instruments like guitars, mandolins, and harpsichords. These pieces can be made of various materials ranging from plastics to tortoise shells to ivory.
Plectra come in different dimensions, structures, and thicknesses and these all play roles in improving the overall tonal quality of the instrument.
With that said, a guitar pick is a type of plectrum that’s specifically designed for strumming guitars. But in most cases, both of these terms are used interchangeably.
Why use a guitar pick?
One of the main queries that beginners always ask us is this: why use a pick? After all, a lot of professional musicians can be seen playing their guitars with no help from picks. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that.
But, we still recommend using a pick – especially if you’re a beginner. If you’re not convinced, here are some of the reasons why you need to use a pick:
- Picks help produce louder sounds. First of all, picks allow you to exert more effort into playing – and when you play harder, the sound that your guitar produces is usually louder. Unlike if you’re strumming with your fingers, strumming strings hard can be painful. Thus, it’s best to use a pick if you want your guitar to sound louder without any feel or pain on the finger.
- Picks help you play faster. Similarly, using a plectrum to play will allow you to play quicker. You don’t have to worry about blisters in your fingers if you’re playing with a pick since the impact does not go directly to your fingers.
- Picks allow you to create more defined tones. And eventually, picks are known for producing more fuller tones. Depending on the thickness of the pick, you can create the ideal tone you want your guitar to produce. We’ll discuss more on this shortly.
From all these, it’s easy to see why using a pick is better for beginners. Doing so will help you develop more authority over your wrists while you’re still at the early stages of your training.
Guitar pick dimensions and measurements
We have previously mentioned that different guitar pick dimensions and thicknesses help with producing different tones while also affecting your ability to play.
Guitar pick thickness guide
According to thickness, guitar picks are classified into five as stated below:
1. Extra thin: These picks are those that are less than 0.44 millimeters thick. This makes them incredibly flexible, which allows them to generate lighter and more lively tones.
2. Thin or light: Thin or light picks are those that fall between 0.45 to 0.69 millimeters thick. They are slightly stiffer than extra-thin picks, but they similarly make light tones. The main difference is that thin picks have a little more bass and midrange compared to additional thin ones.
3. Medium: Medium guitar picks, on the other hand, are those ranging between 0.70 and 0.84 millimeters thick. Because of their stiffer build, you can exert more power when playing, and this allows you to create rhythm more accurately. For this reason, medium picks are the top choice for rhythm guitarists.
4. Thick or heavy: Taking it up a notch are thick or heavy picks. These picks fall between 0.85 and 1.2 millimeters thick. Because of their stiffness, these picks are more pleasant and easier to play – even at a speedy pace to do fast alternate picking. They are also known for producing loud sounds that have a lot of bass tones. For this reason, thick picks are the favorite choice of musicians with more aggressive playing styles.
5. Extra thick or extra heavy: And finally, these type picks are those that are thicker than 1.21 millimeters. Like the heavy one, these are known for producing booming bass sounds even if played on an acoustic guitar. Similarly, these extra heavy guitar picks are also pleasant and easy to play fast notes with.
Guitar pick thickness chart
If what we discussed above seems to be too complicated, then here is a simplified guitar pick thickness chart for you to look into.
|Label||Thickness (in millimeters)||Thickness (in inches)|
|Extra Thin/Light (Ex Lite)||Less than 0.44||Less than 0.017|
|Thin or Light (T/L)||0.45 to 0.69||0.018 to 0.027|
|Medium (M)||0.70 to 0.84||0.028 to 0.033|
|Thick or Heavy (H)||0.85 to 1.20||0.033 to 0.047|
|Extra Thick/Heavy (XH)||More than 1.20||More than 0.047|
Guitar pick sizes
Now, we move on to guitar pick sizes. Pick sizes are generally classified into two: big and small picks. These options do not offer much tonal difference, but it all boils down to how comfortable the guitarist is while playing.
Big picks provide guitar players with an easier and more comfortable hold over the pick, and this allows them to strum the guitar strings with ease. What you have to take note of when you’re using a big pick is that it does not offer much finger dexterity. Thus, use this if you’re playing slower and more relaxed melodies.
On the other hand, smaller picks offer better finger dexterity. As such, it allows you to play notes with more accuracy. This is perfect if you’re playing songs with intricate musical details that you want to emphasize.
Guitar pick shapes
There are so many pick shapes available in the market today that it’s already hard to keep track of all of them. But even with the variety of structures out there, there is only one thing that you have to look out for: the tip of the pick. The sharpness of the tip is the key factor of a pick shape cause this is the only thing that does contact with the strings to produce sound.
Guitar picks with rounded shape tips initiate a softer sound, and this works better for more relaxed playing. It is for this reason that an acoustic guitar pick often has rounded tips.
For those who prefer an aggressive picking style and a stronger attack on the strings while playing, they can go for picks with more pointed or sharper tips. These appointed tips help a lot with the accuracy of playing each note, playing arpeggios, or using a technique like string skipping while also offering the added dexterity for your fingers. This makes it the weapon of choice for musicians who have to perform complicated solos or fast alternate picking.
How to choose a guitar pick
Now that you know the different guitar pick forms, sizes, and thickness, we can now proceed with choosing the perfect pick for you.
Based on everything we have previously discussed, you can already narrow down your choice of pick depending on your preferred tone, playing style, and how accurately you want to play the notes.
To narrow down the choices even further, we have to discuss the different materials used in making guitar picks.
The guitar picks material helps you determine the quality of the notes you play. Nowadays, guitar picks are made from so many different materials that discussing them all would take too much of your time.
Thus, here are some of the most popular materials used in making picks for your reference:
Celluloid picks are made from cellulose, one type of wood-based bio-plastic. These are considered the most common picks today. Since cellulose is one of the most abundant materials around, and this makes them sustainable.
As a result, these celluloid picks are affordable and easy to find.
Celluloid guitar picks have an oily or smooth texture, and this allows the guitar player to play with sufficient dexterity without sacrificing his accuracy.
Another common material is Delrin, which is a type of acetal homopolymer resin. These picks are hard and durable, and this allows it to produce that loud sound that everybody loves.
Despite its glossy texture, Delrin picks provide the user with a firm grip, so they don’t have to worry about losing control over the pick while in the middle of playing.
Delrin is also the known material used for the Tortex guitar pick, an alternative to tortoiseshell picks. Tortoiseshell picks used to be the holy grail of picks because of the rich tones that it can make. But since there has been a ban on using these shells, manufacturers have resorted to using Tortex instead.
Another widely popular material used for guitar picks is nylon. Nylon guitar picks are known for being inexpensive and have become the favorite choice for beginners.
Because of its flexible material, a nylon pick helps improve the guitarist’s strumming technique. It also assists create warm tones, making them perfect for jazz and similar music.
Now, you already know the different materials used in producing picks. If you correlate this with our discussion on pick thickness, size, and shape, you can easily choose the perfect pick for you.
Does the pick thickness make a difference?
From everything we have discussed, we can already see that the thickness of a guitar pick creates a difference in tone and even in playability. While it may not be obvious to the untrained ear, professionals and music enthusiasts can effortlessly spot the difference.
To recap, thinner picks produce lighter tones with less bass, while medium-size picks are stiffer than thinner pick to deliver a louder and brighter tone with higher bass. But heavier picks produce louder sounds with deep bass tones. Make sure to consider this before purchasing one.
What size guitar pick should a beginner use?
The size of the guitar pick generally depends on what you plan to use the guitar for. If you’re planning to become a lead guitarist one day, we recommend using a small and thick pick with a pointed tip since this will help you play faster and more accurately.
But if you’re planning to play your guitar at a more relaxed pace with more focus on rhythm, then you can go for a big pick with medium thickness and a rounded tip. This allows you to play more comfortably while giving your fingers enough control over your guitar-playing.
Our recommended best guitar picks
If you are looking for the best guitar pick for beginners but haven’t figured out which type would be the appropriate one for you, then you need to check and test different picks by yourself. Since picks are super cheap (except some crazy branded picks!) so without buying lots of different kinds of picks for testing, it would be practical for a beginner to buy a variety mix pack.
In this way, you’ll get different gauge picks made from a particular material or mixture of different thicknesses and materials at a fair price.
Best guitar pick variety pack:
- Pick Geek TRIO – 3 Sets of Premium Picks For Electric, Acoustic, or Bass Guitar
- Dunlop Tortex Standard Picks Sample Variety Mix Pack
- Fender Premium Picks Sampler – 24 Pack Includes Thin, Medium & Heavy Gauges
On the other hand, if you have found and decided the perfect type of pick thickness, size, and shape for your guitar playing style, then you can check from the below-listed guitar picks. Some of these picks are best for acoustic guitar players; some are good for electric riff solos, or for jazz players, or for the metal guitarist. Some others are the best guitar picks for speed.
So, try to discover what you like and what suits you. Here we have suggested a few guitar picks as per thickness that we think are good in their way.
Best guitar picks:
- Jim Dunlop Tortex Standard 0.50 mm Red Picks-36 Pack
- Dunlop Nylon Max-Grip Standard, Light Gray, 0.60mm
- PickWorld Guitar Picks (MG3D-5)
- Ernie Ball Prodigy Picks, Black, 1.5 mm
- ChickenPicks Light 2.2 mm guitar picks
- Pure Dragon’s Heart Guitar Pick – 2.5 mm thickness
- Dunlop Kirk Hammett Signature Jazz III
- Planet Waves 7DRD1-10 DuraGrip Super Light
Supportive gear for plectrum:
- UPGRADE YOUR GUITAR PICK: Ergonomic grip feels super comfortable in your hand - great for beginners and experts alike. Play comfortably for...
- RECONNECT WITH YOUR PASSION: Even if you have trouble holding a regular guitar pick, Pykmax can help you start playing guitar again.
- PREMIUM QUALITY: Tough, high-quality workmanship - built to last.
- UNIVERSAL DESIGN: One model for left-handed and right-handed guitarists. Adjustable size fits kids through adults. Fits most guitar picks.
To find a pick of choice, beginner guitarists can try every pick to determine what works for them regarding their preferred tone, music style, and feel comfortable in hand. There’s nothing incorrect to experiment with pick thicknesses and dimensions to get a good plectrum.
All guitar players have their personal preference to choose a specific type of pick, and that can change many times as he becomes more experienced. So start testing different picks until you find the best-suited pick for yourself.