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When it comes to choosing a plectrum, one of the most important decisions you'll make is whether to go for a thin or a thick guitar pick.
Both have their own set of pros and cons, which we'll explore in this article including how they relate to acoustic & electric guitar playing.
So, which is the best option for you? Let's take a look!
Let's begin by quickly taking a look into what makes a thin or thick pick.
One general consensus poll which we found within the guitar ecosystem shows that guitar enthusiasts lean more towards heavier pick gauges & medium gauge picks are also a popular choice, with thin picks coming in last. However this is probably due to the poll being more centered around electric guitars instead of acoustic.
From our own observations & experiences, we would define thin picks as anything below 1mm, medium as anything from 1-2mm, & heavy as anything above 2mm.
Most mass produced picks are typically in the light to medium range with a few models that are chunkier in the 3 to 4mm range.
When it comes to boutique picks that have to be hand-finished, you'll mostly find picks that are 2mm and above.
We mostly produce plectrums with a guitar pick thickness that's in the 2.5-4mm bracket but occasionally make some super thick guitar picks that are 7-9mm.
(They're not the most nimble but supremely comfortable to hold!)
Durability: Because thicker picks are usually made from stronger & thicker materials like acrylic, metal, or UHMWPE, they last longer and can take more of a beating. In some cases, one pick can be used for months if not years without seeing signs of heavy wear.
Grip: With more material to hold onto, it's easier to get a solid but relaxed grip on a thick pick. Not only that, but when it comes to boutique plectrums, there can be enhancements built into the pick such as grip holes, coarse textures, & divots/indentions. These are all features that are not often found on thinner picks since there's just not enough material to do that.
Comfort: Thick guitar picks are more comfortable to hold since there's more material to grasp. With more to grasp onto, you can now ease up on your grip & thus relieve some tension in your hands. Less tension is always a good thing if you want to play fluently & with a greater degree of expression, not to mention better efficiency.
Control: With the stiffness that these picks provide, you can feel more of a connection between your hand and the strings. Like you can feel the strings better through the plectrum which makes picking more precise, intentional, & articulate. A rigid pick also does not bend or contort while playing, so it can help with speed & accuracy, although it does require more finesse use effectively. For this reason, it's probably best used by intermediate and advanced players but that's not a strict rule, so feel free to experiment!
Tone: If you like loud mid and bass tones, thicker picks are the way to go. They are a great match for lead guitarists who play individual lines, because every note is more clearly defined. Paired with some distortion and gain, they pack a punch behind every pluck and chug. Also, picks with sculpted bevels make it easier to slide off the strings can assist in eliminating unwanted sounds like pick clacking found in thin picks.
Expense: Thick guitar picks are generally more expensive, if only just a bit more when it comes to mass produced ones. If you're venturing into handcrafted picks though, you might be in for some sticker shock. Boutique picks can take a significant effort to make and a luxury that not everyone can afford. For these reasons, sticking to traditional flappy picks might be best, but the feeling of holding a finely crafted pick - One that was made just for you, is in itself something to behold!
Strumming: Thick or stiff picks are not the best for strumming. Using a rigid pick for this technique can result in the pick getting caught in the strings or requiring extra effort to hit all the notes. Flexible picks are really the best situated for strumming & chord progressions.
Wear & Tear: Although harder materials might be more durable, like in the case of using a metal pick, the wear and tear on your strings also increases. This means having to change your strings more often. In other instances, being too wild or chaotic with your technique & using a stiff pick can result in a greater chance of scratches on your pick guard or pickups.
Portability: Thin guitar picks can go with you wherever you go! They're easy to carry in any pocket, gig bag, or even in your wallet. And why just carry one? You can squeeze a couple picks here and there anyways have one on hand without the bulk of thicker plectrums.
Price & Quantity: Because thin guitar picks are generally cheaper, you can get a hold of a larger quantity so you always have fresh picks on hand. You get more for less & don't have to worry about losing that special "one".
Skill Level: These types of plecs are great for all skill levels & are enjoyed by beginners and pros alike. You really can’t go wrong with them in a pinch, especially if what you're playing doesn't require blazing speed & complex techniques.
Tone: This is the best pick thickness for acoustic guitar or if you like a bright & snappy tone. Flexible picks make it easy to strum across all of the strings with ease while producing a percussive snap that adds texture to the sound. They make a clean and minimal sound that is natural and pleasing to the ear & also pair well with a clean amp for those who like a bit of twang.
Wear & Tear: Unlike the thick plectrums, these picks are easy on your strings and will wear out much sooner than your strings. This isn't so bad however because you'll have plenty of more picks to replace the worn-out one as mentioned above. Scratches on the pickguard & pickups are also less likely since these picks will just flex out of the way instead of digging in.
So one of the biggest defining factor to take into consideration when purchasing guitar picks is their thickness.
Knowing how the thickness effects the playing experience will assist you in deciding what pick will be a good match for you and your style.
Is there a best electric guitar pick thickness? or a single choice for acoustic guitar? No.
It all depends on your intentions, playing style, and desired sounds.
Thick picks are those who love their playing enhanced by better grip, louder volume and fuller sound. The thickest of picks are loved especially by those in the heavy metal scene.
Thin picks are typically associated with acoustic and rhythm players. They are great for beginners and virtuosos alike.
Here's quick & easy break down of some of the benefits & drawbacks:
Finally, there's thick guitar picks & there are "ultra" picks.
Consider trying out some of our handcrafted extra heavy gauges in the 3-4mm range, or turn it past 10 & check out these ultra THICCC 9mm behemoths!
Do you prefer thick or thin picks? What style of music do you like to play with each? We want to know about your experience, please drop us a comment below!
-The Iron Age Team
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“Quality is never an accident.
It is always the result of high intention,
sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution.
It represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”
~William A. Foster (MOH Recipient, 1945)
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