Choosing the right kind of pick for your acoustic guitar will depend on what level player you are and your play style.
The general rule of thumb is that thinner picks sound better for light and bright strumming while thicker picks give you better control of your playing; especially when picking strings.
To help you weigh up the pros and cons of pick thickness were here to run you through in detail the difference in the play styles and feel of each in the hopes you can make a more informed decision about a small but very important guitar tool.
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Best Pick Thickness for Acoustic Guitar Beginners
If you’re a beginner acoustic guitar player choosing a pick that is easy to use is the most important factor in your decision.
Thinner lighter picks tend to make playing a lot easier than a thick pick. They are able to bend and flex over your strings, giving a bit of leeway when it comes to your strumming technique. Trust me not only will you appreciate it, but so will your strings. Less force from your pick will make your strings last longer if you’re still learning to be gentle.
Thinner picks are also better for strumming chords. When you’re a beginner acoustic guitarist, chord progressions are typically the first thing you’ll focus your learning on. Thin picks make chords sound bright and sound more natural. It’s also easier to strum with a thin pick!
Best Pick Thickness for Intermediate Acoustic Guitarists
Once you’ve got your skill level up is when you should start experimenting with thicker picks. This is important when you want to start learning songs with a lot of picking in them.
The benefit of a thicker pick is that they give you more control over which string you’re picking. The reason for this is that thicker picks aren’t as flexible and bend and bump into extra strings as you play. While this isn’t a huge problem while playing chords it can be an issue while playing single notes.
If your strumming technique is good a thicker pick will allow you to start adding melodies to your chord progressions by combining strumming and single notes simultaneously. A thicker pick will make this far easier.
Do be aware that a thicker pick will make your guitar tone louder and deeper. For this reason, you should experiment with both a thick pick and a medium gauge pick to find the right balance of playability and tone for your style.
Are Some Acoustic Guitars Better Played With a Thick Pick?
Acoustic guitars with thick gauge steel strings are usually more suited to thick picks. Having a heavier set of strings means they’re more capable of handling the extra power created by playing with a thick pick.
If you’re using thicker gauge strings a thicker pick will also help you get the most tonal range out of those strings.
These thicker strings require you to play harder in order for the guitar to maintain clarity in what you’re playing. So while you can get away with using a thin pick on a light stringed acoustic without losing too much tone, you’ll hear the difference a lot more with thick strings.
You should also avoid using a thicker pick on a nylon string guitar. In fact, most seasoned classical guitar players would tell you to never use a pick of any kind with nylon strings. Instead, these guitars are more suited to fingerpicking. Nylon strings require a level of sensitivity not necessary on steel strings guitars.
How Does Pick Thickness Affect Acoustic Guitar Tone?
Pick thickness affects acoustic guitar tone by affecting how bright or how warm your guitar sounds.
Thin picks will make your acoustic guitar sound brighter and highlight the high-end tones of your sound. This makes them great for breezy strumming and upbeat songs. Because of the way they flex, thinner picks tend to reduce the amount of low end in your tone.
Thinner picks will also make your guitar quieter as you cant get as much power behind your playing.
Thicker picks on the other hand are better at creating a well rounded tone that is generally warmer and bassier. You’ll lose a bit of your high end but you’ll also get more volume from your acoustic.
If you find that the lack of high-end is too extreme you can always try a pick that’s somewhere in the between thick and thin!
Best Pick Thickness for Different Acoustic Playing Styles
Acoustic Folk Music
If you’re going to be playing passionate folk style guitar then a thick pick is essential for pushing your acoustic volume high and the deeper warmer tones match the style more than a thinner pick can.
Unlike a genre like Jazz where control is another factor; choosing a pick for playing folk is more about capturing the warmer well rounded tones of a thick pick. Because of this, you should aim for a mid-level thickness of about 0.70mm should be perfect for the genre.
Acoustic Indie Style
For breezy indie tones, you’ll want to use a thinner guitar pick. This will help you capture the light and jangly sounds essential in indie style acoustic guitar playing.
Thinner picks will flex easily over your strings as you glide through the lighthearted sounds of acoustic indie. A pick that’s too thick will sound too forceful and deep for the style.
Another focus of your pick choice should be based on your speed of play. This means a thin pick is perfect as you can quickly throw your pick back and forth over chords without much resistance.
If you’re going to be using a lot of single note picking in your style then a thicker guitar pick is the way to go. The thicker pick will give you better accuracy and control over the notes you play. It will also make notes sustain better due to the extra power you get from a thicker pick.
It should be mentioned that if you’re getting into melodic picking you should practice fingerpicking or perhaps even attachable finger picks like a thumb pick. These picks come on rings that attach to your fingers allowing you to use multiple fingers at once to pluck your strings.
Acoustic Blues Style
If you’re looking to play Blues on your acoustic then a thicker pick is essential. Blues is all about creating warm roots sounds by combining chords and licks together. A thick pick is ideal for both.
When it comes to chords a thicker pick will give you a warmer deeper tone than a thin pick is capable of.
Using a thick pick will also give you more control over your riff and licks. Your riffs will also benefit from the added power and sustain that a thick pick provides making them sound clean enough for classic blues style playing.
Acoustic Jazz Style
For Acoustic Jazz, you’ll want to use a very thick pick due to the accuracy needed to play the genre.
In fact, I recommend you look into Dunlop Jazz picks. They not only provide a thickness that gives you power and control but they are also a unique shape that is sharper than most other picks on the market. Their sharper shape will take your accuracy to a new level that flatter shaped picks just aren’t capable of.
These picks are about 1.38mm thick so they’re heavy but their ergonomic design makes playing jazz about as comfortable as you can get.
Acoustic Country Style
For country playing you’ll want to select a mid-thickness pick as the style encompasses both accurate plucking and rowdy chord strumming.
Something like a Dunlop 0.88 is a fantastic option for country, they’re firm but won’t restrict you if you want a pick that’s capable of both. Country is a diverse play style so you don’t want to be doing a pick change mid-performance.
Something not so light that it’ll flex when playing melodies but not too thick that it’ll weigh you down playing chords is perfect for the style.