THE BEST GUITAR PICKS
Welcome to the top 10 list of the best guitar picks of all time. In the world of plectrums there are an overwhelming amount of options, brands, materials and sizes available to choose from. The current guitar gear climate is moving towards smaller independent gear companies and pick artisans (which we have featured here)however that is not to say that the larger companies have been forgotten at all. Most of these plectrum companies such as Dunlop and Ernie Ball have been making them for such a long time that they will forever remain stalwarts of guitar world. We want to take a look at some of the best guitar picks of all time, irrespective of brand.Many of these best guitar picks have become an as important part of Rock n' Roll history as the guitars (the Telecaster comes to mind) and guitarists who played them. They have etched their way into the plectrum hall of fame and it is now time reveal the list.
1) Dunlop Jazz III Guitar Pick
The Dunlop Jazz III is a popular guitar pick among guitar players because of it's small size and sharp end. The smaller size means that the thumb can make more contact with the string enhancing the guitar players control over note picking. For some guitar players, having a plectrum that allows more contact to the string is a great thing. For others, it is something they would rather avoid. The "standard" or "regular" Jazz III is made out of Nylon and comes in either black or red. The difference between the two colors is that the black Jazz III is stiffer than the red one. the term Jazz III has become more of a referral to the shape of the plectrum rather than than what the plectrum is made of. The reason for this is due to the large amount of material options in the Jazz III shape, which is how it is referred to among guitarists.
Jazz III Range:
- Ultex Jazz III - ultex is a very popular plectrum material. Jazz III enthusiasts almost went through the roof from excitement when Jim Dunlop brought out the Jazz III in Ultex. The ultex is also available in a 2.0mm version.
- Max Grip Jazz III - Max grip is Jim Dunlop's special criss-cross pattern for maximum grip reducing the chances of slippage or dropping your pick.
- Jazz III XL - this is a slightly larger version of the standard Jazz III except it has a slightly bigger surface area for the guitar players who don't like the small size of the standard shape.
- Tortex Jazz III - I'll go out on a limb here and say that tortex is probably the most popular plectrum material on the market. I know my personal preference tends towards this material. All the gauges of this range from 0.50mm all the way up to 1.50mm are available in the Jazz III shape.
- Signature Jazz III's - Despite having the word "Jazz" in its name, this plectrum is used by some of the top blues and rock guitarists in the world such as Eric Johnson , John Petrucci, Joe Bonamassa as well as Metallica legend, Kirk Hammett. Check out our article on metallica guitar picks. Eric Johnson, John Petrucci and Kirk Hammett even have their own signature Jazz III plectrums. These have been slightly modified to suit their preferences hence the title, signature pick.
Check out Joe Bonamassa talking about the cult of the Jazz III pick:
2) Fender Celluloid Guitar Picks
The Fender Celluloids are one of those historic plectrums in that it pretty much shaped (pun intended) Rock music as we know it. This is due to the rockstars who used this plectrum. Both bass guitarists and guitarists use these Fender picks The Fender celluloid is a "traditional" guitar pick in that it resembles a tortoise shell plectrum which were what guitarists first started using. After tortoise shell became illegal to sell or acquire for nature conservation reasons, many guitarists gravitated to the closest looking thing. This is only one of many reasons why guitarists love this plectrum as Fender also offers them in a wide range of colors.
Guitar players like the rounded tip and the regular/standard shape as well as the gauge options which range from thin to extra heavy with a medium and heavy gauge in between. The plectrum is great for different style of guitar playing thus enhancing its popularity. It is important to note that Fender also make celluloid plectrums in teardrop shape. David Gilmour has been known to use them.
3) Sharkfin Guitar Picks
When I first came across this plectrum as a student I was completely bewildered. I thought all plectrums were the same shape. That all changed however when I came across the sharkfin plectrums at my suburbs music store.It is called the Sharkfin as it is resembles that of an actual shark. Essentially the only part of it that looks like a regular pick is the rounded tip. The cool thing about this plectrum is that each tip is shaped differently and thus produces tones. These Sharkfin plectrums in particular are made out of Delrin which means they'll be exceptionally durable.
This is a popular guitar pick among acoustic guitar players as they are thinner (although you do get thicker ones) which make for the pleasant sounds of chords being strummed as well as the tonal versatility the plectrum allows. I made a discovery with this plectrum and that is using the jagged side of the sharkfin makes for a great way to pinch harmonics.If you want to know why this makes our best plectrum list, just look at who used them...The Beatles, Trevor Rabin and the Beach Boys!
I have attached a link to a youtube video whereby a guitarist Patrik Tanner explains and uses the sharkfin plectrums.
4) Dunlop Tortex Guitar Picks
For a very long time the best guitar picks were generally known to be made from either celluloid as mentioned in number 3 on our list above or nylon. That was up until around the time when grunge exploded onto the music scene in the 1990's where the rockstars of that era brought the tortex pick by Jim Dunlop into the spotlight.
The tortex plectrum is loved by many players for its sound and its feel. The plectrum comes straight from the factory with a fine layer (almost sand-like) for superior grip. The popular guitar pick provides the player with a bright and responsive tone, referred to by Dunlop as a "snappy" sound. In simple terms the means that the plectrum has fantastic attack. Just from size of the tortex range alone, can we truly see the full extent to it's popularity. You can basically get the most popular shapes in Tortex material as well as choose from a full spectrum of gauges for each shape.
Tortex plectrums come in 8 different shapes as well as 6 different gauges.
5) Dunlop Nylon
The nylon plectrums are another very popular pick by Dunlop. This pick has been used by artists such as Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin and Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead. Made out of high quality nylon, this pick also provides a stubbed grip on each side of the surface. The lighter gauges are perfect for strumming while the heavier gauges are better for attack and leads. The Dunlop nylon's are known for their superior grip. This is because of the micro dots that form little "stubbs" mentioned above, on the pick. The pick thus remains tightly in the players fingers, improving control and makes for much less slipping.Just a friendly disclaimer about nylon plectrums; the thinner the gauge, the flappier the plectrum feels. it's probably also worth pointing out that this plectrum is pretty noisy but that doesn't make much of difference at all.
6) Herco Flex 75 Guitar Picks
The Herco Flex 75's are the closest thing to "The pick of destiny" it gets (the pick of destiny from the film is featured in our list of cool guitar picks). They've been used by rock legends and the old one's from back in the day can bring a pretty penny due to the fact that the company went out of business for some time. However in recent times Jim Dunlop swooped in and somehow got the rights to produce these plectrums again. The Herco Flex 75's are back in business and you can get yours here. You can imagine how the demand and popularity went sky high for this plectrum when the company shut.
Jimmy Page originally used the Herco's. After they went out of production he moved to the Dunlop nylon plectrums and now he's back to the Herco's. Other notable guitar players worth mentioning are Gene Simmons and David Gilmour (we mentioned him in the Fender celluloid section above but he's been known to play numerous plectrums)
7) Gravity Picks
The Gravity guitar Picks are a relatively new addition to the plectrum market but are seriously worth mentioning. The reason is due to their growth in popularity and their fantastic products. Gravity picks are made from acrylic material which as far as we know has never been used as a material for a plectrum before. The thick acrylic material makes for a much more Treble-orientated sound as well as being higher on the decibels in comparison to other plectrums on the market. Gravity picks produce these in a wide array of shapes and gauges which is best described in the image below. A famous user of this plectrum is Youtube guitar sensation, Rob Chapman AKA "chappers. I believe they even make a signature plectrum for him which you can order from Gravity picks.
8) Ernie Ball Standard Picks
The Ernie ball standard plectrums are very similar to the Fender Celluloid picks but despite this make our best guitar picks of all time. due to the popularity of these picks over the years and the impact it has made to guitar and music.
Eric Clapton has been a user of these plectrums and still uses them today. If i'm not mistaken he uses the heavy ones. Like the Fenders, they come in a variety of colors and range from thin, medium to Heavy.The picture above is Eric Clapton's personal plectrum for a US tour way back when. This is definitely a personal favorite due to the epic caption on the plectrum. Also, the mere fact that it was owned and played by "slowhand" himself.
9) Tusq Guitar Picks - Graphtech
The company that makes these are call "Graphtech" who are perhaps better known for their high quality guitar saddles, nuts and end-pins. However this plectrum certainly sticks to the high quality ethos as they have managed to produce a plectrum that is unique, feels great and sounds amazing. They manage to achieve this by using a material that Graphtech invented. The material is a "man-made ivory" as is referred to by them. This special material is used on most of their guitar gear and is what separates them from the rest. The plectrum is able to produce increased harmonics in comparison to other plectrums and thus results in a much sweeter tone. Watch the video below which demonstrates what makes this plectrum feature in our list of best guitar picks. It also showcases everything you need to know about this incredible plectrum from the mouth of the creator/owner of Graphtech.
10) V-Picks Screamer Sapphire Blue
The V-picks company are known for making some great guitar picks. How can we back up this claim? Well just look at the following list of musicians who use and endorse V-picks: Carlos Santana, Billy Gibbons and Orianthi. That just about scratches the surface when it comes to their endorsed artists. Anyways, back onto the Sapphire Blue Screamer guitar pick…
This is V-picks number 1 best selling guitar pick.
- The tone is rich
- The material is strong
- And the Acrylic sticks to your hands and improves the more your hands warm up.
- Works for a multitude of different styles of music (very versatile guitar picks)
As a result of all of this, you get a sound that is louder, sharper and well rounded overall tonally.In recent times, V-picks have taken this best selling plectrum and improved it even more by adding a small hole in the middle of the pick as a reference point. This helps knowing exactly where the pick is in your fingers at all time. Head over to their website to check the endless testimonials on this great guitar pick.The V-picks screamer have also added some more colors to this great guitar pick. These include transparent, pearly gates, ruby red and glow in the dark. The video below is the best demonstration of the V-picks screamer. Watch it if you want to get an idea of the sound, feel and tone of this guitar pick.
Some More Bonus Guitar Picks That are The Best
10 of the best guitar picks is just enough to wet the appetite. In fact, it’s not a large amount at all. For this reason we thought we’d throw in a few more notable mentions to add to our list of the best plectrums.
11) Fender Tru-Shell Picks
If you don’t already know the history to guitar picks, I’ll give you the shortest version ever. Basically, for a long time guitarists would use guitar picks made from real tortoise shell. Since then, it has become illegal to produce and sell real tortoise shell guitar picks. For a long time, guitar pick companies have tried to make the best guitar picks to replicate the tortoise shell sound. Many have come close.
However, Fender have recently come up with a real replacement that could pretty much kill all other tortoise shell guitar pick replacements. It is called “Tru-Shell” and they are plectrums that are made from real proteins that do not harm any animals or the environment in any way. The tru-shell guitar picks are best suited for the acoustic guitar according to Fender.After some more research into the topic of tortoise shell guitar picks, I came across the Timber Tones Zodiac guitar picks. These are made from buffalo horn which according to them is the same protein as tortoise shell so their guitar pick is also very close to the real tortoise shell.
12) Timber Tones Jazz Shape – Wooden Guitar Picks
This is the first wooden guitar pick to make the best pick list and for great reason. These sound absolutely incredible on the acoustic guitar. We’ve got a whole different post on these and other wooden guitar picks here.
13) The DuraGrip Series By Planet Waves (D’addario)
D'addario (Planet Waves) have a really good line of Delrin guitar picks (also known as Duralin). These aren’t your regular delrin picks though, these are some of the best delrin guitar picks we’ve seen yet. They are incredibly durable (as the name would suggest) and have a very unique feature that sets them apart from other.This feature is the checkerboard-like grip on the pick. Little squares have been strategically placed with divots in between that enhance the grip dramatically for the guitar player. These are also supposed to be very stable in the hand, which prevents your hand and fingers from getting pain.
14) Dava Poly Gel – Multi Gauge Guitar Picks
Here’s a guitar pick that could also be classified as a cool guitar pick. It’s the Dava Control Poly Gel series of plectrums. These guitar picks are seriously the best because they give you the ability to control the gauge while you’re playing.The way you control the gauge is determined by where you hold the guitar pick in your fingers. These Dava picks are seriously revolutionary but might not be what you’re looking for if you’re looking for a consistent gauge.The picks feel really good on the guitar strings and respond well. I tried this guitar with a Telecaster body and it really sounded great because of the snappy sound. Also, being able to control your gauge makes the versatile telecaster even more versatile.
15) Jim Dunlop Gator Grip
The Gator Grip series of picks tends to be overshadowed by the popularity of the Tortex range however, these picks have a loyal fan base and are still some of the best plectrums made today.The guitar pick is known for its superior grip. This is due to the high quality matte finish of the guitar pick. Not only are these picks known for their grip but also its sharp attack making it a favourite for many guitarists. A notable user of the Gator grip is Dave grohl of Foo Fighters but also Nirvana Fame. I believe these are Delrin guitar picks (delrin is the type of material).
16) Dragon's Heart Polyoxy Guitar Picks
the Dragon's Heart company are known for their odd shape which makes them different to any other pick we’ve seen. Making thick guitar picks is also something they are known for. However, with these picks they’ve produced them in the same shape they are famous for. But this time they’ve made then in Polyoxymethylene which means they are thinner thus appealing to guitarists who need a thinner pick but are still looking for the signature dragonheart shape. The matte finish along with the engraved logo makes for a strong grip meaning the pick will stay in your hands.
17) BeeHold Guitar Pick By Clayton
At first glance this guitar pick looks like a regular plectrum but when you look closer you realize it has something special. This is a hexagon cut-out in the middle of the pick. This is not just for show. This hex cut out makes your fingers lock into place thus causing a firm grip on the pick without exerting much effort. This is meant to solve sore fingers as a result of gripping the guitar pick too tightly.
The Beehold in the image to the right is a regular shape guitar however Clayton also make this exact same pick in a triangle version for those who a triangular plectrum inclined. This is most usually bassists who use triangle picks.
18) Timber Tones Goldstone
Here’s one for the real jazz heads. It’s a very thick guitar pick but goes down to a 1mm tip. This guitar pick makes for a very smooth and warm sound perfect for Jazz. If you'd like to read more about stone guitar picks and how they sound/feel etc, click here.
19) Jim Dunlop Steel Guitar Picks
Here is yet another Jim Dunlop guitar pick. It is hard not to feature so many of their plectrums as they really do produce some of the best guitar picks in the world. Their stainless steel guitar picks are no different. If you are looking for a guitar pick that produces a tone to cut through the mix then these steel picks are for you.Not only is the tone superior but these plectrums are highly durable and come in three options of gauge:
As you can see by the gauges available, these are actually not heavy plectrums at all. These are a fantastic entry into the world of steel guitar picks.
Conclusion on the Top 10 Best Guitar Picks of All Time
Now that we’ve discussed the best guitar picks in the world, lets discuss some elements that make a guitar pick the best. For a guitar pick to have made this list it needs to have or more of the following characteristics:
- Grip – The best guitar pick will have a good gripping surface. This ensures the pick will not fall out of your hands.
- Tone – For obvious reasons the guitar pick has to sound good
- Innovative – The best guitar picks provide the guitar player with something unique and special that separates them from others. This could be special materials, innovative grip ideas, multi tip functionality and multi gauge options.
- Popularity and/or endorsements
The 10 guitar picks we have mentioned are there because they all share one thing in common. The common thread among the best guitar picks is that they are some of the most popular guitar picks out there. Each and every one of them have multiple signature artists which definitely speaks for itself. Of course, as most things go, this is a completely subjective top 10 list of the best guitar picks.. These are just some of the most popular picks I have come across in the time that I've been playing guitar. I'm sure these will change in the near future. Don't forget, you can buy all these best guitar picks and more HERE. If you liked this list of best guitar picks ever, you might be interested in reading our list of the most expensive acoustic guitars here or our article on Metallica Guitar Picks.