Over the years I’ve tried every kind of pick; super thin to ultra thick, slippery to rough, thumb picks, picks with holes, frisbees, bread ties, and cut-out credit cards. Why do I care? Well, at home, it really doesn’t matter what kind of pick I use, but when I play in front of people, my picking is often very demonstrative (just another way of saying “I play really hard”). I tend to throw picks; they literally ‘fly’ out of my hand at times. So, I utilize a pick holder on my mic stand, so I can grab another pick quickly. If a pick is not available, I’ll strum with my finger nail. That works basically until it hurts. I’m also comfortable playing without a pick, but don’t generally do that ‘live’.
Also, when I use a pick, it depends on the guitar. If I’m playing acoustic (which is most of the time), I’ll use the .73mm; not super hard nor too flimsy. If I’m playing electric or mandolin, my go to is the H3 or the Jazz I, II or III. The I is less pointed; the III is more pointed.
Obviously this isn’t a hard and fast rule for everyone, but it may help you decide and approach to take. It depends on the focus. For me, I migrate between strumming and finger-style when I play live. On top of that, I generally contact my strings with the rounded side of a flat pick, so the point of the pick doesn’t really come into play, unless I’m on electric. The small size of the pick forces me to use the point to contact the string. Also, the sound of the string(s) is more consistent.
A Few Other Thoughts:
The .73mm provides just enough flex, so that strumming sounds as natural as possible and less ‘picky’. On acoustic, I’ll tend to strike the strings too hard if I use anything thicker. If the pick is thinner than a .73, I get a little too much pick sound, if that makes sense.
I like the ultra thickness (and the small size) of the Jazz picks, because on electric, speed is better facilitated by holding a thick pick loosely when playing a riff. Even if I am playing chords on electric, movement is at a minimum, since the electronics control the volume and not how hard I play the strings. This has to do more with ‘how’ I hit the strings (feel), rather than whether to hit them with more or less force.
Who knows? This might shorten your journey or get you on a quicker path for finding that elusive plectrum. I wasn’t really satisfied with my pick choices for years. It took a lot of experimentation plus trial and error to find the right balance.
While teaching, I keep a lot of different types of picks on hand, since I’ve been doing the homework for years. It just shortens the learning curve for the student. They can try a lot of different picks without out of pocket cost.
Finally, you don’t really have to play with a pick; a lot of players don’t. But if you do, experimenting with the thicknesses and surface material could be a real eye-opener and get you on your way to more enjoyment.
Hope this is helpful. Until next time…
Bill Maxwell has over forty years of guitar playing experience and over twenty years of teaching students how to master the fretboard.