The Ultimate Guide to the Best Guitar Picks

📅 Published : - Author : Dan Kopilovic
📌 Posted under: Gear Guide

A guitar pick is a subtle yet critical part of a guitarist’s toolset. But with so many different models on the market, it’s hard for some guitarists to decide which one to buy. People worry whether they should be using a certain model for soloing, whether a specific pick is better for strumming or not, and whether their playing could improve only if they bought the right guitar pick…

The truth is, like with most things when it comes to guitars – it’s all subjective. So you cannot simply tell someone what guitar picks to buy, even if many websites try to do exactly that.

Some websites also overly complicate something that is in essence very simple, so here we’ll focus on things that matter, and not confuse you with useless information.

The Quick Answer

If you don’t want to waste your time reading various blogs hoping they’ll explain the magic of choosing the perfect guitar pick, we’ll give you a short answer.

Buy whatever guitar pick you want. All that matters is that you like it. There’s no such thing as the “best guitar pick”. It’s all personal.

If you came here looking at what to buy, just get a variety pack (click here to see what we recommend), which is a bag with different types of guitar picks in it, with varying shapes and thicknesses. This way, you can experiment and choose what you like most.

However, if you want to learn about guitar picks, what sizes they come in, what materials they are made of, and what are some of the things worth considering when choosing one, read on.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Guitar Pick

Most importantly, you should know that picks vary by thickness, shape, material, and texture.

Each of these is a factor that contributes distinct characteristics to how a guitar pick sounds and feels. However, on the flip side, it’s how the player uses the pick that matters the most.

Thickness of the Guitar Pick

The guitar picks start at around .40mm, and go up to 1.5mm. Usually, most guitarists stick to around the 1mm mark.

Also, the same models of a guitar pick most often come in different thicknesses.

The same model of the guitar pick comes in different thicknesses, which greatly impact how they feel and sound.

The thickness of a pick can greatly affect tone and playability. Thinner picks are typically more flexible and can provide a lighter, brighter sound, which might be suitable for strumming on an acoustic guitar. Thicker picks offer more control and a heavier, more precise attack, which can be preferable for lead lines and solos on an electric guitar.

In short, here are the main things that are affected by the thickness of a guitar pick:

Attack and Articulation

Thicker picks usually provide a stronger attack and more precise articulation. This is because they have less give when striking the strings, resulting in a sharper and clearer initial sound. Conversely, thinner picks can create a softer attack due to their flexibility.


The tone can vary with the thickness of the pick. Thicker picks tend to produce a warmer, fuller, and more rounded tone, often with an emphasis on the bass frequencies. On the other hand, thinner picks can lead to a brighter, more treble-heavy sound with a crisper quality.


A thicker pick can generally produce a louder sound because it can push the strings with more force. Thinner picks can result in a quieter sound due to their flexibility absorbing some of the energy from the strumming or picking motion.

However, in practice, a lot of other factors play a role in volume, like the material of the pick, and how you hold it.


The thickness of the pick affects playability and control. Thicker picks may offer more control for fast alternate picking and complex solos, while thinner picks might be preferred for strumming chords because they glide across the strings more easily.


Thicker picks are typically more durable and less likely to wear down or break compared to thinner picks, which can be more prone to bending and snapping with heavy use.

The Material of the Guitar Pick

Picks can be made from various materials such as different types of plastics like celluloid, nylon, and acrylic, but also even from metal or wood. Each material has a distinct feel and sound, influencing the guitar’s tone. For example, a nylon pick might produce a warmer sound, while a metal pick could provide a sharper, more metallic attack.

In general, this difference is more audible on an acoustic or a classical guitar, due to the sound being produced naturally. But, you’re probably hearing some differences in electric guitars too, especially between something like nylon and a metal pick.

There’s no need to know every single material that is used in making guitar picks, but it doesn’t hurt to know some of the basic ones.

The Holy Grail of Guitar Picks – Tortoiseshell

What is important to note here is that the whole “race” by manufacturers for the perfect guitar pick is built upon the idea that tortoiseshell guitar picks were the absolute peak. Almost every modern guitar pick is marketed along the lines of “closely resemble the true sound of actual tortoiseshell”

Tortoiseshell is, of course, a natural material produced from the shells of the larger species of tortoise and turtle, mainly the hawksbill sea turtle. Due to overharvesting, in 1973, the hawksbill sea turtle was listed as an endangered species and since then it has been illegal to manufacture picks, or anything else, from tortoiseshells.

If you want to read more about the history of the guitar pick, check out The (Surprisingly Long) History of the Guitar Pick by Premiere Guitar, or better yet, check out Will Hoover’s 1995 book, Picks! The Colorful Saga of Vintage Celluloid Guitar Plectrums.

Celluloid as an Early Alternative

Celluloid is among the first synthetic materials used as a replacement for tortoiseshell in guitar picks. It’s a type of early plastic that was historically made from nitrocellulose and camphor, along with dyes and other agents.

Modern Celluloid picks.

These picks were very popular in the old days when electric guitar was becoming popular, so nowadays usually people who use it are those who prefer the vintage sound. Among the guitar players who used these picks are Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Angus Young, and Duane Allman.


Nylon is a synthetic polymer, which is a type of plastic belonging to the family of polyamides. They were one of the early alternatives to celluloid, and by nature, to tortoiseshell. However, they can feel very different from both.

Depending on the manufacturer and thickness, they can feel much softer than those materials, and think of them like some sort of rubbery plastic. It’s not the surface that is soft, but they are very “bendy”.

Nowadays they are still very popular, and they are appreciated for their flexibility and grip. They come in various thicknesses, which can affect the playability and tone, and they usually come with textured surfaces (see photo above).

Among the better-known guitarists who use/used nylon picks are Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, and Edge from U2.

Modern Materials

And then you have more modern plastic materials like Delrin and Ultem. These are very stiff and resistant materials, and they are much more rigid when compared to something like Nylon.

As far as Delrin, it’s a brand name for a type of acetal resin, also known as polyoxymethylene (POM), which is an engineering thermoplastic used in precision parts that require high stiffness, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability (see Polyoxymethylene. (2024, February 9). In Wikipedia). The material is formulated and controlled by Dupont aka 3M, so this limits who has access to it.

I could not find any official information on this, and I’m no chemist myself, but I think that most modern guitar picks are made from some type of polyoxyethylene.

Even the Tortex picks, which is probably the most popular guitar pick model, according to some sources (I couldn’t find any official info from Dunlop) are made from some form of polyoxyethylene.

Tortex picks are officially produced by Dunlop, but a lot of other brands have their own version of it. For example, Martin sells them as Martin Delrin picks, and Fender has their own line called the Fender Dura-Tones.

Among the players who use Tortex/Delring guitar picks are John Frusciante, John Mayer, Kurt Cobain, Tom Morello, Dave Grohl, and Dimebag.

Ultem, which is another form of plastic originally designed to operate in high-service temperature environments, feels a bit stiffer than Delrin. But you can’t feel it that much at this scale – guitar picks are tiny after all. So, It’s not a huge difference, but definitely a noticeable one.

Popular guitar picks made from Ultem are the Dunlop Urtex (photo below) and Clayton Ultems. Interestingly, due to how they are shaped and textured, these feel and sound very different from each other.

How do all guitar pick materials compare?

Overall, there is a notable difference between celluloid, nylon, and modern plastic picks (Delrin, Ultem). However, when it comes to these modern plastics, they feel pretty much the same, or somewhere in the ballpark. At that point, it really depends more on other factors than the material.

But a nylon pick, especially a thicker one, sounds almost like you turned up the tone knob on your guitar. It sounds darker, more “muffled”.

A thin, more modern guitar pick, like for example Dunlop Tortex .60mm sounds really crisp, and a celluloid pick is somewhere in between, but definitely more on the crisp side.

You can hear these differences in the short video at the bottom of this page.

But it’s important to stress that this is not just about the material, it’s how the surface is textured, how the edges are shaped, the thickness of the pick, how you hold it, etc.

Texture and Edges of the Guitar Pick

Texture means how the guitar pick feels between your fingers. Some picks come with a smooth surface, some come with grippy textures, and some, like the Dunlop Tortex, are something in between.

For instance, we explained that there are picks made of different materials, like Delrin – which is essentially a type of plastic. On the market, you have guitar picks that are made from that same material but have very different textures.

Some are smooth, and some, like the Dunlop Tortex, have a texture that almost resembles a very high-grit sandpaper. This texture helps with the grip, but it also impacts how your guitar sounds.

If you think about it, when you pluck a string with the guitar pick, you also create a drag motion. Depending on whether the pick is smooth or textured, this drag motion will create a different sound.

A difference in the texture between a Dunlop Tortex pick (left) and a regular smooth Delrin pick (right). The Tortex picks almost feel like an old piece sun-damaged of plastic, or like a regular Delring pin that has been sanded down.

You also have guitar picks that have very rough grip textures, and these you’ll usually find on nylon picks. Some people buy picks purely just for this feature, and others don’t care about it all.

One thing is for sure though, these are the least likely to slip between your fingers while you’re playing.

Nylon picks with grip textures.

What also plays a part in how a pick can make your guitar sound is how the edges are shaped. There are guitar picks that have smooth, oval edges, and there are guitar picks that have sharp ones.

This one thing alone plays a pretty significant part in how a guitar pick makes your guitar sound.

Picks with sharp edges are known for producing a more articulate and precise sound, because the sharp edge provides a more immediate release of the string, resulting in a brighter sound. Picks with rounded edges tend to produce a warmer, mellower tone, because of the more gradual and smooth release of the string.

Hopefully, this photo showcases the difference in how the edge is shaped on these two picks. The pick on the left has a more sharp edge, while the nylon pick on the right has a more rounded on.

Again, this all comes down to personal taste. Some like their guitars to sound sharp and edgy, others like them to sound soft and warm.

That’s another reason why you should buy a variety of guitar pick packs, and experiment with what you like, and what fits your style.

The Shape of the Guitar Pick

The shape of the pick can affect how easy it is to maneuver between the strings, and the size can impact the grip and control. Players might prefer a larger pick for a more secure grip or a smaller one for more intricate picking patterns.

Tip: If you’re a beginner, stick with the basics. Go for the standard size, also known as the “style 351” guitar picks. This is the shape you will find most often, and it’s become a standard for a reason.

Unfortunately, I don’t have much of a selection at my local guitar store, but hopefully, you can see in the photo above that all of the picks are slightly different when it comes to shape.

The celluloid pick (second from the left) is what we call the standard 351 shape, and this is what the majority of picks are made like.

In comparison, the red “Jazz III” pick (far right) has a more pointy tip, and overall a slightly different shape. This shape is quite unorthodox, but a few famous guitarists use it, like Eric Johnson and Kirk Hammett.

The orange Tortex III is somewhere in between these two, with the overall size of the standard Tortex, but with the pointy tip of the Jazz III.

Lastly, the light gray “Big Stubby” pick as it is called by Dunlop again has a completely unique shape, It’s smaller in size than a standard pick, and it has a more oval upper tip, but it keeps that sharp bottom tip.

Sadly, I could not get my hands on some of the more unique picks, like the V-Picks Screamer or the Dunlop Tortex Fins, but you can check them out by clicking on the links.

Does the pick shape matter?

Yes, the guitar pick does matter, and it can influence how the guitar sounds. Guitar picks with pointy tips and those with more rounded ones differ in the type of sound they produce and the playing techniques they facilitate.

In short, these are the differences:

Pointy Tips:

  • Sound: Picks with pointy tips tend to produce a brighter, more articulate sound. They offer a sharper attack, which means the initial contact with the string is more pronounced, leading to greater clarity and definition in the notes.
  • Use: These picks are favored by lead guitarists, especially those who play genres that require fast picking and precision, such as metal, shred, or complex solo work in jazz and rock. The pointed tip allows for quick and accurate picking across strings, making it easier to play fast runs and arpeggios

Rounded Tips:

  • Sound: Picks with rounded tips yield a warmer, softer tone with a smoother attack. The more gradual contact with the string produces less click or pick noise and blends the notes more.
  • Use: Rounded-tip picks are often used by rhythm guitarists or those who play a lot of chordal work. They are also preferred in genres where a softer, more mellow tone is desirable, such as acoustic genres, folk, or certain types of blues and jazz. The rounded tip can glide over the strings more easily, facilitating strumming and a more even sound.

The choice of pick shape is a matter of personal preference and is also influenced by the musical context. Some guitarists may use both types of picks depending on the sound they are trying to achieve or the particular technique they are using at any given time.

Which Guitar Pick to Buy if You’re Just Starting Out

If you’re a beginner, you just bought your first guitar, and you’re wondering what guitar pick you should buy – don’t stress too much about it. If you can, grab a whole bunch of them, all the different shapes and sizes and thicknesses, and spend a few days experimenting. In no time, you’ll figure out which one you like the most!

But the important thing to know is that there is no wrong or incorrect choice when it comes to guitar picks. You use a guitar pick that suits your needs and don’t let anyone tell you you should be using something else.

However, if you’re really stressed out about it, and want a specific recommendation, I would suggest you buy something like a Dunlop Tortex .73mm. It’s a standard shape pick, with a medium thickness, and it’s a good safe choice for a beginner.

Does Brand Matter in Guitar Picks

A guitar pick is such a simple piece of guitar gear that there isn’t that much a manufacturer can do to make their guitar picks better than the next one. They choose a material, they cut it up, and they sell it as a guitar pick.

Whether you choose Dunlop, Fender, Pickboy, or whatever else is out there, don’t think too much about it.

Using the Same Guitar Picks as Your Favorite Guitarist

Although some would oppose this, I would say that there is essentially nothing wrong with using the same equipment as your favorite guitarist. You have to start somewhere, and looking at what someone you like uses is a good place for that.

Hopefully, over time, you’ll figure out whether you’re using something because you genuinely like it, or just because you’re trying to emulate someone.

In my case, I started with Tortex orange picks, because I saw that some of my favorite guitarists, like John Frusciante, use them. However, over time, I’ve learned that there are picks that fit my needs so much better, and I have since switched to using .96mm smooth Delrin picks, and occasionally 1mm celluloid ones.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the BEST guitar pick out there?

There is no such thing as the best guitar pick. Whoever told you that, probably wanted you to sell you one.

There are premium guitar picks, like the Blue Chips that John Mayer uses, but nothing could make a guitar pick objectively the best one out there (unless it played by itself, and you didn’t have to do anything…).

Save your money, buy a regular set of picks, and find the one you like. It’s just a piece of plastic in the end, and what matters most is how you use it.

Does a guitar pick change the guitar sound?

Different guitar picks absolutely do change the sound. However, there’s no such thing as a “good sounding” guitar pick, because as is mentioned throughout this post, it’s all subjective. It’s all about what you like, and what you’re after.

Stevie Ray Vaughan could’ve recorded “Texas Flood” with a piece of broken door knob, and that song would still be as good as it is. In that sense, the guitar pick does not matter all that much. Just use what you like.

There are just so many factors when it comes to how you sound when playing the guitar, and the last thing you should worry about is what guitar picks you to use.

Sound comparison between Tortex (.60mm), Big Chubby (1mm), Ultex (.73mm), Jazz III, Nylon (.88mm), and Celluloid (Thin) guitar picks.

What guitar picks last the longest?

For most people, a guitar pick will last until they end up mysteriously losing it – so about two weeks max.

Joking aside, modern materials are more durable than older ones, so something like a Delrin pick tends to last longer. But it all depends on how one uses a guitar pick, what is their playstyle, how hard they play, etc.

Are nylon picks meant for nylon string guitars?

No. Nylon strings are simply made from the same material as nylon strings. Traditionally, nylon string guitars, or classical guitars, are not meant to be played with a pick, but with your nails.

However, if you want to use a pick with a classical guitar, nylon picks are as good as any other type of pick.

Which variety guitar pick pack should I get?

There are a lot of types of guitar pick variety packs, so choosing the right one can be confusing.

I recommend skipping the Acoustic and Electric sets (PVP112, PVP113), and going for the sets that vary in thickness, so the Light/Medium (PVP101) and Medium/High (PVP102) sets. The reason for this is that there is more variation in these packs when compared to the Acoustic and Electric packs.

Light/Medium pack includes: .60, .73 Nylon Standard; .60, .73 Nylon Max Grip; .60, .73 Tortex; .60, .73 Ultex; .58, .71 Gator Grip; Thin and Medium Celluloid

Medium/Heavy pack includes: .88, 1.0 Tortex; .90, 1.14 Ultex Sharp; Heavy Celluloid; Red Nylon Jazz III; .88, 1.0 Nylon Standard; .88, 1.14 Max Grip; .96, 1.14 Gator Grip.


As I stressed out numerous times on this page, there is no such thing as a perfect guitar pick – a guitar pick to rule them all. Such a thing just cannot exist because it really depends on what the guitar player likes.

So don’t stress too much about it, and don’t worry whether you’re missing some kind of magic ingredient because you’re using the wrong guitar pick. Grab a bunch of different guitar picks, play around with them, and decide what you like.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Popular Stories from the Blog

Best Guitar Tuners – The Only 3 Tuners You’ll Ever Need (2024)

Guitar tuners are absolutely essential tools for guitarists, and buying a proper tuner is probably the first thing a guitar player should do after returning from the store with their…

Gear Guide

Boss TU-3 Tuner Review – An Industry Standard

If you at any time researched pedalboards of famous guitar players, there's one pedal that you saw at least once. The famous Boss TU tuner. Classic looking stomp pedal that…

Gear Review

Snark ST-8 – The Little Tuner That Could

Ever since the release of the SN line tuners, Snark has been on top of the budget tuner game. With the updated ST line, they promise better performance provided by…

Gear Review

Peterson StroboClip HD – Precise Tuning on the Go

With the rise of smartphones, it's hard to find a reason to go out and spend money on a guitar tuner. Why should you when you can install a phone…

Gear Review

Best Practice Amps for Guitar

Finding the best guitar amp for practicing can be overwhelming. There are dozens of different mainstream brands to choose from. On top of that, each one of them has many different…

Gear Guide

Difference between PRS Silver Sky and SE Silver Sky

PRS SE Silver presents an amazing value at just $850 for a brand-new instrument. At a first glance, it's the exact same guitar as the more expensive PRS Silver Sky…


Famous Guitar Models That Every Guitarist Should Know

If you're a new guitar player, like in any subject, you should start from the very basics. You should learn what frets are, a bridge, a fretboard radius, what kind…


How to Make an Electric Guitar Sound Like an Acoustic – Tips and Techniques

If you own an electric guitar and an amp, you may be wondering how to make your electric guitar sound like an acoustic. Fortunately, there are several ways to achieve…

View All on Blog