Picking the ideal guitar pick can be hard a hard thing to pick!
The choice comes down to ease of play, comfort, and the amount of power you need for your play style.
Thinner picks are easier for beginners to play with and are great for making rhythm playing easier. but don’t have the power to get fast clean notes for faster solos. For a clearer more precise tone thicker picks are a better choice, and most advanced players choose them for this reason.
The differences that pick thickness makes aren’t entirely obvious so let’s break down the ideal type of pick for playing electric guitar, depending on what level player you are, and what style you like playing.
Thin vs Thick Guitar Picks – Pros & Cons
To boil it down simply, the thicker the pick the more power you can pack behind your playing, but the thinner the pick the easier it is to play. Deciding what suits you comes down to finding the right balance for your play style.
Thin Pick Pros
Thin picks make playing (especially strumming) a breeze. A thin pick will roll effortlessly over your strings letting you play fast with ease. A thin pick is great for making your guitar sound jangly and light for genres such as indie and surf rock.
Another benefit of thin guitar picks is that they give you more sensitivity in your playing. You can play chords super light without worrying about being too heavy-handed.
Thin Pick Cons
The downside however is that thin picks can sound a bit weak and lack the full dynamic range of your guitar’s tone. Again it’s about weighing up the balance of what feels good to play and what sounds good.
Thin picks are also very flexible, and can give you a kind of plastic rasping sound (known as pick noise) when strumming. This is due to them flapping back from bent to straight in between each string, and literally slapping the next string.
Once you are a more advanced player, you will find that tin picks don’t allow you to play faster solo note runs simply because they flex too much to give you good control.
Thick Pick Pros
Thick picks on the other hand will deliver more power to your strings with less effort. While slamming rock chords with a light pick can be a serious wrist workout; a thick pick delivers that power with little work from yourself.
That extra power behind your playing goes a long way in bringing out the bassier sounds of your guitar.
A thicker pick also makes playing lead sound far better. A thin pick doesn’t quite deliver enough power to make single notes sustain for long whereas a heavier pick can bring out strong steady notes.
Another benefit of a thicker pick is that you have more control over your plucking when playing lead. Because the pick doesn’t bend as much you’re less likely to run into issues where your pick flexes and catches on top of other strings as you play.
Thick Pick Cons
This comes at the cost of them being a bit harder to play with because they won’t flex around the strings as you play. You will need to make sure you don’t pluck your strings too deeply or your pick might get caught between the strings.
Thick picks are harder to control for beginners, as they catch on the strings easily if you pick too deep. Using them well requires players to develop good motion accuracy, as well as learning how much pressure to hold them with for different playing styles.
Best Pick Thickness for Electric Guitar Lead Playing
A thick pick is essential for lead guitar playing. A heavy plucking pick will help create attack in your lead riffs helping deliver clear melodies the sound prominent and whole.
This attack will make the notes hit harder than with a thin pick that can leave your riffs sounding timid.
The added sustain that a thick pick will give you is also very important when playing lead guitar. As you move between notes you’ll appreciate the resonance that a heavier pick will add to your sound. Without it, you’ll be lost in the mix when performing with other musicians.
A heavy pick ideal for lead guitar should be above about 1mm thick. This will give you less flexibility than a pick around half that thickness that would be considered a light pick.
Should Electric Guitar Beginners Use a Thinner Pick?
Yes, it’s probably a good idea to start off with a thinner pick if you’re a beginner electric guitarist. A thinner pick will make playing easier and help you avoid some pitfall mistakes you’re likely to make.
The most obvious reason for starting with a thinner pick is that they are genuinely easier to play with. You won’t run into problems such as your pick getting stuck between strings as you learn how deep to strum while you play.
While this would be an issue with a thicker pick which are more stubborn, a thinner pick will bend easily and glide over your strings instead of getting caught.
Another benefit of a thinner pick it’s that you’ll be less likely to break your strings as you learn strumming and picking techniques.
Learning guitar isn’t just chords and notes the way you strum will take some time to get used to. Most beginners will strum their guitars too hard, to begin with, perhaps because that’s what it looks like our favorite rockstars are doing.
Unfortunately, this leads to a lot of broken guitar strings, so to avoid this use a thinner pick! It’ll give you a bit more wiggle room while you learn your technique!
How Does Pick Thickness Affect Electric Guitar Tone?
Pick thickness affects tone in numerous ways including volume, bass, and even sustain.
A thinner pick will produce a lighter tone. You’ll get a sound that has more high end and less sustain as your strings aren’t being hit with as much force.
Playing with a thinner pick can also mean your guitar won’t produce as much volume. Fortunately, this isn’t as big of an issue on an electric guitar as it is on an acoustic due to amplification!
Another thing to consider about picks and tone is pick noise (or feedback). Due to their flexibility thinner picks tend to be noisier. While the sound they make is not extremely loud it is enough to create feedback in your tone.
A thicker pick will give you a bassier tone with a focus on the low and mid-range of your sound. This is a result of your strings being attacked with greater power that creates more sustain and in turn deeper tones.
Thicker picks will also give you more volume which sends a higher amount of gain through your pickups; this only really essential for heavier genres of music.
Thick picks on the other hand will make virtually no noise. The feedback created by thin picks is a result of them flexing over the string and slapping into the next string along. The. better pick control of a thick pick stops this from being a problem.
Pick Thickness vs Different Electric Guitars – Does it Matter?
Pick thickness doesn’t matter so much when it comes to different guitars, what does matter is different guitar setups.
The main difference between guitars that will interact with the thickness of your pick is the gauge and type of strings you’re using.
A general rule of thumb is the thicker your strings are the thicker your pick should be. This is because thicker strings require more force to resonate properly. Thinner strings aren’t as demanding in this regard.
You also want to avoid using too thick of a pick when using lighter gauge strings to avoid wearing them down. Excessively playing thin strings with a heavy pick will lead to them sounding dim and eventually breaking.
In comparison to acoustic guitars, no matter what gauge you’re using electric guitar strings are pretty light which lets you get away with using just about any pick regardless of thickness.
So while pick thickness is more important with acoustic guitars it should still be considered when playing an electric.
Wrapping It All Up
As a beginner electric guitar player you are better off starting with relatively thin pick in the region of 0.6 to .07mm, as they will make learning much easier.
As you progress with your playing you will naturally move toward thicker (heavier) picks in the region of 1mm to get more clarity and a better tone, and also because they will allow you to play faster solos.
Jazz electric guitar players will also choose thicker picks to get high clarity tone.
A thick pick is essential for recording work, as this will give the least amount of feedback.
Ultimately, choosing a pick that suits you and you playing style takes time and experimentation. Many players have a few favorites when it comes to pick thickness, and use different picks for different tones.
Finally, don’t forget that picks are made from a variety of materials, and they flex differently. Two picks of the same thickness but made of different materials can feel and sound quite different to play.