It takes practice to play the guitar well - but it also takes a good pick to truly unleash your potential. The best guitar picks protect your fingers, provide precise control of your interaction with the strings, and allow you to play more complex melodies than otherwise possible. However, you can't just go to the store and buy a pick - there are real differences between them. Let's take a look at the best options.
How We Chose Our Ratings
Honesty and accuracy are vital to our review process - after all, if you don't trust us to be fair with our reviews, you're not going to listen to us. For that reason, we'd like to take a moment to explain how we selected the picks that appear on our list below.
We started by searching for the most popular picks currently on the market. While there are some high-quality, little-known picks available, there are so many choices out there that we couldn't possibly get and test every single one of them. Instead, we decided to start our list by looking at what real musicians prefer.
This is a particularly important thing to keep in mind. We could spend entire pages talking about materials, pick shape, pick size, and other details - but none of that matters more than what guitarists think. Whatever a pick looks like on paper, the part that matters is the sound it creates. Every detail is secondary to that.
Once we collected the most popular picks, we started reading reviews. A product can sell well but be reviewed poorly, so this helped us organize our list and remove products that weren't working quite as well as they could be.
Finally, we looked for any special or unique details about a pick. We didn't consider colors (those are mainly for fun), but we did look at the materials used and anything else that might help a pick stick out from the crowd. After all, a list of several completely interchangeable picks isn't very helpful - and we want to do better than that.
What Size Should I Get?
Whatever size sounds best to you. There's no universal standard for pick sizes (like 'get this size if your fingers are this long'). Instead, it's best to get several pick sizes and test them out to see which are the most comfortable for you to use. Some stores may even offer an affordable sample pack of different sizes from one manufacturer, and we highly recommend getting one of those.
Keep in mind that larger picks have more space for you to grip them. This may reduce vibration and provide a clearer, sharper sound. A smaller pick may move around a little more and provide a little more body and variation to the sound. We're not saying that either of these is inherently better - but they are measurably different from each other.
Top 9 Best Guitar Picks
Here are the guitar picks that made our final list.
#1: [amazon link=”B0002D0CEO” title=”Dunlop Tortex Standard” /]
Tortoise shells are one of the most valuable materials for guitar picks - but trading the shells has been illegal for decades. Unless you're lucky enough to legally inherit one, the best alternative is Dunlop's Tortex set of picks. In many ways, these are the industry standard, and it's hard to go wrong with them.
The base material is Delrin, a crystalline plastic widely used in various industrial and mechanical applications. Dunlop uses a well-guarded process to treat the plastic and make it more appropriate for musicians. Even before treatment, Delrin is known for its high chemical resistance, impressive strength and stiffness, and low absorption of water (i.e., sweat). All of these are desirable for the best guitar picks.
These picks are color-coded by size, with red picks as the smallest (at .50mm) and purple as the largest (1.14mm). Many people refer to these picks solely by color, and if you ask for a "red pick" at a store, chances are they'll hand you a pack of Tortex.
Tortex picks aren't quite the best picks on the market, but their low cost, wide availability, and comfortable sound make them a great choice for just about everyone. For that reason, they're our top choice.
#2: [amazon link=”B00CGFRN16″ title=”Fender 551 Shape Classic Celluloid” /]
Like Dunlop, Fender makes a lot of great guitar picks - but the 551 is a particularly good choice if you're playing single notes at high speeds. The wide body of this guitar pick provides a solid and stable grip during fast play, while the sharp tip offers better control of your notes.
This pick is made with celluloid, one of the first materials ever used for mass-market guitar picks. While it's not as exotic as many of the other materials on the market, celluloid is cheap, widely available, and offers a pleasantly warm tone. These picks are especially popular with guitarists who want to produce a vintage tone.
#3: [amazon link=”B00106OTJG” title=”Dava Control Picks” /]
Our first unusual choice comes in at #3. Dava's Control Picks are something of an oddity in the industry, and we'd like to take a moment and explain this for our newer musicians. A pick with a light gauge is best for strumming, while a heavy gauge is better for single notes. Songs tend to focus on one or the other because it's quite difficult to swap picks in the middle of a song unless you have a break.
These picks, however, offer both traits. Whether the sound is softer or harder depends entirely on where you hold the pick. It takes some practice to master the switch, but the unique design of these picks allows you to play complex melodies that would be impossible with any standard pick.
Dava makes these available in your choice of Delrin, nylon, and gel. If you plan to use them, we suggest trying all three types so you can decide which of them sounds best to you.
#4: [amazon link=”B00NQR90BY” title=”D’Addario DuraGrip” /]
As the name suggests, the DuraGrip line from D'Addario is designed to stay in place, even when you're playing speedy and complex tunes. While all of the best guitar picks are easy to grip, this choice stands above the crowd thanks to its unique design. It's also a great choice for new players who may have trouble holding other picks.
DuraGrips are made from Duralin, which is simply another name for Delrin (the material of our #1 choice). Unlike some of the other picks on this list, DuraGrip picks are available in several different shapes. While they're not quite the best choice on the market, they're worth serious consideration.
This is particularly true if you expect to play in a hot area where sweat on your fingers could loosen your grip. If nothing else, DuraGrips are an excellent choice as a backup, and you may want to buy a pack for precisely that reason.
#5: [amazon link=”B0798GPC94″ title=”Ernie Ball Prodigy” /]
Now here's a pick with a distinctive look - just glancing at it made us worried about cutting our strings! The Prodigy line from Ernie Ball is made from the same Delrin material as many of the other picks on our list, but they feature a sharp, machine-beveled point to provide exacting control while you're playing.
The reason this pick isn't higher on our list is that most people don't actually need this much control. These picks are ideal for high-speed shredding and showing off the most complex tunes, but most songs do better with a softer, slower pace. These picks aren't bad - quite the opposite - but they're not our top choice for most musicians.
That said, you should pick up a sharp pick at least once in your career and see if you enjoy playing precise melodies.
#6: [amazon link=”B0080OLPY8″ title=”Graph Tech TUSQ” /]
If the name wasn't enough of a hint, TUSQ picks are an artificial ivory substitute - and therefore distinct from every other pick on this list. As if the unusual material wasn't enough, Graph Tech has also taken the time to create different resonances and tones.
The white picks have a bright tone, which is ideal for clear, clean, and rich sounds. The vintage ivory color offers a warmer tone with more harmonics, while the charcoal color offers a particularly deep, smooth sound. Each of these three sounds is available in different shapes and sizes, providing precise control of your sound.
Notably, aside from the standard shape, TUSQ picks are also available in a Teardrop (for speed and accuracy) and an unusual Bi Angle (two tips for changing style mid-performance).
Despite the different material, TUSQ picks have competitive pricing with other picks. We strongly recommend picking up at least one pack of these to try them out. Amateurs may not notice the difference, but experts may find that these are better than anything else.
#7: [amazon link=”B01BN8424M” title=”Dunlop Primetone Jazz III” /]
Dunlop makes a lot of great picks, so we weren't surprised to see them claim more than one spot on our final list. The Primetone Jazz III is more expensive than most other picks on the market, but it's also more durable than most of the competition. These picks use Ultex (sometimes known as Ultem), an ultra-stiff resin that lasts noticeably longer than Delrin.
Aside from their longevity - a selling point in and of itself - these picks are great at eliminating unwanted noise. The one major drawback to be aware of here is their emphasis on a small size for speed and control. If you prefer a large grip, consider getting a different guitar pick instead.
#8: [amazon link=”B004UIDJBK” title=”Pickboy Pos-a-Grip Cellulose” /]
These picks have a genuinely different grip style. While most guitar picks are solid, Pickboy's Pos-a-Grip has a series of holes that both provide grip for the skin and limit the opportunity for moisture to collect on the surface.
These picks produce a warmer tone than most of the other choices on this list, and most people recommend that you buy these in a larger size than usual. The holes provide a certain degree of flexibility, and a more substantial grip helps offset that. Unfortunately, the same holes that make this pick so good at gripping come at the cost of reduced memory and a higher chance of breaking.
#9: [amazon link=”B00PZ7VV56″ title=”Dragon’s Heart” /]
The Dragon's Heart is one of the most expensive picks you'll find, and rather than selling by material choice, the manufacturer has them listed by expected hours of play time. The shortest-playing one is expected to last for 1,000 hours, while the longest is 1,500.
What sets this pick apart is the inclusion of three distinct playing tips. A standard tip is available for most melodies, a rounded tip provides support for strumming, and a sharp tip provides accuracy for fast and intense sounds. Like all multi-tip picks, it takes some practice to effectively change between the tips in the middle of a song, but it is possible to learn.
The high cost is the only thing dragging this pick down the list - on average, it's several times more expensive than most other picks, and they only come in single packs. That's a problem if you're prone to dropping or losing them. These are far too expensive for us to recommend to new players, but they're worth serious consideration if you want to change playing styles rapidly.
[amazon link=”B0002D0CEO” title=”Dunlop Tortex Standard” /]
[amazon fields=”B0002D0CEO” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B0002D0CEO” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B00CGFRN16″ title=”Fender 551 Shape Classic Celluloid” /]
[amazon fields=”B00CGFRN16″ value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B00CGFRN16″ value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B00106OTJG” title=”Dava Control Picks” /]
[amazon fields=”B00106OTJG” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B00106OTJG” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B00NQR90BY” title=”D’Addario DuraGrip” /]
[amazon fields=”B00NQR90BY” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B00NQR90BY” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B0798GPC94″ title=”Ernie Ball Prodigy” /]
[amazon fields=”B0798GPC94″ ” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B0798GPC94″ ” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B0080OLPY8″ title=”Graph Tech TUSQ” /]
[amazon fields=”B0080OLPY8″ ” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B0080OLPY8″ ” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B01BN8424M” title=”Dunlop Primetone Jazz III” /]
[amazon fields=”B01BN8424M” ” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B01BN8424M” ” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B004UIDJBK” title=”Pickboy Pos-a-Grip Cellulose” /]
[amazon fields=”B004UIDJBK” ” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B004UIDJBK” ” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
[amazon link=”B00PZ7VV56″ title=”Dragon’s Heart” /]
[amazon fields=”B00PZ7VV56″ ” value=”thumb” image_align=”center”]
[amazon fields=”B00PZ7VV56″ ” value=”button” button_text=”Check Price”]
All of the picks on this list are worth buying - this wouldn't be a list of the best guitar picks otherwise. That said, picks make a real difference in your music, and each of the choices on this list will produce a distinct sound. The best way to choose a pick is to consider your style of play.
For new musicians, get a pack of Tortex - they're durable, affordable, and produce a great sound. For experienced musicians, we recommend experimenting with your picks now and then to see which of them are truly the best. We particularly recommend Graph Tech's TUSQ line - the unusual material they use is better experienced than described.