What Pick Should I Use?

When you are beginning guitar, picks can be a bit confusing.  There are thick ones, thin ones, various sizes and shapes, finger picks, thumb picks, metal picks,  plastic ones and the list goes on and on. 

Here are some guidelines to help you understand the different types and help you choose and find what works best for you.

Right or wrong with regards to picks

First, there is no right or wrong when it comes to picks.  People have various preferences and there are great players that like all sorts of different things including no pick at all.  You will find what works best for you over time especially if you experiment with different things.

The most common picks

The most common picks are the teardrop shape flat picks that you can find at any music store. Flat picks are just that - flat - as opposed to finger or thumb picks which literally wrap around your fingers/thumbs.  There are various brands including Fender, Dunlop and many others.  This common teardrop shape is a good place to begin. 

These picks are commonly used for picking single note leads and also for strumming chords.  There are various thicknesses and you can ask someone in a music store to try different ones to see how they sound and feel. 

In general thicker ones give a warm tone and are generally preferred for lead playing and also sound great for strumming.  Thinner picks with more flexibility have a thinner, some would say tinny, sound but can sound rich and nice for strumming - they are generally not as good for lead work as the flexibility causes bending of the pick which slows down picking speed. 

I personally have preferred thicker picks for quite a while but just recently started playing occasionally with thinner picks for some strumming and have found some nice tones.

Difference surfaces 

You’ll also discover that there are different surfaces to picks.  Dunlop and other brands often have picks that either have a matte type of finish or a grippy textured surface so that the pick doesn’t slip out of your fingers or move as much while playing.  This is usually quite helpful.

There are also larger triangular picks that I tend to favor - they are bigger than the typical teardrop shape and are great for lead playing and strumming. 

Research and Experimenting

If you begin to research and experiment you’ll also find that the tips of different picks are shaped differently - some are a very sharp triangle, others more rounded.  In general, the sharper the tip the more bright the tone and more rounded tips will give a warmer, more forgiving tone. 

How much do picks cost?  Well, when I was a kid, you could get quite a few for very little money.  Now, they’re much more expensive with good picks coming in packs of 6 or more and commonly costing $5-6.  There are also boutique pick brands that use aerospace plastics that virtually never wear out and have a very refined and subtle tone and they commonly cost $20 to $50 for 1 pick.  Yes, there are $50 picks out there - I have one and it’s fantastic and I’m obsessively careful to keep it in a special little tin so I don’t lose it.  That’ll be a bad day when I lose that one. 

Jazz Picks

There are also jazz picks which are smaller than the usual teardrop  and have a sharp tip - many players including some electric guitar wizards really like this size and shape - not my cup of tea but many love them.

And then there are thumb and finger picks which I use when I play my steel resonator guitar for slide.  Some finger picking guitarists use a thumb pick for regular steel string acoustic playing but that hasn’t worked well for me.

So, what should you do?  Start with inexpensive teardrop picks with varying thicknesses and then experiment with various shapes, sizes, materials, brands and just see what works for you.  It’s a fun and pretty cheap way to discover a whole world of different sounds with your guitar. 

Enjoy!

About Author

Andrew Bassuk teaches at Harmony Music Center in Ventura, CA and offers guitar and music instruction for kids, teens and adults.  For more info visit:  www.harmonymusiccenter.com

How To Stay Focused During A Guitar Workout

The Reasons Why You Are Not Growing As Fast As You Wish On Guitar

By Antony Reynaert

In your development as a guitar player it’s incredibly important to train yourself and your muscle memory the best way possible. When soccer players prepare for a game, they don’t just sit in the changing room analysing how they should play.

guitar lessons practising

No, you want to be prepared by training in a practical way. If you want to be a good guitar player, just like the ones you look up to, you have to train yourself and be extremely dedicated about it.

Committing to your guitar playing

A lot of guitar players don’t really pay much attention to being fully committed during a guitar training. They sit for example in front of the television playing their scales up and down or they’re just doing some random ‘noodling’ or improvisation on the guitar.

They just don’t realize that this won’t help you at all in your development. Nobody wants to walk in the same circle over and over and over again with no result.

Neglecting This Aspect During A Guitar Training Will Result In Slow Progress

If you train for example on playing a scale up and down with perfect technique, it’s vital that you stay focussed all the time. The moment you start losing attention, mistakes will slip into your playing.

The reason why this happens is simple; you incorporate these mistakes into your muscle memory so the next time you play you will make the same mistakes again. Being completely focused is such a crucial aspect to your guitar practice session.

Another thing that happens a lot during a training session is that you start slipping into random ‘noodling’ on guitar. In other words you get distracted from the real exercise and you just play some random improvisation.

This will also result into the number one thing you don’t want to happen: no progress at all. Again, there is only one aspect that is responsible for this distraction and it’s the lack of focus.

The Number One Key To Stay Focussed All The Time During A Guitar Training

Now that you realize that focus is the key to success for optimal growth as a guitarist, you want to maintain optimal attention during the whole guitar workout. To do so you only need one thing: an interval timer.

There are many apps for your phone that will provide you this interval timer. You can also go on YouTube and search for an interval timer. Not having a timer is absolutely no excuse for not using one during a training session.

The way to use this interval timer during a practice session for building guitar skills goes like this; set the timer in a way that it beeps every 3 minutes. Set the alarm not too loud so you won’t be bothered by the sound during your training.

Using Interval Timer

The next step is where this interval timer will become really valuable. Every time it goes off, you have to ask yourself: “What am I really doing right now?”. Reflect on what you are doing, on how you are doing and if you are focussed. Then continue the exercise with the highest intensity possible.

This method will avoid you from slipping into random noodling, will keep you focussed on the exercise and will maintain this focus during the whole training.

All the lost time from being not focussed will immediately go out the window now that you know about this simple but crucial aspect of using an interval timer in your practice sessions.

If you’re sometime clueless on what to play or what to practice, it’s a great time to dive into my free blues guitar ebook where I cover all aspects of blues rhythm guitar.


About the author


Antony Reynaert teaches blues guitar locally in Belgium as well as online. All his knowledge can be found on his website
The Best Blues Lessons For Guitar.