Pick Design And Function

How do guitar picks really work? It turns out that the actual operation of the ubiquitous string-plucking wedge is anything but simple.

In this section we’ll take a look at the most common pick designs to understand their effects on playability and sound. This includes getting to the bottom of what attributes like thickness, point geometry, edge geometry, shape, and material choice have on tone and dynamics. Along the way, we’ll ask some fundamental questions about the deceptively complex interaction that happens when you actually try to play a note with a pick.

If you’re new to picking technique, what we’d like to give you is the kind of perspective that experienced players have about picks and how they work, so that you don’t have to spend the next few decades trying them all — even though you might just do that anyway!

If you’re an experienced player, we’ve attempted to put some practical tests behind observations you may have already made and perhaps a few you haven’t. The results of our investigations aren’t always what we expected, and that’s why we learned a ton in the process of conducting them.

So if you’re ready, let’s learn about picks!


Chapter 1 - The Classic 351

This historic D'Andrea design is the pick we all know, whether we know it or not


Chapter 2 - Edge Picking

Understanding one of the most fundamental effects in pick-string interaction


Chapter 3 - The Jazz III

The jazz pick that conquered rock, and how its signature point affects tone


Chapter 4 - The Big 346

This triangular ancestor of the modern large pick is another D'Andrea creation


Chapter 5 - Gauge

Testing the effect of pick thickness on frequency response and dynamics


Chapter 6 - Angle Of Attack

How does a pick really get through the string and play a note?


Chapter 7 - Material And Tone

What are picks made of, and what do those materials sound like?


Chapter 8 - Chirp

Love it, hate it, or maybe never even notice it, chirp reveals how you play and how you listen


Chapter 9 - Abrasion

The connection between pick wear, surface texture, and frequency response


Chapter 10 - Choosing A Pick

With so many great options, should you really play just one?