Why are guitar picks different thicknesses? you might ask. Well, guitar picks come in different thicknesses to provide guitarists with a variety of options to achieve different sounds and playing experiences.
Thicker picks tend to produce a louder, fuller tone, and offer more control over the strings.
Thinner picks, on the other hand, produce a brighter tone and are often preferred by guitarists who play fast or strum frequently.
Additionally, personal preference and playing style can also influence a guitarist's choice of pick thickness.
In this article we will cover some of the basics to consider when choosing a guitar pick such as thickness, materials, & answer some frequently asked questions related to the topic.
A guitar pick (also known as a plectrum) is a small, flat piece of material used to pluck or strum a guitar's strings. Its main purpose is to give you more control and precision over the sound produced by the strings. Depending on factors such as thickness and material, different picks can alter the sound and feel of playing by changing the tone and providing varying levels of resistance.
Related: Origins & evolution of guitar picks
Guitar picks come in a range of thicknesses, typically categorized as thin, medium, or thick. Thin picks range from 0.20mm to 0.75mm, medium picks range from 0.75mm to 1.25mm, and thick picks range from 1.25mm or more. There are also extra thick guitar picks, generally handcrafted plectrums, that are much thicker and range anywhere from 2mm to well over 10mm.
The thickness of a pick affects the sound and feel of playing in several ways. Thicker picks generally produce a fuller, warmer sound, while thinner picks produce a brighter, more treble-heavy sound, with less sustain.
Thicker picks also tend to be more rigid, providing greater control and precision over the strings. Thinner picks on the other hand, are more flexible and are great for fast strumming with little resistance.
Examples of well-known guitarists who prefer different pick thicknesses include Eddie Van Halen, who used a thick 1.5mm pick, and Eric Clapton, who preferred a thinner, 0.7mm pick. Jim Dunlop, a popular guitar pick manufacturer, offers a range of picks in different thicknesses, with artists such as John Petrucci and James Hetfield endorsing their thicker picks, and players like Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan favoring thinner options.
A guitarist's preference for pick thickness can be influenced by a variety of factors, including playing style, musical genre, and personal preference. Guitarists who play fast and need more precision, for example, may prefer thicker or more rigid guitar picks.
Furthermore, different musical genres may favor different pick thicknesses. For example those playing Country or acoustic guitar, might favor the bright snappy tone of a flexible light pick. Whereas heavier rock or metal might prefer a stiff jazz style pick for maximizing accuracy & control.
Tone is also a factor that is influenced by the pick material but also by the thickness. Thinner picks tend to produce a brighter sound, and thicker picks have a warmer tone in contrast.
Personal preference plays a significant role in a guitarist's choice of pick thickness. Some guitarists may simply prefer the feel of a thicker or thinner pick, while others may choose a guitar pick thickness based on the specific sound they want to achieve.
Overall, pick thickness is a highly personal choice & there are no hard rules. Each guitarist must decide which pick thickness best suits their playing style, musical preferences, and personal comfort. It doesn’t hurt to experiment & try various thicknesses to see what feels best for you.
Celluloid, Nylon, and Delrin or Acetal (Such as Tortex) are some of the traditional materials used to make guitar picks. However there are countless handcrafted picks with materials ranging from acrylics, to exotic woods, carbon fiber, and much more.
Celluloid is a traditional material that has been around since the early 1900’s and has long been used for picks. It has a warm tone, smooth feel, and is typically on the thinner side of the spectrum. Even the heavier thicknesses are very flexible so that’s something to consider.
Nylon is a strong and flexible material with a bright, snappy sound. This material is much more durable that celluloid however we’ve only ever seen it in thinner gauges. This is a great choice for acoustic guitar picking.
Acetal or Delrin, also known as Tortex is a newer material that feels and sounds similar to celluloid but is resistant to wear. The best thing about this material is the amount of options available from it. You can find small picks, large picks, thinner gauges, and even some extra thick variants.
If you want to learn more about different pick materials, including the handcrafted stuff, check out our ultimate guitar pick guide here. We cover everything from materials, pick shapes, and more.
Guitarists should consider factors such as the type of music they play, their playing technique, and personal comfort when selecting the appropriate pick thickness for their playing style and preferences. Thinner picks are better for strumming and playing fast lead lines, whereas thicker picks provide more control for power chords and playing intricate solos.
Experiment with various pick thicknesses to find the one that feels best for your playing style and preferences. Guitarists should experiment with various thicknesses and materials to find the one that is both comfortable and produces the desired tone.
Experimenting with different pick thicknesses can also help you improve your technique and expand your playing abilities. It may take some time and effort to find the right pick thickness, but the benefits in terms of improved playing comfort and sound quality can be significant. Finally, picking the right pick thickness is a highly personal choice, so don’t be afraid to experiment with different options until you find the one pick that works best for you!
Thicker guitar picks are better in the sense that they provide better picking control, which can in turn provide better picking accuracy. The tone they produce also tends to be warmer with a fuller sound.
Beginners should experiment with both thin & heavy gauge picks to experience the pros/cons first hand. Typically a thin pick will provide better strumming performance, while a thicker pick will allow better picking control for individual notes.
A good place to start would be a medium gauge pick and go from there. Just remember, there is no right or wrong pick choice. Use what is most comfortable for you & what plays best in your situation.
Related: Best guitar picks for beginners
Yes! Thickness affects the pick’s flexibility & tone. Thinner picks are more flexible, great for guitar chord strumming, and produce a brighter tone. Thicker picks though, are more rigid & offer more picking control for individual notes while producing a warmer sound.
Thicker guitar picks have a fuller & warmer sound compared to thin guitar picks which are brighter & snappy.
Thicker guitar picks tend to also be more rigid & offer more picking control for playing individual notes. This could increase picking accuracy in some cases and improve the sound of your playing.
Yes pick thickness can affect your guitar tone with thinner picks having a brighter sound & thicker picks having a warmer sound. Pick material, texture, & the shape of the pick are other factors that can affect a guitar pick’s tone.
Related: How Guitar Pick Shape Affects Tone
Rigid or thick guitar picks will not break strings if correct picking technique is used. One should only use the tip of the pick to strike the strings & only use the minimum amount of effort to pluck each note. Furthermore, angling the pick will help it to move more fluently and not get stuck on the strings.
Guitar picks are small, flat pieces used by guitarists to pluck or strum the strings of a guitar. Picks come in different thicknesses and materials, such as celluloid, nylon, and tortex, which can affect the sound and feel of playing.
Factors that influence a guitarist's preference for pick thickness include playing style, musical genre, and personal preference. Guitarists should experiment with different pick thicknesses to find the one that best suits their playing style and preferences.
Ultimately, the choice of pick thickness is a highly personal decision, and guitarists should not be afraid to try out different options until they find the one that works best for them.
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