Tips & Tutorials | November 1, 2023

Guitar Pick Buying Guide

If you’re looking for the right guitar pick, it’s a good thing you picked this blog. Ok. Cue the eyeroll, but please read on. We promise it’ll be worth it. 

Guitar picks are the unsung heroes in a player’s arsenal. When they’re not disappearing under couch cushions or being thrown into a screaming crowd of fans, picks help connect players to their instrument in a special way. Whether you’re shredding up and down the neck or strumming delicate chords, there’s a good chance you’re holding a pick between your fingers.

In this buying guide, we’ll dive into the different materials of guitar picks, the different sizes of guitar picks, guitar pick shapes, and how something so small can make such a huge difference in how you play your guitar.

Benefits of Using a Guitar Pick

When a new player picks up a guitar, one of the first questions is “Should I use my fingers or a pick?” While there are benefits to both, most beginners start learning the instrument with a pick in their hand, holding it between the thumb and index finger with the tip exposed to hit the strings.

Playing with a pick makes a big difference when it comes to precision and especially volume. Strumming chords and playing solos with a pick gives your sound a big boost and a richer high-end that’s harder to get with just your fingers. Picks can also be helpful when trying to play faster, more complicated songs, and they keep your sound consistent, since you might not always hit the strings in the same way with your fingers.

Guitar picks also provide a completely different tone than fingerpicking, which can add variety to your sound and lend your playing to a number of different genres and musical styles. The added projection and precision from a pick are especially great for rock and bluegrass, which sometimes require more volume and faster playing.

Guitar Pick Specs

When shopping for guitar picks, the options may seem endless. Picks come in a ton of different shapes, sizes, colors, and thicknesses. So, let’s break down what sets guitar picks apart. 

Thickness: A guitar pick’s thickness is measured in millimeters and can make a big difference when it comes to playability and tone. The thicker the pick, the less flexible it is, producing a louder, harder, and more precise attack, while thinner picks allow for a softer approach. Check out this guitar pick thickness chart to see the difference:

Thickness Millimeters Tone
Light < 0.60mm Lighter attack; more highs with less bass & mids
Medium 0.60 mm – 0.80 mm Balanced attack; mix of treble, bass & mids
Heavy > 0.80mm Heavy attack; more bass & mids, boost in volume

Hardness: Like thickness, the harder the pick the harder you’ll hit the strings, and with that heavy-hitting attack comes a lot more bass and volume. Some players even like to mix it up when it comes to thickness and hardness. Thinner but harder picks can sound like a heavy pick without the bulk, while thick but softer picks—like ukulele picks—offer a sound all their own.

Texture: As a guitar player, there’s nothing worse than getting to that solo or hitting a high note and dropping your pick. That’s why texture plays a crucial role in picking the pick that’s right for you. Some picks come with added grip that helps keep them in a player’s hand during long jam sessions and shows. Most standard picks come with a smoother feel that produces a clean and classic tone.

Size & Shape: Guitar pick sizes, and their shapes, can vary too. The most common pick shape is the classic teardrop shape that comes to mind when you think of a pick, but picks come in all sorts of designs. What matters most is the tip of the pick—the part of the pick you use to strike the strings. When it comes to tips, this guitar pick size chart should help:

Tip Shape Playability Tone
Round Softer attack; best for strumming Mellower tone with more bass & mids
Sharp Stronger attack, more accuracy and precision; best for soloing Brighter tone with more treble & volume

Material: There are plenty of different materials to choose from when it comes to finding a pick that fits your playing style. Plastic is by far the most popular guitar pick material, with most modern-day picks being made of celluloid, acetal, or nylon. But wood, metal, and even stone are sometimes used to make guitar picks!

Tips for Choosing a Guitar Pick

Now it’s time to answer the big question—how to pick guitar picks. The best guitar picks for beginners are usually considered standard, medium-gauge plastic picks. As you already know by now there are a ton of options out there, but the more you play the more you’ll know. 

Since most players start out strumming and learning the basics, a thinner pick might be the best choice, since it provides a lighter attack and those first few starter chords don’t require as much precision. But as you learn more and start to branch out into other areas of playing, like soloing, a thicker pick with a sharper point could help hone your tone.

Choosing the pick that’s right for you also depends on what kind of music you want to play. If you’re an aspiring folk artist who wants to pluck airy melodies and strum through songs, a thinner or lighter pick would be a good choice. But if you’re a metalhead who wants to shred until your fretboard turns to dust, a thicker or heavier pick with a more pointed tip can help get you there.

Either way, get out there and experiment! Stop by your local music store—or the 1833 Shop here at our factory in Nazareth, Pennsylvania—and find the picks that look, feel, and most importantly sound the way you want them to.

Browse Martin Guitar Picks

Whether you use a pick or your fingers—or both—is, in the end, a matter of personal preference and comes down to what works best for you and the music you want to play. But when it comes to quality, innovation, and playability, Martin has you covered.

LUXE BY MARTIN® Contour and Apex picks are designed and manufactured by our in-house experts, featuring an asymmetrical design and beveled edges to fit how you play. The satin texture and etched Martin logo also offer extra grip, while the polymer material lends itself to less pick noise and faster playing. It’s the perfect mix of sturdy and flexible!

Check out our LUXE BY MARTIN picks, and the rest of our high-performance guitar and ukulele picks here.