Finding the best guitar pick requires some basic understanding about the differences between different guitars picks are. There are a lot of different types of guitar picks. There are finger picks which are used for, you guessed it, finger style picking. There are heavy gauge flat picks which allow the guitarist to really dig in to the strings without any “give” from the pick. I find that these guitar picks are good for speed too. And there are flat picks which are very thin and have lots of “give” so they are good for strumming chords on an acoustic guitar.
Then you have all the various gauges (thickness) of the flat picks in between. There are nylon picks, celluloid picks and there are Tortex picks. These are the most common types of guitar picks without getting too exotic (metal, various other plastics, etc.).
I have tried many different guitar pick sizes in search of the best guitar pick. At one point I used to take heavy gauge 2.0mm picks and use a soldering iron to melt little holes in areas of the guitar pick in an attempt to give them more grip. Those were celluloid picks but even the Tortex picks can slip around too much and make playing the guitar more difficult. This is especially true if it is hot outside and you are sweating while playing outdoors! But the melted areas were always uneven and could be kind of sharp too. I even tried filing them and sanding them down after that.
Another thing I used to do for a short period was take medium to slightly thinner gauge picks and use a hole puncher (yes, the kind to punch holes in paper), and make a hole in the pick. It worked great and there was very little slippage too! I just found that it felt too weird having a hole in the middle of my guitar pick. They actually make them with the holes in them. I much prefer to not feel my fingers through the hole when holding the guitar pick though. The holes did make it so I could put picks on my keychain which is really handy when you are out and about! You will always have a pick handy that way.
I have recently settled on using the celluloid guitar picks because I like the extra heavy 1.25mm guitar picks for electric guitar playing. I find these to be the best for playing fast guitar techniques. At first I hated the celluloid picks since I had used the Tortex picks for so many years.
The celluloid guitar picks can be really slippery is the reason why I did not prefer them. So I would take a flathead screwdriver (back to self customized guitar picks!), and literally scratch up the surface of both sides of the guitar pick. This did almost completely reduce the slippage. Luckily after sticking with these (1.25mm), after about four or five months I got really used to them and learned how to adjust the way I held this kind of pick while I am playing so when the pick is slipping around I am used to working with it. One thing though, is that my preferred pick seems to change as it has over the years, so I may find another pick I prefer at some point in the future.
As far as playing the acoustic guitar goes, I have always preferred the sound of the really thin guitar picks like the .73mm nylon picks. These work great for strumming guitar chords within a song since they tend to pull out a delicate jangly sound from the guitar strings. The only problem with these thin gauge guitar picks is that they are not good for picking guitar licks and runs. There really is not enough substance to them to be able to play guitar licks with them. They bend too easily. This bend is actually why they sound so good on strumming chords on an acoustic guitar.
So there is a happy medium like the .88mm Tortex guitar picks because they are thin enough to get just a little bit of a bend when strumming (although not much), yet they provide enough substance to allow me to dig into the strings during solos and playing lead guitar runs. I used those for a long time. There are plenty of sizes in between thin and thick and I would recommend trying lots of different sizes of guitar picks before you really decide on which gauge and material that you prefer.
Choosing a Guitar Pick
- So keep in mind the basics of guitar pick gauges and materials. The really thin light gauge picks (.73mm for instance) are fantastic for strumming chords on the acoustic guitar.
- Heavier medium gauge guitar picks (.88mm to 1.14mm) are better for all around playing. They can be decent for strumming and at the same time they are good for speed and digging into those guitar licks with.
- The really heavy gauge picks (1.21mm to 2.0mm) are good for lots of control and really digging in, but they can take some getting used to.
Keep these basics in mind regarding which guitar picks are best for speed, strumming, electric or acoustic guitar. Then simply experiment with different picks because when it comes to guitar picks it really is a personal preference as to which one is the best.