Three Things to Consider Before Buying Guitar Picks

If you want to improve your playing, get a pick that’s comfortable in your hand and easy to use.

Pickin’ and grinnin’ might have to do with personal hygiene for some folks, but every musician knows it’s about that feeling of playing guitars (and banjos and mandolins) among friends. In order to be pickin’, you need a pick. Choosing a pick to fit your style is a personal thing often determined by trial and error, sometimes with more pickin’ and less grinnin’ until you get it right. Pick choices depend on style of play (flat pick or finger style) as well as personal preferences for pick thickness and flexibility, and grip texture. Here’s how to figure out which one is right for you.

Iconic Brand

This sampler of flat strummers in different thicknesses offers beginning players a chance to try them out to see which they like best. Fender

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Flat pickers hold the pick between thumb and forefinger, strumming chords down or up, or picking out notes on individual strings. Finger-style pickers use their thumb and single or multiple fingers to pluck strings in certain patterns or rolls, of which there are many styles. Finger pickers may use the calloused skin pads of their fingers, or their fingernails, or attach plastic or metal picks to their thumb and fingers.

Classic Shape

This sampler pack offers two different sets (one made of celluloid and one of Delrin) that are color coded in six different thicknesses. ChromaCast

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Thickness and flexibility depend on the material with which the pick is made. The classic material is tortoise shell, but its thickness is uneven, and it cracks easily. Today’s picks are mostly made of celluloid, nylon, Delrin, or other plastic material, in various thicknesses measured in millimeters. Regardless of material, the thicker the pick the less flexible it is, a matter of personal preference based on style of play and the sound you prefer from your guitar.

Easy to Grip

This sampler comes in a variety of grip-enhancing textures and materials. JIM DUNLOP

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A flat pick is useless if it keeps slipping out of your fingers. Textured grip surfaces are preferred by some, as are picks made with specific nonslip materials.