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by Carlos Diez Macia 3 Comments
Thin guitar picks vs. thick guitar picks. This eternal battle has been a part of every guitarist's conversation for decades. It is time to finally evaluate both alternatives in depth.
The thickness of a guitar pick is generally measured in millimeters, and it is an attribute that influences many physical aspects like tone and flexibility. For most players, this is considered the most important attribute when choosing the right guitar pick.
However, after doing some online research, nobody seemed to really know how thick a guitar pick needs to be to be considered as a thick or heavy guitar pick. Where is the line?
Therefore, the first thing we did was to create a big online survey on our Instagram guitar community.
The survey we created was online for 24 hours on an Instagram story and the participants were asked to answer two simple questions.
This question was the first one, and its aim was to see if guitar players prefer thick or thin guitar picks. Here are the results:
It seems that over two thirds of the guitar players prefer guitar picks considered as thick. Honestly, I thought there would be a 50-50 relation and this surprised me a lot.
This was the second question, and the guitar players could select different thicknesses they considered to be the “least thickness needed for a guitar pick to be considered as thick or heavy”.
The results showed that on average, a pick must be at least about 1.0 mm to be considered as a thick guitar pick.
These results are very interesting, since the information we found during the research claimed that a pick is considered as “thick” or “heavy” if it surpasses 0.8 mm thickness. We did not find any study or survey with more participants than ours.
Of course, we have to consider that we do not have any way to track more specific characteristics of the participants like skill level, music preferences, guitar type, age, and so on.
Additional research on this topic showed that during the past decades, the average thickness of the guitar picks has increased substantially. Thin guitar picks are even considered as vintage by many players due to the tone they produce.
This is no surprise, given that most modern guitar techniques and effects that require thick picks (like shredding) were non-existent during the 1950s and 1960s.
The thickness of a guitar pick is one of the most influential attributes.
The guitar pick thickness influences:
A minimal change in the thickness of a guitar pick of only 0.2 millimeters (equal to two common paper sheets) is enough to change the properties of a guitar pick drastically.
Let's pretend there are no medium guitar picks and create a clear line that divides both thickness ranges, to make the differences between thick picks and thin picks more appreciable.
Thick / heavy guitar picks
Thin guitar picks
Warm/dark tones and mellow tones.
Lighter tones, less bass.
Provide high volume. Broader dynamic range
Maximum volume is limited. Lower dynamic range
Guitar pick noise
Reduced pick noise
Noticeable pick noise
High control of single notes
Less control for single notes
Lead guitar, shredding, sweep picking,...
Rhythm guitar, strumming, tremolo picking
Common type of players
Intermediate and advanced guitarists
Beginners, acoustic guitar players.
Thick guitar picks will provide mellower/darker tones. The common rounded edges that can be manufactured with thicknesses over 1 mm – combined with their rigidity – increase the bass tones and the volume these guitar picks can provide, while reducing the pick noise the pick produces.
These picks provide more control over single notes and are usually the best option for lead guitarists.
Most advanced guitarists prefer thick picks, because in their guitar journey they develop new guitar techniques that can be performed better using this kind of picks. Thick plectrums provide more control when it comes to single notes and complex guitar pick techniques like pinch harmonics.
One of the biggest advantages of using heavy picks is the durability they provide. Nevertheless, the lifetime of a guitar pick is influenced by many other aspects, as we learnt in the article “Durability of a guitar pick”.
Thin picks are the best option for guitarists looking for brighter tones, especially using acoustic guitars and some strumming techniques on electric guitar.
The flexibility of these picks limits the maximum volume that can be achieved. This can be an advantage because it works like an analog limiter. This is especially helpful in a studio session, where the maximum volume achieved must be controlled.
Most beginner guitar players start using thin picks because their guitar skill set at the beginning includes guitar techniques like strumming.
Note control can be difficult with thin guitar picks. However, some players use this attribute for specific guitar techniques, like in surf music, where a super fast tremolo picking is required.
Rombo Jade is the perfect example of a thick guitar pick. Thanks to its thickness, a very large bevel edge could be implemented to be as sharp as possible, providing the precision needed when using these kinds of picks.
The size is small, a typical attribute of thick guitar picks, and its shape ends with a very pointy guitar pick tip for maximum attack.
Rombo Classic is the thinnest Rombo guitar pick. In the middle, it is only 0.38 mm.
This guitar pick is extremely flexible and has a medium/large size with a standard 5 mm diameter guitar pick tip.
In spite of its thickness, the dynamic range of the pick is great. This is caused by the material used in our picks.
I am sure you already have an idea of your favorite guitar pick thickness. In case you don’t, it is probably because you are at the beginning of your guitar journey.
Is there a wrong guitar pick thickness to play guitar? Any pick you use to get sound out of your guitar can work, if the sound produced is the sound you are looking for. It is entirely a matter of personal preference.
If you are a beginner guitar player, I recommend you start with something like 0.75 mm, as I described here: "Guitar Picks for Beginners"
However, if you are an intermediate player trying to find a way to discover new guitar tones, I do not have better advice than to tell you to try many different thicknesses and start integrating other important aspects of the guitar pick in your decision, like materials, size, shape, etc...
The good news is, you will probably end up having 3 to 5 favorite guitar picks which you can use for different techniques. So, enjoy the journey and be open to experimenting with different tones and textures with your guitar!
For this chapter I included the new guitar picks, which will be officially released during 2021.
As you can see on the thickness scale, there are still some slots missing (for example something like 0.6 mm), we will be filling them in the future, as we design new guitar picks.
However, we might repeat thicknesses if other aspects change a lot, for example the shape, the sharpness of the tip, the size of the pick, or other grip textures.
Another important factor to consider is that some picks do not have constant thickness along its design. But why?
As we did our research back in 2018, we found out that designing guitar picks with variable thickness comes with many advantages.
Let's take Rombo Origami as an example: The guitar pick tip is 0.75, but its hold area is thicker. This simple change makes the pick produce darker and mellower tones without losing much of its flexibility.
In the case of Rombo Diamond, the middle area (where all vertices collide) the thickness goes up to 2.65 mm. We increased this area after experiencing that the relation between the thicknesses along the guitar pick also increases the control over the pick for single notes.
In addition, with more thickness on a given material, you have more possibilities to introduce design elements, like the 3D geometries we use in our picks. These geometries have two positive effects: on one side, they enhance the grip of the pick because of the tilted surfaces, and on the other side, the guitar picks look very cool!
In short, variable thickness will make your picks more versatile and give you extra control.
Thick picks vs. thin picks will remain a hot, trendy topic in the guitar community.
However, if you are already an intermediate player with some knowledge about equally important aspects of a guitar pick like shape or material, spread the word to avoid confusion among the newcomers.
We have already discussed the huge variety of different guitar picks you can find online in our article “Guitar picks online” since this can be overwhelming for some beginners.
The best advice I can give you: love both thin and thick picks and try to understand why they are different. Both need to exist in a world where creativity and different tones and styles are needed!
Now it’s your turn, what is your favorite guitar pick thickness?
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by Carlos Diez Macia