Guitar Pick Gauge Guide
So if you’ve ever touched a guitar, you’ve probably noticed there are ALOT of options in the guitar plectrum (pick) world. I mean, there are picks that slide on your fingers, there’s picks that are giant hunks of wood that produce fat, warm tones, shoot, there’s tons of famous musicians who don’t even use picks. But what guitar pick is going to give you the right sound you want? Well, it all starts with the thickness so I’ve created a gauge guide to help you choose the right guitar pick for you.
Here is the in depth pick gauge guide. I like to use Dunlop as a reference because they have a color coded system that is universal on all their pick lines. Red being the lightest and purple, the heavy.
Generally speaking, the .50mm gauges are more for chord playing (like acoustic maybe), and the heavy gauge, 1.14mm picks, more for precision and speed. I also prefer Dunlop picks for their material. The Tortex material is far more durable than it’s competitors, and I have come to prefer them to other brands like Fender simply because they last longer.
What kind of style do you want to play?
So first, as always, you need to ask yourself this question above. What inspired you to play the guitar? Is it fast technical lead playing with pin point accuracy? Is it funky rhythm playing? How about some transcendental chord progressions that take you to another dimension? It’s important to define what kind of style you want to play in order to improve your practice.
If you still aren’t that sure, that’s okay. I would say you should try out all gauges throughout the spectrum. Picks are cheap and you can afford to do some test driving before you settle in on your favorite and become a loyal fan-boy for the rest of your time playing. I found this Good Starter Pack by Dunlop that will get you rolling.
Precision Playing (The Heavy Hitters)
If you want precision then the heavy gauge pick is the way to go. The reason being is that any light gauge pick tends to flex when you strum. So, there’s kind of a translation from what you tell the guitar pick to do, and what it actually does while it’s bending.
To eliminate this, the heavy guitar pick was created. Virtually no flex at all, you are in complete control of what the plectrum is doing like putty in your hands….well actually the exact opposite of putty….but you get the idea.
For a heavy gauge pick, I strongly recommend the Dunlop Jazz III Nylon guitar picks. They’re a little smaller than the average pick, but it doesn’t impede on your playing – nor is it uncomfortable to hold. The great thing about these picks is the lack of flex, and the defined point it comes to at the end of the pick. That point is what will give you superior note definition over a rounded edge any day of the week. Even if you look at a Fender Heavy gauge pick, the edge is just too blunt – not to mention: way too think. Just because it is heavy gauge does not mean it will work best. The Dunlop Jazz III feels great in your fingers. It has the right texture and thickness to give you a solid grip on it, and a very precise point to make sure every note comes out crystal.
If grip is your thing, then check out the Dava Jazz Grip Pick. I’ve never used one of these personally, but people swear by them on the internet. It’s almost identical to the Dunlop pick in size and thickness, but has the little grippy things on it to make sure you aren’t dropping your pick. For some this might be an issue, but to me seems a tad unnecessary. I didn’t want to exclude it though because some people really love these picks.
“Chords are more my jam.”
If you’re really into rhythm playing, and prefer the sounds of notes blending together to form an ambience rather than punching your lights out with attacking definition…Then the light gauge pick is for you. The overall tone created by this pick is going to be a lot smoother, and a lot warmer. The pick glides across the strings rather than hitting them like speed bumps. I used to play on Fender Light gauge picks, but I ended up breaking far too many of them. They are a truly light gauge pick, but to me, what started as a slow (mellow) jam; often turns into something more intense the usually involves a broken pick or two. So I needed something a bit more versatile.
The Dunlop Standard .60mm Pick. This one is right in between light and medium gauge picks, and to me it offers the best of both worlds. You get the flexibility… without the breakability. The material they use is the best I’ve found so far. It doesn’t wear down like the Fender picks. (I know it seems like $#!% on Fender day, but their guitar picks are the only thing they make that disappoint me). But back to the Dunlop .60mm. It’s extremely versatile, and that’s exactly what I prefer in my playing style. A seamless blend of rhythm and lead. There’s nothing special about it really, it just works. Most other light gauge picks have been disappointing, so when I found this one I was pretty excited.
The Many Forms of The Shape Shifting Guitar Pick
A quick thanks to jimdunlop.com for this cool infographic. Here we can see a good variety of pick shapes and their desired uses. The standard shape being the most versatile. The Jazz pick with its fine point offers great speed. The Fin is great for doing pick slides down the neck.
Do some experimentation of your own to find out which you prefer.
Regardless of what type of style you want to play, I recommend practicing with a heavier gauge pick like the Dunlop Jazz III. When doing a picking exercise, improving precision is ultimately the goal. So why not use a guitar pick that’s best suited for that. I personally practice with the Dunlop for this reason. I may not like to play with it, but it certainly improves my picking.
It’s kind of like Goku going into the hyperbolic chamber…(hopefully you know Dragonball Z). You train on something that is increased intensity, so when you get back to your normal picking routine…it feels ways easier! At only a measly few bucks, it’s worth picking up a pack to improve your picking game.
Speaking of practicing, I have a great article that will help you master your practice times. If you’re hitting a wall, there’s a few tricks in there that are guaranteed to spice up your playing.