PHIL KEAGGY - Grammy nominated and seven-time Dove Award winner, is one of the world’s great guitar players and a pioneer in contemporary Christian music.
- December 6, 2016
- Guitar Accessories
There are many styles and approaches to playing guitar. In fact, there are differences in playing acoustic and electric guitar. The way you choose to play guitar with your picking hand is where the difference lies. Right-handed or left-handed, your picking or strumming hand plays the biggest role on guitar. You can note all day or hold a shape with your chording hand, but if you do not strike the strings, you will get little to no vibration. Yes, you can hammer on, tap, or slap at the strings, but those are all techniques. True guitar form requires you to pick with your fingertips or nails or use a guitar pick or picks to make the strings vibrate, causing you to hear the notes or chords being played. For acoustic players, it helps to know what are the best acoustic guitar picks. Here are our thoughts on the subject.
What Are the Best Acoustic Guitar Picks?
Each guitar player has his own unique touch or technique. Also, a player’s style or preference may change as he or she matures. For example, a guitarist may start off fingerpicking or using only their fingertips (nails) and eventually take up a flatpick and start strumming. Being versatile may be the most logical reason for such behavior, as recording sessions or joining a certain type of band would require such versatility. A classical guitarist probably wouldn't get the call to play on a country recording, but if he or she wants to be that type of guitarist, they’d likely take up a flatpick and get good and smooth at strumming. A pick just allows you to strike the strings in a way that sounds different than fingerpicking. So what are the best acoustic guitar picks and how can they affect your playing?
Thin Acoustic Guitar Picks
There’s no hard rules here, so whatever style you’ve developed, if it works for you, stay with it. A thin guitar pick (0.38 - 0.65 gauge) is commonly used for strumming as the thin pick allows you to glide more freely over the strings. It also provides a clicky sound that country producers like in the studio. It’s a very clean sound. So a thin pick produces a very thin sounding strum. On the right Martin or Gibson guitar, there’s no sweeter strum on Earth. The Dunlop .05, a Fender thin, or a D’addario .46 would be the perfect thin pick. Also, it’s worth noting that the big Fender triangle picks in a thin would be easier to hold onto and bluegrass pickers really love them.
Thin - Medium Acoustic Guitar Picks
A thickness measurement of .46 to .80mm gauge would be considered thin to medium-thin for a pick. There are so many to choose from so that you can find what works for you. You might not strum as hard as the next guy or gal. Or, you may beat the strings with a lot of intensity. The gauges just allow you to find your guitar pick. As the gauge gets heavier or thicker, the louder your instrument will be and the more pointed the notes will become. It really does make a difference in how the pick feels in your hands too. That’s why naming the best acoustic guitar picks comes down to preference.
Medium Acoustic Guitar Picks
Medium guitar picks fall in the range of .71 - 1.07mm. There are many pick companies and they all have their own look. That’s part of the charm. You may just love the way a certain pick feels in your hand or looks.
Dunlop and others offer no-slip or better grip picks so you don’t drop it while performing. We’ve all done that. You might like the grip picks texture between your thumb and index finger, or you might not like it all. It’s smart to buy an assortment of picks for a couple of reasons. First, you will likely need different picks for different gigs or songs. Second, you’ll need to experiment until you find your preferred pick. The thicker the pick, the less bend, thus the more articulate the notes become.
Medium to Heavy Guitar Picks
Guitar picks that are 0.88 - 1.1 are nice and thick. For fast picking or say shredding, these heavier picks produce a real defined sound. Also, because they don’t give against the string, you can pick down and up or speed pick more rapidly with precision. Rock guitarists love these heavier picks, as do fast-handed country pickers. There’s a sort of scrappy sound you get from a heavier pick that rockers love.
These picks also chirp or do false harmonics very well. Note that the heavier the pick, the greater chance of breaking a string due to the intense attack on the string. If you play heavier picks, you might want to use heavier strings. Fortunately for acoustic players, the best acoustic guitar picks shouldn't beat up your steel strings too much.
Heavy Guitar Picks
Heavy guitar picks range from 0.88 to 3.0. To be honest, this range is more “heavy to extra heavy.” A 3.0 is like playing with a quarter. Believe it or not, some people have actually done that. There are metal picks such as copper etc, and you can get very edgy rock vibes from these beasts. We wrote an earlier piece on the different materials that guitar picks are made in.
A heavy pick can serve a jazz player or a metal guitarist. Some jazzers love a heavy pick to get the most tone from the note. There are tear drops, triangles and just about a dozen more possible shapes. You will certainly have to shop around and try out some different picks to find your favorite. Many bassists use these heavier picks too. Heavy picks give you a super attack and, in some styles of music like metal, rock, or jazz, that’s exactly what you’re looking for.
You can even customize your own guitar picks. Put your name or logo on the pick and you will really look big time. If you can squeeze a website on it, it’d be a great promotional tool as well. Here’s the deal: picks are a personal taste. But, that said, a versatile guitarist will have an assortment of picks in his tool kit if he or she is going to be ready for the gig. You never know what the day will bring. A light strumming track requires a thin pick and a blazing rock solo requires a heavier pick. Just be prepared.
If you want to be a fully prepared guitar player, your training goes far beyond finding the best acoustic guitar picks. On top of having regular practice sessions, you’ll want to enlist in some quality guitar lessons. At Pro Lessons, our guitar instructors are some of the top guys from popular bands today. Find out how you can become their latest pupil by clicking on the link below.