A small piece of material (usually plastic) used to strum and pick strings on a Guitar. That's the basic definition of what a Guitar Pick is. But does the simplicity mean its not important? In my opinion the answer is a definite no.
Regular Guitar players usually have a favourite type of pick (or plectrum as they are also often called) which they use on a regular basis. The way it feels in your fingers, the thickness of the pick itself and the way it makes the instrument sound are the most important factors.
Lets look at the gauge or thickness of the Guitar Pick first of all. Thicker Picks are considered to produce a brighter tone and are more robust for picking, especially for heavy metal guitarists who often use Picks in excess of 2mm thick. They allow you to attack the strings with plenty of force without too much bend and without too much damage to the Pick itself. Their robustness will also slow down the rate of wear so you can get longer life from the Pick.
A thinner pick will produce a duller sound due to the way the pick bends when hitting the strings. In heavier guitar music this can produce a moody, grungy sounds which can be pretty nice. In acoustic or lighter play they produce a light, delicate tone which can sound great. However, the flexibility can also give you less control and precision.
Thin Picks are generally considered to be anything under 0.69mm, Medium Picks range from 0.70mm-0.84mm, Heavy Picks from 0.85mm-1.20mm and Extra Heavy Picks make up anything thicker than that.
The Strings you use can also make a difference. If you prefer to use a thinner Guitar Pick then you will probably prefer to use a thinner gauge of string too. I would definitely recommend a thicker gauge of string if you are a Heavy Pick user, otherwise string breakages will be a common occurrence.
Material is important too. At HappyGuitar.co.uk we currently only sell plastic picks made from materials such as nylon, celluloid and delrin. Each has a different feel and can give a different tone. The delrin for example gives a nice matte finish which improves grip and is very tactile. Guitar Picks are also made from stone, bone and even wood.
At the end of the day it's a case of experimenting and finding out what suits you best. You may have a few different Picks for different styles of play which is great.
Remember, the Guitar Pick you use is very important, so choose wisely.
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