How Do I Choose A Thumb Pick?

Last Updated on March 30, 2024 by Justin

I decided a few months ago to challenge myself and my guitar skills by introducing a thumb pick into the mix. I started out playing guitar as a finger picker and then I moved on to a regular guitar pick.

However, I had never found the need or the desire to try using a thumb pick. Naturally, I found myself with a lot of questions surrounding the thumb pick before I started.

So, I decided to answer a few of these frequently asked questions about thumb picks. Furthermore, I will be reviewing and discussing some of the best thumb picks for a guitar that I have used.

What Are Thumb Picks?

Thumb picks attach around your thumb which relieves your index finger of having to hold onto the pick (like you normally would have to use a regular pick). This enables the guitar player to be able to play multiple strings at one time.

The Benefits of Thumb Picks?

The loudness and clear sound of the strings is enhanced by using a thumb pick. Especially the bass notes. You also don’t have to worry about dropping your pick as it is attached to your thumb. You can get different gauges and sizes so finding the right thumb pick for you will be a breeze.

The use of a thumb pick also eliminates the need to grow one’s fingernails. Many classical guitar players will grow their fingernails and use them as picks however using a thumb pick means you don’t have to.

What Are Thumb Picks Used For?

Thumb picks are mainly used by acoustic guitar players to enhance the sound and clarity of the guitar strings as well as improve the guitar players’ ability to fingerpick by freeing up other fingers.

Thumb picks are especially popular among slide players as well as banjo players

The Best Thumb Picks for Guitar

Below is my review of thumb picks I deem to be worth checking out based on my real-life experience.

1) Dunlop Ultex Thumb Pick

The best thumb picks that I used and that suited my guitar-playing style & sound was the Jim Dunlop Ultex pick. Aesthetically, this thumb pick looks exactly like the Dunlop plastic one further down below.

However, what makes it different is the Ultex material which is exceptionally durable but also produces the clearest and sharpest tone.

These are available in two sizes medium and large. If you have tiny thumbs then I suggest looking at the Ernie Ball thumb picks below. The Dunlop Ultex thumb picks are also only available in one heavy gauge.

2) Black Mountain Thumb Picks

It is not very often that innovation comes around that really amazes me. But, the thumb picks by Black Mountain are absolutely incredible. I have only recently discovered these but I’ve taken to them very nicely.

Black Mountain Standard Light (regular or tight tension)
Black Mountain Standard Medium (regular or tight tension)
Black Mountain Standard Heavy (regular or tight tension)
Black Mountain Jazz Tip (regular or tight tension)

What makes the Black Mountain thumb picks unique is their built-in Spring-loaded system that instantly secures itself to your thumb.

Not only does this feature make them super comfortable, but it also improves accuracy and speed.

The range of Black Mountain thumb picks come in multiple gauges as well as standard or Jazz shapes. A cool feature is that you can choose between two different spring tensions.

These include “comfortable” sporing tension or “Extra-Tight” spring tension. This choice will determine how much or how little the pick will move in your fingers. The more tension, the less movement.

Lastly, and good news for those left-handed guitarists. Black Mountain produces thumb picks in for both left-handed and right-handed players.

3) Herco Thumb Picks

I was reluctant to add the Herco thumb picks to this list. The reason for this is that I was not sure if it could definitely be classified as a thumb pick. However, after some deliberation, I decided that due to the fact that it attaches to your thumb with a wrap-around design, it could certainly be considered a thumb pick.

Herco Light Thumb Picks
Herco Medium Thumb Picks
Herco Heavy Thumb Picks
Herco Extra Heavy Thumb Picks

What separates the Herco thumb pick from the rest is that it combines the traditional thumb pick with a flat pick. So, essentially you have a regular guitar pick that can be attached and wrapped around your thumb.

This is exceptionally handy as it offers the best of both worlds. The Herco thumb picks are available in a variety of colors, sizes, and gauges. These Herco thumb picks are made from nylon.

4) Fred Kelly Thumb Picks

Fred Kelly produces some of the most innovative and greatest thumb picks on the market. I’d like to go into detail about these however I already have a comprehensive article on these as well as other thumb picks by Fred kelly.

Fred Kelly Bumblebee Jazz: L / M / H / XH
Fred Kelly Bumblebee Teardrop: L / M / H / XH
Fred Kelly Delrin Slick Pick (L/M/H)
Fred Kelly Poly Slick Pick (L/M/H)
Fred Kelly Speed Pick

If thumb picking is something you want to take seriously, check out the full Fred Kelly thumb pick review here.

5) Golden Gate Ivoroid Thumb Picks

I’d have to say that the Golden Gate thumb picks were definitely the most comfortable to wear out of all the thumb picks that I tried. Not only are they comfortable but they also felt the best to me when the strings were struck.

The tone that comes from these is quite interesting and I’d say is definitely on the mellow side of things. They’re made from Ivoroid and are available in small, medium, and large sizes.

6) Tusq Thumbpicks By GraphTech

The Tusq thumb picks are definitely one of the more unique thumb picks on the market. In my ‘best guitar picks” review, I discuss the Standard graph tech picks in more detail. the Tusq thumb picks are made from the exact same material. Which is what Graphtech call, “Made Made Ivory”. This material produces a full tone with rich harmonics.

Graphtech Tusq Bright Tone
Graphtech Tusq Warm Tone
Graphtech Tusq Deep Tone

Having said that, Graphtech has taken tone options to a whole new level. By introducing eh choice of 3 different-sounding Tusq thumb picks.

The tonal options available for the Tiusq thumb pick are:

  1. Bright
  2. Warm
  3. Deep

Along with an option of 2 gauges which include

  • 0.88mm
  • 1.40mm

The Tusq thumbtacks are made from the highest quality materials and in my opinion, is a high-performance thumb pick. If tonality options are something important to you, then the Tusq thumbtacks by Graphtech are a great option.

7) Jim Dunlop Plastic Thumb Picks

The plastic thumb picks by  Jim Dunlop are yet another popular choice for thumb pickers around the world. They’re known for their simplicity and neutral sound.

If you are a beginner guitarist looking to get into thumb picks then I’d recommend going for this Dunlop plastic one as you simply can’t go wrong. Other than that, not much more can be said about these Dunlops.

8) National Thumb Picks

National thumb picks have been around for a very long time and are definitely considered to be a true classic when it comes to thumb picks. They have been designed to fit and work ergonomically and you can definitely feel how comfortable they are when you put one on.

You’re instantly able to see why these Nationals are such a classic thumb-pick. You can get them in black, white, or tortoiseshell as well as small, medium, and large. The durability of the National finger picks is questionable, however.

Nowadays, National is owned by the D’addario company. To read more, check out my review of D’addario guitar picks.

9) Delrin Thumb Picks

Delrin as a guitar pick material is the most popular around the world so I had to add a Delrin thumb pick to this list as it would otherwise not be complete.

Other than the fact that these are made out of Delrin, there is not much that separates these from other thumb picks. I, however, tend to like using these on my electric guitar. You can get these in small, medium, and large sizes.

10) Ernie Ball Thumb Picks

Thumb Picks by Ernie Ball is probably the most widely used and popular among guitarists. They’re available in an assortment of colors including yellow, blue, red, and white.

You have the choice of different sizes including small, medium, and large. However, these sizes refer to the wrap-around of the thumb pick.

The only downside to the Ernie Ball thumb picks is that they can only be purchased in the medium gauge. These are made from celluloid material.

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