Guitar Picks come in so many shapes, sizes, materials, and thickness (gauge) that sometimes it’s difficult to know which ones to choose. For many players just starting out, choosing a pick can be a little confusing. Here are some insights to help you make a choice that is right for you.
There are four main attributes of a guitar pick:
The shape of the tip
The overall size
The tip of the pick is the part you use to strike your guitar strings.
There are two basic tip shapes:
In general, rounded tips are best suited for strumming chords and playing rhythm guitar. This shape allows the rounded edge of the pick to slide more easily across multiple strings as done with all strumming techniques. This does not mean that you can’t play lead guitar with a rounded tip, you can, but there are some lead guitar playing techniques that are more difficult to do with a rounded pick.
Sharp picks are better for playing lead guitar. Lead guitar is primarily focused on playing one note at a time opposed to rhythm guitar, which primarily plays more than one note at a time. A sharp tip allows the lead guitar player to more accurately strike one string at a time, and makes it easier to play some more advanced techniques such as pinch harmonics. Playing rhythm guitar with a sharp pick requires a much lighter touch when strumming, as the pick will tend to grab each string that it passes.
You can play rhythm or lead guitar with each of these tip shapes, but always keep in mind that each shape strikes the strings differently. You will need to adjust how you play depending on which tip shape you choose to play with.
For rhythmic strumming, I recommend gravitating toward a very thin pick. It is generally very flimsy and easy to manage. The benefit is that it offers a more percussive timbre than a heavier pick. This is great when you just need the bright, percussive, sheen. I prefer the Fender Thin pick for this application
A medium pick works a little better when you’re trying to provide a more solid performance. It is a higher density and tends to offer more sustain and less percussive sound. Again, I gravitate to the Fender Medium pick.
For more controlled performances, it is common to use a heavy pick. I prefer a 1mm Dunlop pick. It gives me more control and a feeling of security knowing I’m holding something that feels more weighted. I can “attack” the strings with more ferocity and still maintain command of the instrument.