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Which is the best guitar pick for me and what do my favorite musicians play and why?
Learn in which situation which pick works best and how picks influence the sound of the masters of Jazz, Pop and Rock
Your sound is not only achieved by your guitar,amp and effects . If so, there would be a lot of Kirk Hammets, Steve Vais, Rosenwinkels or Bensons out there.Its the conscious use of all components of your guitar playing.Which pick you use plays a huge role in the outcome of your sound, feeling and even your timing.
But not only the pick itself plays a huge role---No, your picking angle (the angle at which you hit the string with your pick along with the movements from your fingers. wrist or arm) and where you hit the string ( at the bridge or at the neck pickup?)play an extremely huge role.Click here for more information about the picking angle.
Maybe some pro players would have chosen a different amp to play, if they got used to a different angle or a different pick.
And the other way round, important Jazz/Fusion guys like Adam Rogers who play in very different setttings and bands, actually play different picks depending on the guitar, amp or musical situation they are into.
Due to the complexity and the many possibilities of the topic a lot of players go through a period of creating their own custom picks.
There is also a bunch of good companies on the web offering custom picks.
Click here to visit Chapter 2 to see which player uses which pick.
1. How important are thickness and size of your pick?
Material,size and thickness of the pick make the sound or why a metal pick will suck in folk music
First of all, you should choose your pick depending on the musical situation you are facing.
Overall, it can be said that a heavier pick will be more comfortable for accurate single note picking.
Looking at a statement of Steve Vai on the topic might explain why:
"Well, you know, the heavy picks don't give. When you hit the note, the note comes out. I don't like sloppy picks. When I'm playing hard, the pick needs to be a constant. If the string makes the flop it throws off my ability to control the amount of picks I'm picking, or the strikes I'm picking I guess."(Quoted from website)
I think that goes for a lot of single note virtuoso players .A confirmation of that can be taken of the list i put together for chapter 3, where you find which player prefers which pick.
However, even in that style you can find a lot different taste in matters of thickness and also size.
E.g. Dave Mustaine plays relatively soft picks, cause he likes when he can feel that the strings respond, while Steve Vai or Al Di Meola need a non-giving hard attack for their style.
The size is also important. The bigger the pick, the less space is between the strings that you are playing(implying you don't play in a total parallel angle to the strings) which makes the playing feel softer for many people.
A small pick will feel like the extension of your fingertips which creates a very constant character to your notes, but doesn't leave so many facets in terms of varying volume of your attack.
George Benson prefers Fender Medium -they are able to give you that bright and at the same time fat sound, cause they are not to hard and relatively big.The thicker it gets the darker your sound will be, which is often a desired effect of other jazz players.
Taking it to a thicker level one can look at Death Metal guitar players.For their low tuned guitars and therefore thick strings, they need heavy picks and players often will not take any pick under 1,5mm.
Thinner picks as mentioned above are used for chord-playing in an acoustic or pop setup where you wanna hit all the strings and make sure you can glide through all six strings smoothly.
A short overview on the approximate thicknesses/gauge of the picks:
Thin / Light : 0.44 - 0.69mm
Medium : 0.7 - 0.84mm
Thick / Heavy : 0.85 - 1.2mm
Extra Heavy : 1.3 - 2mm or thicker
2. A List of famous players and the picks they are known to use MOST of the time
see all the genres from vintage rock to heavy to jazz
All information about the mentioned guitar players is based on personal researches I did.
I have seen those players on concerts, on video or visited their homepages. For sure most guitar player will not use one pick
all their life.Have fun!
Vintage Rock Picks: - Check out all the genres from vintage rock to heavy to jazz.J Hendrix, Jimmy Page and all the classic rockers used the following picks
Jimi Hendrix - Whatever brand / Medium gauge pick
Eric Clapton - Ernie Ball / Heavy gauge pick
Jimmy Page - Herco Flex 75 pick
Pete Townshend - Herco Picks 'til '68, later Manny's Picks / Heavy pick
Stevie Ray Vaughan - Fender / Medium pick
Ritchie Blackmore - Signature..A lot of fakes on ebay!!Originals rarely found!
Eric Clapton's pick. Provides that bluesy sound and comfortable handling.
Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend used these picks for their aggressive, uncompromised sound.Very good to get that vintage rock touch.
Hard Rock Picks - See what picks Slash,Aerosmith and other hard rockers play
Angus Young - Fender / Extra heavy gauge pick
Slash - Dunlop Purple Tortex 1.14 mm pick
Joe Perry - Dunlop 483 Classic Celluloid Heavy Guitar Pick
Eddie van Halen - changing his custom picks
Michael Schenker - Alien pick guitar picks
Ace Frehley - Herco .75's picks
Richie Sambora - D'Andrea 351 .71mm Black Celluloid picks
Paul Gilbert - .60mm orange Tortex picks / Ibanez Signature
Slash doesn't believe in changing picks.That right here is his choice!
Joe Perry from Aerosmith his into this pick
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi loves the sound of this one
Eddie Van Halen's famous signature picks
Metal Picks - They heavy rockers of Metallica, Megadeth or virtuosos like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani use these picks
Dave Mustaine - Jim Dunlop .88mm Tortex picks
Yngwie Malmsteen - used Fender Heavy / Custom Heavy gauge pick
Steve Morse - Music Man / Medium-Heavy gauge pick
Joe Satriani - D'Addario / Heavy pick
Steve Vai - Ibanez or other Heavy gauge pick
Kirk Hammett - Dunlop Jazz III pick
Zakk Wylde - H2 Dunlop Tortex pick 1.5mm
Alexi Laiho - Dunlop Black Jazz III pick
A classic pick for metal guitarists Megadeths D.Mustaine prefers this gauge
Kirk Hammett and Alex Laiho use this.
Pop/Rock/Blues Picks - Pop megastars like Brian May of Queen, Carlos Santana or the Edge of U2 as well as blues players like B.B. King use these picks
Brian May - british sixpence coin
Carlos Santana - V-picks / Freakishly large rounded pick
The Edge - Herdim guitar pick
John Mayer - Dunlop Tortex .60mm
B.B. King - D'Andrea 351 MD SHL CX (Medium .71mm, Tortoise Shell, Celluloid) Picks
Johnny Winter - Gibson thumbpick
Andy Summers - Custom "signature" Dunlop Delrin 500 picks (2.0mm)
Carlos Santana choice
Alternative rock Picks - Bands like Nirvana or Rage against the machine use these ones
Tom Morello - Dunlop Purple 1.14mm Jazz pick
Ian D'Sa - Red Brain 0.73 pick
Kurt Cobain - Orange Dunlop Tortex Standard pick
Tom Morello (Rage against the machine and other) plays these picks most often
Jazz/Fusion Picks - Pat Metheny, John Scofield, Rosenwinkel, George Benson and other jazz virtuosos play these picks
George Benson - Fender Medium gauge pick
John McLaughlin - Dunlop Jazz 3 pick (srapped down to get better grip and playability)
Jimmy Bruno - D'Andrea pro-plec pick
Pat Metheny - Planet Waves Duralin Guitar Picks
John Scofield - Dunlop Delrin 2mm picks
Adam Rogers - D'Andrea pro plec 1.5mm extra heavy
Kurt Rosenwinkel - according to eye witnesses he seems to use Fender heavy gauge quite often
Pat Metheny uses this one
3. Materials a guitar pick can be made of
Most picks manufactured by the big companies are made of plastic.Variations of plastic include:
Celluloid: The first plastic used to produce picks.Good to achieve a vintage tone.
Nylon: Is often used for thin and very thin picks.
Acetal: Is a class of plastics with a long lifetime. Delrin picks are made of it.They seem to flow easily over the string without making much noise.
Ultem: Very stiff, is used often by mandolin players.
Lexan: Is often used for very thick picks.
Acrylic: Has a bright tone to it. Available in any thickness, V-Picks is known to use this Material.
Delrex: Is a material that has been used as a replacement for tortoiseshell since trading that has been prohibited in the 70s.Dunlop uses it quite often.
Wooden picks sound warmer then plastic ones. Each one has its unique sound due to the individual structure and density of the material.Usually a wooden pick needs to be played quite a while until it flows smoothly over the strings.
In recent years stone picks became more popular. They are very hard and mostly used from 0.7 and thicker.Each one is individual in its exact size due to the material.Can be e.g. of agate and jade.
Also very hard and a rich variety in tone.Individual sound and many possibilities of shaping it.Some people compare it to play v-picks
Just write me which picks you like best and why.Do you know any famous players and the picks you have seen them use?