7 Best Guitar Picks -­ Going Beyond Pure Necessity

Despite how viable and popular fingerstyle technique is, there is no denying that guitar picks are the dominant choice for most guitar players out there. When you just start out with this instrument, a pick is just a necessity which you pay very little attention to. After all, just holding it correctly and getting a decent tone during picking is an achievement of its own. With that said, there is much more to picks that we are lead to believe at first. Today we are going to get deep into this topic as well as show you some of the best guitar pick packs, brands and combos.

Top 7 Best Guitar Picks

ImageGuitar Picks / RatingSummaryCheck Price
+ - Donner Celluloid Sample Pack Donner Celluloid Sample Pack

Total of 4.70/5   4.7 out of 5 stars

A standard but diverse pack of picks that has all the flavors.

+ - Dunlop's Jazz III Dunlop's Jazz III

Total of 4.60/5   4.6 out of 5 stars

By far one of the hottest picks for precision, shredding and accuracy.

+ - Jim Dunlop's 44P46 Jim Dunlop's 44P46

Total of 4.00/5   4 out of 5 stars

A well balanced choice for those who like light to medium gauge.

+ - Jim Dunlop 449P.73 ­ Jim Dunlop 449P.73 ­

Total of 4.50/5   4.5 out of 5 stars

Thicker set that features Dunlop's proven texture, shape and highly durable materials.

+ - Fender Premium Picks Fender Premium Picks

Total of 4.80/5   4.8 out of 5 stars

Fender's picks are both aesthetically impressive, as well as great value overall.

+ - Dunlop Tortex Standard Dunlop Tortex Standard

Total of 4.60/5   4.6 out of 5 stars

This pack brings the vintage feel of tortoiseshell, but with many improvements.

+ - ChromaCast CC­SAMPLE­12PK ­ A ChromaCast CC­SAMPLE­12PK ­ A

Total of 4.80/5   4.8 out of 5 stars

An awesome value for the money pack that offers plenty of flavors.

The Universal Rules Of Guitar Picks

Before we get to any specifics, we have to cover the basic, most universal rules which govern your use of picks. These aren’t dependent on your individual skill, nor your playing style. If you were to ask some guitar players, they would probably say that picks are governed by some supernatural force. Here’s the deal. You will lose picks, all the time, no matter what. Murphy is there to spice things up as well. Chances are you will lose your picks when you need them the most, which leads us to the first rule regarding guitar picks.

You Can Never Have Too Many Picks

There is a perfectly good reason why picks are sold in large packs. You just can’t have enough of them. Just like socks, they have a tendency to drop through what appears to be a tear in space/time continuum. It will be sitting safely in your hand in one moment and then disappear never to be seen the next. Bottom line, buy picks in bulk and have them everywhere. Put a few in your guitar bag, have a few on your guitar, have some at home, in your wallet, car and so on. No matter how confident you are in your ability to keep things safe, you will find yourself in a situation where you’re left without a pick. That’s just how things are. Accept it and adapt.

Some Picks Work Better With Certain Music Genres

Guitar picks are essentially tools. As such, they are designed to accomplish different things. We will cover gauge, size and shape later on, but it is important to realize that these metrics can have an impact on the way your guitar sounds. Especially if you are still developing your picking technique. This is where experimentation tends to yield best results. Try different things and find what works best for your particular playing style, string gauge and music genre.

Understanding Guitar Picks

Picks are more important than most beginners think. A pick can be a crucial part of your tone and playing style. But wait, all picks are more or less the same, right? Nope, not really. Picks come in a whole variety of different shapes and formats. For starters, you have different sizes and the size of a pick is important. Then we have the thickness of the pick. You can get real thin ones or real thick ones. Again, it depends on what you are trying to do and what you prefer in general. Lastly, there is the question of materials used to make the pick as well as the texture. Lets take a closer look at all of these factors, and describe how they can impact your experience.

Size Of The Pick ­ Is Larger Always Better?

In terms of sizes, you are looking at various formats. Some brands use the S/M/L/XL format, while others simply state the length of the pick in mm. Despite this lack of consistency in measurements, you can more or less find a pattern. Figuring out which pick size fits the you best is the tricky part. It’s tricky because of one simple fact. No single pick is going to be best at everything.

If we look at Donner Celluloid sample pack, which includes an awesome mix of gauges, you will find that their size generally works best for strumming. These allow for a proper grip, with plenty of real estate at your disposal. However, doing precision work with these may not be as efficient. We say that even though Donner’s picks are generally regarded to be some of the best out there. It all comes back to the fact that picks are tools.

If you are a metal player, chances are that something like Dunlop’s Jazz III will give you better results. These are the go to choice for alarge number of shredders due to their size and thick gauge. Where your standard pick is a hammer, Dunlop’s Jazz III is a scalpel. Sure, strumming will take some work and effort, but things like squealies come so easy. Additionaly, Jazz III are notorious for allowing you to do super fast alternate picking thanks to their compact size and sharp tip.

Gauge

Gauge of picks dictates their thickness, and in turn their flexibility. Both heavy gauge and light gauge picks have their advantages. In most cases, lighter gauges are used for acoustic guitars because they give your tone a very specific sparkle. If you listen to any song that has recorded steel acoustic guitars, you will recognize what we are talking about immediately. It is that sharp sound of strumming that melts in with the actual tone of the guitar.

Once you move into electric guitars and rock music, you will want at least a medium gauge. The main reason for this is the fact that light gauge picks generally tend to have less attack and require a bit more force if you want to get an aggressive tone. Medium to heavy gauge picks solve that issue quite efficiently. Jim Dunlop’s 44P46 are a great example of a good medium gauge pick.

Heavy gauge, like the Jazz III we have mentioned earlier, is most often left for metal music and bass guitars. With former, you want as much of that chug as you can get. With latter, it has much more to do with necessity than style. Playing bass guitars with a pick is tricky in a sense that you are dealing with very thick strings. Light gauge picks are simply no match for bass strings, while mediums might slip by somehow. With that said, heavy and extra heavy gauge is the way to go. Jim Dunlop 449P.73 come to mind here.

Materials

Just like with any other piece of gear, materials are important. So much so that they tend to change the way picks perform, as well as how they add to your sound. Two most common materials are celluloid and nylon. Celluloid strings are the younger of the two solutions and tend to be the choice of many professionals. This material is generally flexible, firm and infuses your tone with warmth. One of the best sets of celluloid picks you can find at the moment are Fender Premium Picks. This sampler set perfectly showcases the performance of celluloid picks, as well as Fender’s quality craftsmanship.

We can name one awesome Tortex pick set. First one is the classic Dunlop Tortex Standard, which has been around for decades now. With 0.88 thickness, these are still within the medium range, but draw towards heavy gauge.

Texture tends to be one of the most important factors for most guitar players. If you think about it, it is the first thing you notice when you start handling any given pick. Some models are completely flat, while others have a discernible texture. Figuring out which one works for you comes down to how you grip the pick and how much pressure you exert on it. Most modern smooth picks are coated with a powder like material that helps a lot with grip. For some people, however that is simply not enough. This is where more aggressive texture patterns come into play.

General rule of thumb is that large picks are usually smooth, while smaller ones have various textures. The idea is that with large picks you have a lot of surface area to grip, which minimizes the risk of you dropping the pick or similar. Smaller picks don’t have that kind of real estate so the only way to ensure grip is to apply some kind of texture to it. Naturally, this is not an exclusive rule, but rather the most common case. You will find plenty of large picks with a texture.

Brands You Can Trust

In the world of guitar picks, sticking to proven brands is more or less the only way to go. Picks are fairly inexpensive, so there is really no need to cut on costs too much. With that said, you have companies such as ChromaCast who offer awesome value for the money without any serious consequences in terms of performance. Their ChromaCast CC­SAMPLE­12PK is a great example of what we mean.

As you have probably noticed by now, Jim Dunlop is one of the go to brands. Not only do they have an insanely wide assortment of picks to offer, but all of their picks are rock solid. They deal great with wear and are fairly inexpensive. Getting used to Dunlops is something most guitar players out there are guilty of. Fender is another awesome brand. Even though they are more conservative in their designs, Fender brings a ton of awesome models. One thing that many like about their picks are the aesthetics. There is something about Fender’s color choices that makes their picks really attractive.

Another big brand is D’Addario. They are fairly similar to Fender when it comes to designs and aesthetics, but their quality is also on par. At the end of the day, choosing a brand comes down toyour personal taste. Most guitar players experiment with a variety of picks, only to settle down with one or two brands.

How To Ensure That You Will Always Have A Pick?

This question has so many answers, some of which are obvious while others require some investment. If you are just starting out, the best thing you can do is have picks just about everywhere on you. Like we have mentioned earlier, stuff them in your gig bag, under your guitar strings, in your wallet and so on. If just having picks around you isn’t cutting it and you also want easy access to spare picks, you will have to look into more dedicated solutions. There are plenty of pick mounts for guitars as well as those for microphone stands. Some guitar players like to keep picks under their sweat band, while others improvise in other ways. As you gain some experience, you will have less and less issues with dropping picks all over the place. In other words, having one or two extras somewhere near by will be more than enough.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, picks are that one thing most guitar players feel naked without. We hope that you have learned something new about this seemingly mundane subject. If that is the case, we can call this short guide a success. Regarding our choices for pick sets, we feel that models listed above are by far some of the best you can find. Naturally, it is hard to appease everyone’s taste, so be sure to experiment with various brands, gauges and sizes. Most importantly, make your life easier and have extra picks on you.


Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Ryan says

    Have you tried Chickenpicks? If not, you definitely should. I used the .75 nylon “Star” picks for years, but bought a sample pack of Chickenpicks to try them, and they are awesome!

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *