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.
Beware! We have some of the best guitar picks on the planet featured below! If you like this list you may be interested in our list of cool guitar picks here.
1) Dunlop Jazz III(Dunlop Jazz III 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 avilable 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 Prerucci, Joe Bonamassa as well as Metallica legend, Kirk Hammett. Check out our article on metallica guitar picks. Eric Johnson, John Pretucci 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(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 use these Fender picksguitarists and
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 other colors besides tortoise shell such as
.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.
It is not hard to see why the Fender celluloid makes it into our list of best guitar picks as all we really have to do is look at some of the musicians who have used this pick.
Famous Fender Celluloid Plectrum Users
- The Great Jimi Hendrix – He used the medium fender celluoid plectrums
- Stevie Ray Vaughn – Also utilized the medium gauge fender although apparently SRV was known for playing with fatter side of the plectrum.
- Angus Young of AC/DC – Fender Celluloid Extra Heavy
- David Gilmour of Pink Floyd – As I mentioned above, David Gilmour used the Fender celluloid plectrum in teardrop shape
it is evident that these Fenders have become a part of rock n roll furniture! The list of incredible guitarists that have used and still use this pick surpasses my list above by miles.
If you don’t know where to start when buying plectrums then the Fender celluloid plectrums are a good place to start. You can also read our beginners guide to buying 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.
This is a popular guitar pick among acoustic 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 TortexFor 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 byJim Dunlop into the spotlight. The tortex plectrum is loved by many players for it’s sound and it’s 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. The picture above depicts the range of the tortex perfectly as you can see, there are a variety of shapes and gauges and those aren’t even all of them.
5) Dunlop Nylon(Jim Dunlop Nylon Picks)
The nylon plectrums are another very popular pick by Dunlop. This pick has been used by artists such as
- Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin
- Johnny 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
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 here). 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 Simmonds and David Gilmour (we mentioned him in the Fender celluloid section above but he’s been known to play numerous plectrums)
7) Gravity Picks(Buy Gravity Picks Variety Pack )
Gravity 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) Red Bear Originals
Since its inception in 2003, RedBear have developed a cult following of guitar players who absolutely love them. Some fellow guitar collegues swear by these RedBear plectrums. The saying goes something like, once you’ve tried a Redbear original it is virtually impossible to go back to any other plectrum.
As I mentioned above in the Fender Celluloid section, the use of tortoise shell has been banned for a long time now. This has brought about many companies claiming they’ve found the best closest replacement for the outlawed material. The first plectrum company to ever get this right was RedBear. This is the closest feeling plectrum to the real deal.
A seriously complicated process is used to make a material such as this. It apparently but it has something to do with milk protein which I have no idea about. However I do know that these plectrums result in a very smooth and warm sound. What sets this plectrum apart from the rest is its 6-hole punch in the middle of the plectrum which allows for greater grip. These are just some of the reasons it makes our list of 10 best guitar picks ever.
9) Ernie Ball Standard
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.
(Buy A Tusk Plectrum Today)
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 picksl. It also showcases everything you need to know about this incredible plectrum from the mouth of the creator/owner of Graphtech.
Conclusion on the Top 10 Best Guitar Picks of All Time
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.