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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Everything you wanted to know about guitar picks but we're afraid to ask


Picking it.....

A guitar plectrum, commonly known as a pick, is a small, flat tool used to pluck or strum the strings of a guitar. Typically made from materials such as plastic, metal, or wood, plectrums come in various shapes, sizes, and thicknesses to suit different playing styles and tonal preferences. They allow for more precise and articulate playing compared to using fingers alone.

What were the earliest guitar picks made from?

The earliest guitar picks, also known as plectrums, were often made from natural materials such as tortoiseshell, bone, ivory, and wood. Tortoiseshell, in particular, was highly valued for its flexibility and durability, but its use declined due to conservation efforts to protect tortoises. Other materials like bone and ivory were also used but faced similar issues regarding sustainability and ethical concerns. As technology advanced, these natural materials were largely replaced by synthetic ones like celluloid and various plastics.

Why do some guitarists prefer to pick the strings with their fingers?

Some guitarists prefer to pick the strings with their fingers for several reasons:

1. **Tonal Variety**: Fingers can produce a wider range of tones compared to picks. The flesh, nails, and different finger angles create varied sounds.

2. **Control and Dynamics**: Fingerpicking offers more control over dynamics and allows for nuanced, expressive playing.

3. **Versatility**: Using fingers enables techniques like hybrid picking, fingerstyle, and thumb picking, allowing simultaneous plucking of multiple strings and intricate patterns.

4. **Comfort and Preference**: Some players find fingerpicking more comfortable and natural, aligning better with their playing style and musical genre. 

These reasons make fingerpicking a preferred choice for many guitarists, particularly in genres like classical, folk, and certain styles of jazz and blues.

What are the advantages of using a guitar pick over using fingers?

Using a guitar pick offers several advantages over using fingers:

1. **Speed and Precision**: Picks allow for faster and more precise playing, especially when playing rapid alternate picking or complex solos.

2. **Consistency**: A pick provides a consistent attack on the strings, resulting in a more uniform sound across different notes and chords.

3. **Volume and Clarity**: Picks can produce a louder and clearer sound, which is beneficial in settings where the guitar needs to cut through a mix, such as in rock or metal bands.

4. **Durability**: Picks reduce wear and tear on the fingers, particularly the nails, which can be beneficial for extended playing sessions or performances.

5. **Articulation**: Using a pick can enhance articulation and emphasize specific notes or rhythms, which is useful in genres that require distinct, sharp attacks.

Does the thickness and material of a guitar pick made a difference?

Yes, the thickness and material of a guitar pick significantly affect the sound and playability. Here's how:

### Thickness:

1. **Thin Picks (0.38 - 0.73 mm)**:

   - **Sound**: Produce a lighter, brighter tone with more flexibility and less attack.

   - **Playability**: Easier for strumming and rhythm playing, offering more give and less resistance.


2. **Medium Picks (0.73 - 0.88 mm)**:

   - **Sound**: Offer a balanced tone, suitable for both strumming and lead playing.

   - **Playability**: Versatile and can handle a range of playing styles.

3. **Thick Picks (0.88 mm and above)**:

   - **Sound**: Provide a fuller, warmer tone with more volume and sustain.

   - **Playability**: Preferred for lead playing and precise picking, offering less flex and more control.

### Material:

1. **Plastic (Celluloid, Nylon, Delrin, etc.)**:

   - **Sound**: Varies widely; celluloid offers a warm tone, while nylon can produce a softer sound with less attack.

   - **Playability**: Each type of plastic has different textures and flexibility, affecting grip and playability.

2. **Metal**:

   - **Sound**: Produces a bright, cutting tone with a lot of sustain.

   - **Playability**: Very rigid, offering little to no flexibility, suitable for aggressive playing styles.

3. **Wood**:

   - **Sound**: Provides a warm, organic tone with a natural feel.

   - **Playability**: Generally stiffer than plastic, can be less durable over time.

4. **Tortoiseshell (historical)**:

   - **Sound**: Known for a smooth, balanced tone with excellent flexibility.

   - **Playability**: Highly prized historically but now largely replaced due to conservation issues.

5. **Composite Materials (e.g., carbon fiber, Ultem)**:

   - **Sound**: Can vary, often designed to mimic the best qualities of natural materials.

   - **Playability**: High durability and consistency, often preferred for their specialized characteristics.

The choice of pick thickness and material allows guitarists to tailor their tools to their specific playing style and desired sound.

When should I replace a guitar pick?

You should replace a guitar pick when you notice the following signs:

1. **Worn Edges**: If the edges of the pick become rounded or uneven, it can affect your playing precision and tone.


2. **Cracks or Chips**: Any visible damage like cracks or chips can weaken the pick and potentially break it during use.

3. **Loss of Grip**: Over time, the surface of the pick may become smooth and slippery, making it harder to hold securely.

4. **Change in Tone**: If you notice a change in the tone or attack that you don't like, it might be due to the pick wearing down.

5. **Deformation**: Picks can become warped or bent out of shape with prolonged use, affecting their performance.

Regularly inspecting your picks and replacing them when they show significant wear ensures consistent playability and sound quality.

Why do I lose so many guitar picks?

Losing guitar picks is a common issue among guitarists due to several reasons:

1. **Size**: Picks are small and lightweight, making them easy to misplace or overlook.

2. **Frequent Handling**: Picks are frequently set down in different places during practice, performance, or even while taking breaks, increasing the chances of losing them.

3. **Slippage**: Picks can slip out of fingers and fall into hard-to-find places like between couch cushions, under furniture, or into the sound hole of an acoustic guitar.

4. **Portability**: Many guitarists carry picks in their pockets, bags, or cases, where they can easily fall out or get mixed up with other items.

5. **Inconsistent Storage**: Not having a dedicated place to store picks can lead to them being scattered around various locations.

To reduce the loss of guitar picks, consider using a pick holder, designating a specific storage spot, and checking pockets and common areas where picks might fall or get misplaced.

What if I swallow a guitar pick?!

If you accidentally swallow a guitar pick, it's important to stay calm and consider the following steps:

1. **Assess Your Symptoms**: If you feel immediate pain, difficulty breathing, or choking, seek emergency medical help immediately by calling emergency services.

2. **Monitor for Discomfort**: If you do not experience any immediate distress, monitor for symptoms like abdominal pain, vomiting, or difficulty swallowing, which may indicate the pick is causing an issue.

3. **Seek Medical Advice**: Even if you feel fine initially, it's wise to contact a healthcare professional for advice. They may recommend an X-ray or other diagnostic measures to ensure the pick is not causing harm.

4. **Avoid Self-Treatment**: Do not try to induce vomiting or use other home remedies to remove the pick yourself. This can lead to further complications.

Most small objects that are accidentally swallowed can pass through the digestive system without causing harm, but it’s crucial to get professional medical guidance to ensure your safety.

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