A player's tone consists of several important parts, with nearly every piece of their chain playing a role in the end result. While certain pieces such as pickups, amp choice, guitar type and effects (if used) are prime components, picks can also make a difference, although to a much lesser degree. Picks come in a variety of configurations. Depending on your choice of material, thickness and shape, a pick can affect tone is subtle ways, mainly by determining how percussive a string sound will be.
Again, we’re not saying that switching your type of pick will give you a dramatic change in tone, but even these subtle changes are worth looking into. With that in mind, here are few generalities when it comes to picks and tone:
Thickness: This can impact the volume of your tone. Thicker picks naturally have greater mass, which can mean greater volume, particularly with acoustic instruments that aren’t using any external amplification. On the other hand, thinner picks have a smoother feel and tend to have a naturally sharper attack with a brighter feel.
Shape: Picks that have a sharper point tend to yield a sharper, more focused attack while those with rounder points have a softer attack.
Material: From celluloid, acetal, nylon and even metal, there is a wide range of materials used in pick production. Taking a look at one of the most common materials, the sound of celluloid picks is wide-ranging, having a lot to do with the thickness and hardness of the pick than the celluloid itself. Nylon picks meanwhile are said to have an arguably brighter sound. If you’ve ever tried using a coin in place of a pick, you can already imagine how a metal pick sounds (very crisp and a bit metallic). And much like guitar bodies, the sound of wood picks heavily depends on the type of wood used.
As you can probably tell, there's no lack of variety when it comes to picks and the little colors of tone they can add to your sound. But with that said, comfort and playability are just as important when it comes to choosing the right pick. You should also take into consideration the instrument itself or your playing style, such as using a hard pick for an acoustic guitar or a sharp point pick when playing lead. And don't limit yourself to just one type of pick either. Many guitarists use multiple picks, switching them when the situation calls for it. And while you're at it, there's nothing wrong with picking one just because it looks awesome!
Your Turn to Sound Off!
What type of pick do you mainly use and why?
Let us know in the comment section below!