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by Carlos Diez Macia 34 Comments
We all know how complex guitar picks can be. Qualities such as pick thickness, material, shape, and size define the character of a pick.
We want to help you solve one of the most difficult tasks every guitar player faces: how to choose the right guitar pick.
Guitar picks are the bridge between you and your instrument, a hidden hero in the hands of most guitarists, and the loudest amplifier in your hands. If you have a better definition, we'd love to hear it!
A guitar pick is a very personal item, and selecting the best one for you is dependent on a number of factors. There is no such thing as a perfect pick, but each pick serves a specific purpose, has strengths and weaknesses, and performs differently when used with different techniques or instruments.
The right guitar pick for you will be the pick that makes you feel most comfortable with your playing style and will meet your needs in terms of tone and control.
The right guitar pick can make you feel like a guitar hero. You just have to find it!
Guitar picks have many advantages over finger picking.
They help speed up your playing, produce a louder, brighter sound than fingers, and can be shaped to achieve better results when using different techniques like strumming, palm muting, pinch harmonics, and more.
Furthermore, certain types of guitar picks can easily change the tone. This allows you to experiment with different tones until you find the one that works for you.
There is a simple and fast way to make your guitar sound different: try another guitar pick.
The guitar pick affects not only tone but also volume, flexibility, and grip.
You will feel different grades of control and comfort depending on the guitar pick. Every pick is unique and will perform differently depending on your guitar-playing techniques, the type of guitar and type of strings, and your level of expertise.
In order to choose the right plectrum, you must understand some basic concepts.
The following are the most important attributes when it comes to guitar picks:
These characteristics define 80% of how a guitar pick will feel and perform and are the best points from which to start.
The thickness of your pick is measured in millimeters and mainly affects the tone and the flexibility.
A minimal change in the thickness of a guitar pick of only 0.2 millimeters (equal to two sheets of paper) is enough to change its properties drastically.
For most guitar players, this is considered the most important characteristic when choosing the right guitar pick, and this is the first information you will find on a product page when purchasing picks online.
Properties and techniques
● Trebbly tone
● Low dynamic range. Maximum volume is limited
● Noticeable pick noise
● Low durability
● Less control over single notes
● Flexible or stiff (depending on the material)
● Warmer tones than light picks
● Can provide high volume with the usage of hard materials
● Reduced pick noise
● More durability than thin picks
● Versatile in terms of technique and control
over 1 mm
● Warm and dark tones
● High volume and broader dynamic range
● Reduced pick noise
● More durable
● High control of single notes
Keep in mind these properties are categorized in a general way, and most of the properties will depend on aspects like material and shape.
Thin guitar picks are thinner than 0.55 mm. How did we come to this number? We performed a large survey in March 2021, which you can find here.
This type of pick is usually good for rhythm guitar but not great for lead guitar because of the lack of control when playing single notes. These picks tend to fold when plucking the strings due to their flexibility, and the maximum volume is limited as a result. This can be an advantage because it works like an analog limiter. These picks always provide a fluid sound (even if your arm does not follow).
Most beginner guitar players use thin picks because their skill set at the start is limited to strumming. However, we have discussed why medium guitar picks are actually better for beginner guitar players here.
Medium gauge guitar picks have a thickness of between 0.55 and 1 mm.
These are the most versatile guitar picks and are perfect for solo guitarists who use different techniques in the same songs (e.g., strumming, solo, palm mute).
They combine comfort, precision, rhythm, and speed of play and have the advantages of both thin and heavy thickness.
This thickness range on plectrums is the most complex of all and deserves a separate article (which you can find here).
Thick picks are over 1 mm. Since there is no limit to thickness, some players like to use “extra thick” picks, which are over 3 mm thick.
Thick picks give the guitar player more control over volume and attack on the strings. They are the favorite amongst advanced guitarists.
Advanced guitarists choose this thickness because they require precision for their high-level playing and solo parts. Game speed is guaranteed!
Because they are thicker, heavy picks produce more mellow and dark tones. A bevel edge can be created (more on this below).
Guitar picks can be made out of anything: metal, wood, plastic, and fabric. In the past, some exotic materials like bone were used to produce guitar picks.
The technological wave that came with highly specialized polymers created a new era of materials with amazing properties. Generally, the following are the main properties that a good material should have:
In addition to thickness, the material of the guitar pick will have a substantial influence on the tone, the flexibility or stiffness, the durability, and the grip.
The most common guitar pick materials are Nylon, Delrin and Celluloid. Other materials found nowadays are leather, rubber or fabric (especially for Ukuleles).
At Rombo, we decided to adapt the properties of common Nylon by changing its formula. We were able to keep the tonal properties of Nylon and improve its durability and grip. We believe we have achieved an excellent balance of sound, comfort, aesthetic properties, and durability.
Our guitar pick material is manufactured in Italy, and we discussed its properties here.
This is the first quality you’ll notice when using a pick for the first time.
Due to the high number of guitar pick makers online nowadays, there is a virtually infinite number of pick shapes. However, there are some classical shapes that need to be mentioned. Here are the four most common guitar pick shapes:
The most popular pick shape is the standard shape. Nearly every brand offers a pick in this shape and in different sizes.
They are a good starting point for beginners because of their size and their tip. The tip is neither too round nor too sharp. This means they are an all-rounder pick that can be used for almost every technique.
Nevertheless, there are some variations of this shape that include a very pointy tip and, of course, after the pick wears down, it will get a rounded tip. You can read more on durability here.
A good example of this pick is Rombo Origami.
If you are looking for precision, this may be your best choice. There are many variations of teardrop picks, but all of them have the same goal: to allow the player to get closer to the strings, providing better feedback and control.
Because of their small size, they require a certain level of control and can therefore only be used if the guitar player has learnt how to use them properly.
A good example of this pick is Rombo Jade.
Ironically, jazz-shaped guitar picks are most often used by players who love rock and metal.
These picks have gained popularity over the years. Unlike standard picks, which are designed to be versatile, jazz picks are designed to achieve two things: speed and precision.
Jazz picks typically have heavier gauges with a significant beveled edge and sharper tips. There are many different sizes, from very small (the most common type) to Jazz XL, like Rombo Diamond.
Nearly every triangle-shaped pick is an equilateral triangle (60° tip and all sizes with the same length). These picks are very popular among bass players and are usually larger than the average picks.
The practical side of this pick is that the player can play with all three corners.
A good example of a triangular pick is Rombo Prisma.
Sometimes each corner of these picks has a different thickness. We do not recommend this. You want to avoid external factors that can cause mistakes when playing guitar. Varied thickness on a pick will lead to complications.
Thе shape of the guitar pick tip іѕ one factor that рlауеrѕ оftеn оvеrlооk. Mоѕt реорlе focus on the shape and thickness and won’t think about the sharpness of the tip.
The shape of the guitar pick tip has a huge impact on the tone.
Bright tones are achieved using a pointed tip, while warm and less defined tones are produced by guitar picks with a rounded tip.
This is the main reason why guitar tones can change as picks wear down.
Tip: A beveled edge on the tip with rounded edges can promote smoother string friction, resulting in more efficient strokes and speed. More on this topic below.
The size of the pick is the most important factor when considering comfort. Because no two people are alike, this is a very personal choice. Besides, this point is strictly connected to the shape of the guitar pick.
You may find small picks make it easier to shred and play with speed. Your fingers are closer to the strings, so you feel what you are playing more. The downside to these picks is that they can be dropped easily because their total surface is smaller.
You may also discover that larger picks are easier to hold and feel more comfortable in your hand. They can provide better grip, since there is more surface in contact with your fingers. However, they can add a lot of bass to your tone because of the larger material volume.
Experiment with different sizes to determine what is most convenient for you.
Usually, the size varies between 15 and 40 mm in height.
Thickness, material, tip and body shape, and size make up 80% of a guitar pick.
However, the remaining 20% can make the playing experience much more comfortable, giving you better results and a more enjoyable experience.
The following aspects are essential to consider for those players who want to get the most out of this guitar accessory:
The grip a guitar pick offers is created by the material, the shape, the size, and the surface texture.
This is one of the most debatable aspects of guitar picks because it is quite subjective. While some players want a comfortable pick with no aggressive textures, others require the maximum possible grip to feel secure.
External aspects like sweaty hands will also directly influence grip. (If your hands sweat while playing the guitar, you can avoid this problem by following simple steps here.)
In our case, we tried to find a balance of comfort, tone, grip and durability. When designing our grip, we considered material and texture. We developed the hold area of our picks using variable thickness and 3D geometries.
If you want to go deeper on this topic, read our article entitled “Understanding Guitar Pick Grip: Essentials”
A bevel edge can be created if your guitar pick is thick enough. This means more speed and therefore more fun!
Beveled-edge guitar picks are the best option for guitar players who want to use thick, pointy tips that also produce warm, fluid tones.
Using guitar picks with beveled edges may feel strange at the beginning. The pick feels different: it slides differently, and the feedback you receive from it is different. However, after some practice, you will begin to notice that some techniques are in fact much easier.
We published an article called “The Guitar Pick: Bevel, Tip and Shape,” which discusses the relationship between these attributes.
Guitar pick thickness is important. What are the advantages of using a pick with variable thickness? Actually, there are quite a few.
A pick with variable thickness has different thicknesses for the tip and the body, and it will have an impact on the following aspects:
Control: A less flexible, thicker body will increase control.
Tone: The pick’s extra mass will produce more bass tones and therefore will have more presence.
Versatility: Since the pick is thinner than the body, more adequate techniques for thinner picks can be used with the control thick guitar picks offer.
Grip: The thicker hold area will allow the designers to create 3D geometries that enhance the grip without aggressive grip textures.
A good example of such a pick is Rombo Diamond. Its tip is 1.35 mm, whereas some areas of its body go up to 2.65 mm thick. The tilted surfaces act as a support for your fingertips.
Adding textures on the tip of the pick can slightly change the tone and sound.
The surface of the guitar pick tip can be:
We decided to implement the high mirror polished tip in our picks because of the advantages it provides in terms of noise, tone, and durability.
A guitar pick with a polished tip causes less friction between the strings and the pick, and this is the reason the pick noise is reduced and the pick lasts longer.
Durability is affected by a number of aspects, such as pick material, shape, thickness, and the gauge of your guitar strings.
Durable guitar picks are perfect for players that use aggressive techniques like shredding. I have heard of some guitar players whose pick is gone after just a few hours!
If you are a regular player using common guitar pick techniques with less than two hours of practice a day, this is not something you need to worry about.
Creating long-lasting guitar picks was one of our goals when we began making picks, and we achieved this by using an improved version of Nylon.
A point that sometimes is forgotten is that the tone of your guitar will change as guitar picks wear down. The relationship between tone, durability and wear is described in depth here.
Medium-gauge guitar picks (thicknesses between 0.55 and 1 mm) are best for beginners, despite people telling you to use thin picks.
You are at the beginning of your journey, so your tastes, preferences, or guitar types may change.
A medium guitar pick will give you the versatility you need at the beginning and will allow you to change to thin or thick picks more easily.
In our article “Medium Gauge Guitar Picks,” you can find more details about these picks and decide if they fit your profile.
Another good option is a variety pack, which contains guitar picks with different attributes. This is a good way to test several picks and track your development as you start increasing your skill for each one.
Through perseverance, patience and discipline, you have reached a guitar skill level many people dream of. Congratulations!
The guitar-learning process is a journey, and your gear choices will influence it substantially. Guitar gear won’t make you a better guitar player, but it will add more fun, more creativity, and more knowledge to the learning process.
We can’t say this often enough: Every guitar player should have at least three favorite guitar picks and, most important, know why.
As an experienced player, you probably have many different skill areas that require different gear. For example, some phrases of a song might require warm single note tones, while other songs require bright tones and lots of volume.
If every song has different requirements, why always use the same guitar pick?
We know how complex these guitar picks are.
If you are still having trouble choosing the right guitar pick, send us an email using our contact form and answer the seven questions below, and we will send you a personalized suggestion. We try to answer every email in less than 72 hours.
- Do you play electric guitar, acoustic guitar, or bass?
- What music genre do you play?
- Are you a lead guitarist, a rhythm guitarist, or both?
- Are you a beginner, intermediate or advanced player?
- If you are an advanced player, what are your favorite techniques?
- Do you prefer bright or warm tones?
- Do you prefer flexible or rigid picks?
If you are a practical person, you can try by yourself and make your own judgement by getting a variety pack containing picks with varying thicknesses, shapes and sizes.
There are thousands of different guitar picks and even more types of guitar players. The possible combinations are infinite, and that’s what makes music so beautiful.
Not only is the harmony theory important for a song to be wonderful, but so is the way it is played and the way it sounds.
Here is the secret: there isn’t a right guitar pick for you. There are hundreds of them that could change your playing in a way you couldn’t imagine, so go discover them!
I wish you the best in the endless journey of experimenting with your guitar.
by Carlos Diez Macia