Choosing the Right Guitar Pick

A simple lesson which can make a big difference in terms of the feel and sound you get from your guitar. How to choose 3 different guitar picks for 3 different styles and type of songs.

Choosing the Right Guitar Pick
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In this lesson I will show you how I advise my students on choosing a variety of guitar picks - we will look at which ones are suitable for which type of song, guitar and genre of music.

Choosing 3 picks is something I recommend you do too.

How many different picks do you use at the moment? And more importantly, when you grab a pick to play with, do you choose it because you know it will sound good for that certain song or because it's the nearest one to you?

What I recommend to my students and what I recommend to you is this - choose:
  • 1 pick for strumming songs;
  • 1 pick for chord picking songs (in songs such as Green Day's "Time of Your Life");
  • 1 pick for rock, metal, jazz and single string (riffs or solos) based music.
So many guitarists just grab whatever pick is nearest to them. Things like those awful cheap nasty Tiger picks.

If you use those I recommend you leave this page and go and watch some You Tube videos titled "Cat playing guitar" or something like that.

Yuck!

I'm kidding of course, I want you just to see the error of your ways.

The guitar picks I recommend are the Dunlop Nylon series of picks.

Pick No. 1 - Strumming Songs

If you like to strum an acoustic guitar, go for the lighter one - 0.46 is the most popular for most beginner guitarists that I teach.

They sound rich, have a lovely "zing" across the strings, and are thin, therefore easy to control.

Pick No. 2 - Chord Picking Songs

For songs where you pick chords rather than strum them, then try something a little thicker, such as the 0.55 or 0.73 - they are definitely two of the best guitar picks for beginners.

You will find chord picking sounds quieter than strumming, (that's because it's one string being hit at a time as opposed to six when you strum), therefore having something slightly thicker helps keep the volume at an audible level.

Having a slightly thicker pick for chord picking will also help you hit the right string more often.

This is because thinner picks are great when strumming but bend too much when chord picking which causes a lack of control and the wrong string being hit.

Pick No. 3 - Electric (Rock, Jazz, Metal) Type Songs

For any single string riffs (think Led Zeppelin or Metallica style riffs) lead guitar (any of those widdly '80s virtuosos or douchebags as they are often called - not by me though), or fast jazz players, thicker is better.

Not too thick though. Around about 0.9 to 1.1 is good.

If you have played for years and can control a thicker pick, go for the Dunlop Jazz III XL. I love them. I can't believe no one told me about these until about 5 years ago.

Before I used those, I would use a multitude of different picks, never settling on any particular one as when I would get all sweaty on stage, they would fly out my hand and disappear somewhere in the audience.

I'm sure I once "flicked" one in someone's drink, or maybe I just wish I was that cool.

Anyway, the Dunlop Jazz III XL is about 1.38mm thick and sounds great and has an awesome grip. No more wasting them in someone's gin and tonic any more.

The following three picks are the ones my students have chosen as their favourites. If you struggle to get a good, solid sound from your pick, try these three picks for these three styles of playing:
  • Strumming - 0.46mm
  • Chord picking - 0.75mm
  • Electric riffs/solos - 1.0mm
You can even get engraved guitar picks and if you are true guitar geek, a guitar pick necklace - I love the guitar, but geez, that's too far for me.

I must have gone through this process with dozens of students and each time they all say something along the lines of "wow, I can't believe how much difference a pick makes," and see instant results in their playing.

They not only feel better when playing, but they sound better, which in turn makes them feel better and so on.

Enjoy the big improvements that choosing the right pick will make!

About the Author:
Dan Thorpe is a UK based guitar teacher, writer, and musician. He writes for Guitar Domination. If you want to learn how to play guitar check out his blog. Also, if you enjoyed this article, share it on Facebook and Twitter, and be sure to get in touch with any questions or comments in the boxes below.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    !..!_Rock_!..!
    You can still strum with a thicker pick. It's basically impossible to shred or get volume with a thin pick.
    madscientistjai
    My favorite picks are the Jim Dunlop Ultex Jazz III when playing on an electric guitar, and the Jim Dunlop Stubby (1mm) for acoustic work. Also, I think this lesson should include a small section on other important factors like pick shape, material, and rigidity. Personally, I prefer ultra rigid, sharp-pointed picks.
    MadMan'sDiary42
    I love the Dunlop Stubby. Have you ever used a thicker one? I play electric guitar and I used to use the Jazz III's almost exclusively but recently I've gone back to the Stubby, and I am convinced that the 3mm version is the greatest pick ever made. To me it feels like the Jazz III's kind of get caught on the string, and so there's a delay between when I intend to pluck it and when it actually gets plucked. (has anyone else had this problem?) But the Stubby glides over the string so smoothly. It just feels like butter. As far as my personal tastes, the 3mm Stubby is the perfect pick.
    derek8520
    100% preference. It's highly beneficial to get good at every type of picking with one pick, can't imagine anyone stopping before a strumming section of a song to change picks. The sound you're looking for should be a big factor in pick choice.
    ruipalmeira
    this so much this. and coming from a classical guitar background, you might not even need to use picks to play.
    Soundwash22
    It's all about the Jazz III baby!!! (At least that is the opinion of Joe Bonamassa and John Petrucci.
    jpkuz
    Personally go for the dragonheart picks... more expensive but they last a lot longer... I would go through a 1.14mm tortex pick in a week... still on the same 2.5mm pick
    Serb.M.D.
    It's more about how comfortable pick is for player. I cannot play with something thicker than .73, it's too hard for me, even when i'm playing something aggressive.
    LazerMoose420
    Different picks can give you different sounds and playability. But If you get really comfortable with a pick then you can get some great dynamics and nuances that you just cant achieve witha pick you arent as used to... Also Jazz III are the best picks that exist!
    henrihell
    Always the brain 1.14mm for me. Might pick up the 1mm brain for the acoustic if I really feel like I have to use a pick.
    Krasen
    2mm stone pick here. With sharp point. Jazz size. Before that I used Ultex sharp 2mm.
    jarneapril
    In my local guitarstore they sell full metal pick's, they give a really cool sound on electric guitar's but i wouldn't recommend them for accoustic playing.
    billperz
    I play acoustic and usually rhythm. I too have found the Dunlop .046 to be perfect. Interesting lesson. Love learning!
    andrei.sfnt
    Nah, the best for me are double bladed twinpicks. You can find them on twinpicks.com They just make such a special and unique sound. And they ship free anywhere in the world. Did anyone try them out ?