Are Guitar Picks Necessary? Types of Guitar Picks and Their Pros & Cons

All guitarists probably know the importance of proper consideration when it comes to choosing from different strings, amps, to pedals. However, one of the most needed items for their guitars is the guitar pick.

A guitar pick is an important part of a guitar toolkit. Various types of picks depend on your playing, different levels of control, and sound. Picks vary in size from thin to thick, thus influencing the sound, grip, and even bite.

In this article, you’ll find out about different types of guitar picks, the pros and cons of using each of them, and what pick to choose for you for more comfortable guitar playing.

Are Guitar Picks Necessary?

To tell you the truth, guitar picks are not necessary. Some guitarists prefer to play without a pick, using their fingers instead. Moreover, some of them may use alternate tools such as coins, credit cards, or drumsticks to pluck the strings. In the end, the choice of guitar pick is up to each musician individually.

However, guitar picks are typically used when playing an electric guitar more often than the acoustic, as it opens up more sonic possibilities. The right type of pick helps you to get the sound you’re looking for. Everything relates to the music style, so it is significant to find your own sound and how the pick can improve it. For instance, a heavier pick is suitable for metal music as it helps to achieve the desired sound, while a lighter pick might be better suited for playing jazz or folk music.

Types of Guitar Picks

Guitar picks come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, so it is important to know what type of pick is best suited for your music style. Let’s look a little bit closer at the various types of guitar picks available for musicians.

Different Materials

The most common materials used to produce guitar picks are celluloid, nylon, and metal.

Celluloid guitar picks are the most preferred items because they provide a smooth, glossy feel, and a bright and articulate sound.

celluloid guitar picks

Nylon guitar picks are quite softer than celluloid, and they provide a warm, mellow tone that’s great for playing slower, bluesy music.

nylon guitar picks

Metal picks are most commonly made of stainless steel or bronze to offer an aggressive sound that is ideally suited perfectly for metal and hard-rock genres. Moreover, metal picks don’t provide a clear tone as nylon or celluloid ones, however, they are more durable.

metal guitar picks

There are also guitar picks available made of wood, glass, stone, and even bone picks, however, such picks are less popular than the first three materials.

wood guitar picks

Different Shapes

The most common guitar picks come in either teardrop, triangle, or jazz shapes. Each of these shapes provides a different sound and can be used for various music genres.

The teardrop shape of the guitar picks produces a smooth sound and is suitable for strumming chords. Hence is an excellent pick for folk, pop, and country music.

teardrop guitar picks

Triangle picks are better for performing metal, rock, or any other music that demands accuracy since they are more durable and generate a clean, sharp sound.

triangle guitar picks

And last but not least – jazz picks have the most rounded shape and softer attack than others. They also allow you to get a brighter sound than teardrop or triangle guitar picks, they don’t provide as much clarity.

jazz guitar picks

All in all, the selection of a guitar pick’s shape depends on personal preferences. You may even play with a penny when it gets to the point that you don’t have a pick near you.

Different Grips

Guitar picks come in pointed or beveled edges in terms of grip for you to choose the most suited one.

Beveled edges offer a softer attack and enable rapid transitions between strings simpler, while pointed edges offer a harder grip and are best for faster playing styles.

pointed edges guitar picks
pointed edges
beveled edges guitar picks
beveled edges

Moreover, the grip of guitar picks is something you should try in order to choose the best suited for you. You may find that some musicians prefer pointed edges while others like beveled ones. Our advice is to try both grips to choose the one according to the genre you’re going to play.

Different Sizes

There are three main sizes of guitar picks, small, medium, and large. It is significant to choose the proper sizes to ensure you pick notes and chords precisely.

Small picks are best suited for playing lead guitar, as they offer accurate note picking and faster playing.

For rhythm guitars, medium picks are ideal because they enable guitarists to strum more forcefully without taking their hands off the pick.

Large picks are preferred by bass guitarists because they offer a thick sound that is ideal for playing funk and reggae.

So, pick sizes are the option you should observe in order to choose the best for you. For instance, there are many players that use only thin picks for lead guitar and thick ones for rhythm. That is why, there are no strict rules for the use of guitar picks, however, it is a bit of useful advice on how to achieve the proper guitar sound.

Different Textures

The textures of guitar picks can also vary, from smooth to touch, and they can even have patterns or knurling. Smooth picks are typically used for lead guitar playing because they offer a mild attack and make it simpler and more accurate to select notes.

Rough picks offer more grip and they are ideal for playing the rhythm guitar. So, when you play chores, and you want to ensure the pick won’t slip out, choose the rough pick, as the smooth pick tends to make it more often.

Patterned and knurled picks are also preferable by musicians and are great due to their extra grip on the pick. Such picks boost the surface area of the pick, which makes them easier to grip and hold on.

Is Picking Harder than Strumming?

Picking and strumming are totally different techniques applied by guitar players and each comes with its own challenges.

When it comes to considering which technique is harder, it really relates to the individual. Picking requires using a pick to pluck the strings, and it also demands a lot of accuracy and precision.

Although, strumming demands using a pick or your finger to move across the strings rapidly in a single motion. Strumming can be more difficult as it involves players keeping a stable rhythm and being able to change the chords rapidly. All in all, it depends on individuals to consider which technique is easier for them.

Is It Better to Play Guitar With or Without a Pick?

Everything relates to the type of sound the players want to achieve. Generally, using a pick while playing the guitar produces a bright, crisp tone, whereas playing without one produces a warmer, rounder sound.

When you play a certain music genre that involves much strumming, such as folk or country, then a pick is probably the way to go. Playing without a pick, however, may be preferable because many musical styles call for fingerpicking.

As has been already said, it depends on individual preferences and the type of sound you want to achieve. Observe both methods and find the sound that is ideal for you.

Do All Professional Guitarists Use Picks?

Interesting fact, not all professionals use guitar picks. When some players use picks, others prefer more traditional finger-picking techniques. The right hand’s fingers must be used to pluck the strings for finger-picking, which can produce a softer and more delicate tone. Such a technique is often used in folk, blues, and classical genres, and is preferred by many professional musicians.

There are players that use both picking and finger-picking techniques, relating to the music genre they are performing. All in all, it also comes to individual needs and preferences and the type of sound the musician wants to get.

Final Thoughts

After observing the pros and cons of guitar picks, it will be easier for you to decide whether to play with or without guitar picks and what type of pick is more suitable for you.

Some prefer picks due to their comfortable grip and control, making it easier to play fast and intricate pieces, while others consider them hindrance, lessening the unique sound of the strings and guitar.

To sum up, it is up to you to consider what type of pick to choose. If you’re a beginner player, start by observing all the types of picks to select the one that works best for you.

Just keep practicing and enjoy your guitar playing!