When it comes to modern guitar pick materials, the celluloid material was one of the first to be used as a synthetic material to create guitar plectrums. In this article I'll be discussing all the frequently asked questions surrounding celluloid plectrums as well as giving an in-depth explanation of the sound, feel, tone and overall characteristics of celluloid.

What Are Celluloid Guitar Picks?

Celluloid is a synthetic plastic that is made by using a combination of camphor as well as nitrocellulose. To be completely honest, I do not have the knowledge to explain these materials in detail. However what I can tell you is that celluloid as a material for guitar picks is cheap to produce and also very easy to manipulate and mold. Coloring celluloid is also easy which is why we find celluloid plectrums in so many different colors. Celluloid is also supposed to be strong material but when it comes to guitar picks I'd have to say that it is one of the least durable materials for picks. That being said, the celluloid picks changed rock n roll guitar playing for the good.

History Of Celluloid Guitar Picks

As I have already mentioned, this was one of the first synthetic materials to be used as a substitute for the illegal tortoiseshell. Celluloid material for guitar picks caught on exceptionally quickly as tortoiseshell became harder to acquire. It is also for this reason that a lot of celluloid guitar picks are made to look like tortoise shell picks from back in the day. This was a very popular material for plectrums and guitarists enjoyed them alot. However just like nylon suffered to the delrin material which is now probably the most popular plectrum material. That being said, celluloid picks remain very popular to this day and we can confirm this by the amount of famous guitarist that use/used celluloid such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray and David Gilmour.

How Do Celluloid Picks Sound?

multi color celluloid guitar picks

To my ear, celluloid is definitely on the brighter side when it comes to tone along with its sharp attack. This is very often the same characteristic given to describe Delrin guitar picks. However, these two materials are very different and will very often sound different to each other. In my opinion celluloid produces more of a "plastic" attack whereas delrin seems to produce a more natural attack. Celluloid plectrums have never really been known for sounding the best but rather were mainly known for their similar flexibility to tortoiseshell. I do believe that you can definitely achieve a softer and warmer tone with a celluloid pick simply by the way in which you strum or strike this string. I'd say the harder you strum, the brighter the tone becomes.

How Do Celluloid Picks Feel?

These picks can certainly be described as flexible. But in my opinion, I'd say celluloid is a little too flexible for my taste when it comes to the thinner gauges and a little too stiff for the heavier gauges. For example I find the light celluloid gauged guitar picks to be on the flappier side whilst the heavier gauges have little to no flex for my liking. It's important to remember that that is only personal preference. I've never been a fan of celluloid as a material for plectrums so it is no surprise that my review of how they sound and feel wouldn't be as positive as perhaps someone that is a fan. Just remember, celluloid has been used by some of the biggest guitarist on the world so it is definitely worthwhile giving them a try. You never know, they might be just what you're looking for. Whilst these are definitely flexible, I find that nylon guitar picks are more on the flexible side.

Downsides To Celluloid Plectrums?

triangle celluloid guitar picks

Celluloid tends to wear down quicker than most other plectrum materials out there. I also find that they have a tendency to break especially if you strike the guitar strings hard or pick at a specific area. Even the heavier gauges tend to wear and break. Whilst this is common in most guitar picks, I tend to find that celluloid picks need a lot more replacing. Whilst the celluloid picks are cheaper to buy, one should factor in that they break fairly regularly and replacing them should be taken into account.

What Shapes & Gages Can I Get Celluloid Plectrums?

When it comes to the choice of  gauges, celluloid guitar picks lack the variety that we're generally used from other plectrum materials. I am not sure what the reason for this is because celluloid is generally an easy material to produce and mold. You can expect to find celluloid picks in three gauges being; thin, medium and heavy. With regards to shapes, there are quite a lot to choose from. The most common celluloid pick shapes are:

  • Regular
  • Triangle
  • Rounded-Triangle
  • Teardrop

The Best Celluloid Guitar Picks

When it comes to buying the best celluloid picks, I always recommend going for a reputable brand. The reason is because there are a lot of very cheap celluloid picks on the market which are terrible quality. The reputable guitar pick manufacturers make much better celluloid guitar picks. Having said that, distinguishing celluloid picks between the pick manufacturers is very tough as they are all so similar. Despite this, I will review the best celluloid plectrums I've used in my time playing guitar.

1) Fender Celluloid Guitar Picks

Fender celluloid guitar picks

Fender Celluloid Guitar Picks

The picks by Fender are the most popular and widely used celluloid plectrum ever used. Whilst I don't believe they were the first company to produce celluloid picks, they certainly are the most well known. They come in three different gauges (thin, medium, heavy) and you have a choice of the  plectrum shapes I mentioned earlier. These picks have been used by some serious rockstars. Check out my list of the Top 10 best guitar picks to read more about the Fender celluloid plectrums.

2) Planet Waves (D'addario) Celluloid

planet waves d'addario celluloid guitar picks

D'Addario Celluloid Picks

It is very hard to distinguish these Planet Waves celluloid picks from the Fender's featured above. They are pretty much the same. However, the Planet Waves celluloid picks are only available in this regular shape whilst the Fender picks are available in a much wider variety of shapes. Planet Waves picks do however come in an Extra-heavy option which I'm not sure the Fender's have. I stand to be corrected as always.

3) Jim Dunlop Celluloid Picks

Jim Dunlop Celluloid guitar picks

Dunlop Celluloid Picks

No great list of plectrums would ever be complete without a Jim Dunlop guitar pick in it. The reason is because it is such a historical company when it comes to manufacturing guitar picks. Once again, it is very hard to distinguish the jim dunlop's from either the fender and Planet Waves celluloids. One thing I can definitely say about the Dunlop celluloid picks is that they are available in an insane variety of different colors.

4) D'andrea Celluloid Picks

D'andrea celluloid guitar picks

D'Andrea Celluloid Picks

D'andrea were one of the first guitar pick manufacturers in the world and I could be wrong but I think they might have been the first company to produce celluloid guitar picks. That makes this particular guitar pick an incredibly iconic piece of guitar playing history. I don't know much about D'andrea but from what I hear, they make fantastic guitar picks.

5) Boss Celluloid Picks

Boss Celluloid Picks

Boss, who are a company mostly known for their guitar pedals have recently come out with a range of celluloid picks. Boss stands for one thing and that is quality. When they release a product you can be sure that they have done so with proper research and development so that they ultimately end up with a great quality product. The same mentality has been adopted for their production of their celluloid picks but they are not very well known to the public at the moment. I am sure in time, these Boss guitar picks will grow in popularity. These particular guitar picks have been featured in my list of bass guitar picks as their heavier selection seem have gained quite a following amongst bass players.

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