There are so many to pick! They come in all shapes and sizes, thick and thin, made out of a variety of materials. Before you get overwhelmed and grab a coin like Brian May from Queen, we’ll help you figure out which type of pick best suits your needs.

In this article, you’ll learn about:

  • The different types of picks
  • How to choose a pick
  • How to play with a pick

Why play with a guitar pick?

It really comes down to two questions:

  1. Do you feel more comfortable playing fingerstyle or with a pick? If a pick is more comfortable, do that.
  2. Do you have specific sound goals? They might require a pick.

Below are a few situations when playing with a pick is preferable or will make things easier.

  • Dynamics: If you’re busking in the city without an amp, go for a pick – you’ll get more volume!
  • Brightness: You’re playing in a band and need a bright, crystal-clear tone to be heard in the mix.
  • Soloing: Some people find it easier to play fast single-note lines with a pick.

How much does a guitar pick matter?

Here’s the thing: In most situations, the pick you play with doesn’t matter too much.

Whether it’s around a campfire, jamming at home with some friends, or at a loud bar playing through a sucky sound system – a cheap medium gauge pick will do the job.

On the another hand, if subtle differences in sound are important to you, spend some time choosing the pick that feels and sounds right.

Here are some reasons to invest time and money into finding your perfect pick.

  • Playing technicall- challenging guitar parts and struggling to get them right with the pick you have.
  • Recording guitar parts.
  • Performing in nice venues with a good system.
  • You don’t enjoy fingerstyle guitar.

Pick sizes, materials, and shapes

Time for a quick pick spec crash course so that you can make sense of all the numbers and descriptions when you buy them.


Typically, the thickness or ‘gauge’ of a pick is measured in mm.

  • Sometimes thin picks are also described as light and thick ones as heavy.
  • Each manufacturer has their own idea of what exactly light or heavy means.

Just to give you an example, here are D’Addario’s descriptions:

  • Light (. 50mm)
  • Medium (. 70mm)
  • Heavy (1.0mm)
  • Extra Heavy (1.25mm)


There is a lot you can try out, and most companies will have a description of the materials they use and what kinds of sounds they associate them with.

Some examples are:

  • Celluloid
  • Nylon
  • Tortex
  • Felt
  • Wood


Apart from a thumb pick that you can slide over your thumb, your regular flatpick will be some kind of triangle shape with rounded edges.

Image source D'Addario Celluloid Thumb Pick

The edge is precisely where picks differ.

  • Some are pointier for the precision enthusiasts.
  • Others are rounder for the smooth and silky tone lovers.
Photo by Julia Mahncke

These are some common shapes you’ll find in most guitar shops.

Illustration by Richard Spooner

How to choose a guitar pick

The three most important questions to answer when choosing a pick are:

  • What is comfortable for you?
  • What kind of guitar do you play?
  • What genre of music do you play?

Being comfortable playing with a pick

When you first start playing with a pick, it will probably feel a bit weird. You should practice with it consistently for at least a month before you decide whether a pick is right for you.

After you start getting the hang of it, you should try to find a pick that feels good in your hand.

  • This is where variety packs come in.
  • All the major brands offer packs that include a range of different picks.
  • Or you can always walk into a guitar store and ask to try some out.

If you get sweaty hands while rocking out, try a pick that has a bit of texture so it doesn’t slip out of your hand.

The best guitar pick for acoustic guitars

In general, thinner picks are better for acoustic guitars. Many players also favor nylon picks.

  • A pick with acoustic guitar sounds best with a light touch.
  • If you want your guitar’s wood to do its thing and let the natural tone shine, the best technique is strumming or picking gently.

The best guitar pick for electric guitars

Try the Dunlop .60mm first – it’s the orange one. Tons of people use it.

If you ever run out and need to replace it urgently, every guitar store will have them in stock.

If you don’t strum as much but like to play melodies, arpeggios, etc. try the D’Addario DuraGrip 1.2mm.

How to hold a guitar pick

You may naturally want to pinch the pick – this will slow you down in the long run and can lead to painful hand tension.

Rest the pick between the side of your curled-up index finger and the pad of your thumb. It'll feel awkward at first, but it's an efficient way to hold the pick.

Image source

If you’re already past the beginner phase, you might want to try out some different angles. It’s common for guitarists to shift pick position or grip strength while playing – it just comes down to practice and experience.

Example 1: Cecil Alexander | Jazz

Cecil Alexander likes to curve his fingers and thumb a bit towards his body so the pick hits the string at an angle.

There’s also quite a bit of pick visible, which means he’s holding on to it loosely at the edge.

Example 2: Joshua Ray Gooch | Rock

Here is another way to hold a pick. Joshua Ray Gooch also angles his pick but in the opposite direction.

The tip of the pick is just peeking out, which is better for a more aggressive pick attack.

The dos and don'ts of playing with a guitar pick

Playing with a pick can kill your sustain which means your notes don’t ring out the way they should. It can also slow you down and add annoying click sounds.

The dos! ✔️

  • Experiment with how much you ‘choke up’ on the pick. If you feel like there is a lot of resistance when you pick notes and you ‘trip’ when you’re playing fast lines, maybe there’s too much surface that comes in contact with the string.
  • Keep your pick in the same spot for all six strings. Don’t start strumming the low E close to the neck and end up close to the bridge on the high E.

The don’ts ❌

Don’t squeeze the pick like you’re holding on for dear life.

  • Let it gently rest between your fingers.
  • It’s normal for the pick move a little when it comes in contact with a string.

Don’t beat up your guitar strings with your pick.

  • Move the pick through the strings as if they were rubber bands.
  • You want to feel a bit of the vibration in your fingers.

Don’t move the pick across the strings at a 90-degree angle.

  • It’ll emphasize the sound the pick makes when it hits the string in an undesirable way.

What’s next?

Trying out different guitar picks can be really fun. Maybe you’ll check out which pick your guitar heroes play with or order one of those variety packs.

Whatever you end up choosing, keep a handful of your favorites in your gig bag –  guitar picks are notorious for magically disappearing.

Just make sure you don’t get distracted by gear too much. Instead, try out Pickup Music with a free 14-day trial. If you’re stuck in a guitar rut, our Intermediate Learning Pathway is a great way to break out.

The three-month program will break down fundamental rhythm and lead techniques. With guided jams, daily practice exercises, and straightforward lessons, you'll know exactly what to work on at every step of the way.