Stone Guitar Picks

A gemstone guitar pick may seem like a luxury, but tonally stone guitar picks are just as different as nylon and metal picks. Typically semi-precious stones are not exorbitantly priced, compared to more valuable jewels, but they will cost around thirty to fifty times as much as the standard nylon or plastic guitar picks. So is the price worth it?

Stone Guitar Pick

Figure 1 – Agate Stone Plectrum

To many guitarists, the answer is a resounding yes! Not only are they longer-lasting, easy gripping, and better sounding; they are also very appealing items to own.

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Guitar Picks

Why A Pick?

A guitar pick, or plectrum is used to pluck, or strum guitar strings; to improve sound, allow faster strumming, and reduce injury on fingers. You can just use your fingers, especially for picking, but a pick gives far more bite to notes, and hurts a lot less. There are many types of guitar picks to choose from: different materials, shapes, as well as sizes and colors. Some guitar picks are even used for special purposes, such as a double-sided pick for “double plucking.” This article explores some of the diffent types.

Different types of Guitar Pick

Guitar picks are commonly made out of plastic, but also wood, bone, amber, rubber, felt, tortoiseshell, stone, metals, and even gemstones. Each of the materials has it’s own unique sound, but also properties such as ease of grip, price, and durability. There is no one type to suit all players – playing style, and desired tone are important when choosing. For instance, metal has a very distinct bright sound when plucked against a guitar string and makes for great piercing solos – but offers little grip. It can also damage a guitars finish if played too aggressively. Wood picks are cheap, with great grip, nice attack, and a full woody sound – great for jazz. Actually woods tonal qualities can vary hugely from species to species, and as they are so cheap, buying a selection of different types is quite affordable. Tortoiseshell was historically one of the best materials in terms of grip and tone, although an international ban on tortoise shell (rightly so) led to the creation of Tortex picks, which are a pretty good all round replacement. Leather picks offer a rather mellow muted sound great for strumming chords, but too flexible when playing individual notes.

Choosing your most suited material is a matter of trying them all out, and deciding on which sound and grip works for your playing style – whether it be metal, blues, or jazz. Many players have a selection of picks, using different ones at different times. If all else fails, weird guitar picks aren’t unheard of – from bone, to an Allen wrench – just about anything can become a useable plectrum!

Fender Guitar Pick A thumb guitar pick.A triangle guitar pick.

Figure 1 – Traditional picks, a thumb pick, and a triangle pick example

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Weird Guitar Picks

Some of the more odd picks in the guitar world come from exotic locations such as Japan or Arabian locations. Instead of the traditional three-sided, plastic, hand-held pick that most of the world is accustomed to, some simpler picks are fashioned out of bone, horn, and other natural materials. Others are more modern- from an Allen wrench to a loose piece of change.

The oud is a musical instrument from the Middle-East. Interestingly, this instrument was played with an eagle feather. Modern times have led oud players to find an alternative plectrum to use, as eagle feathers are becoming increasingly rare. Instead, the risha was invented. The risha is an elongated piece of bone or horn that has soaked in oil to make it softer. Plastic rishas are also available for beginners, and more crude forms of rishas can even be fashioned out of a plastic bottle.

Risha Pick

Figure 1 – Imagine playing your guitar with a risha stick!

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Tortex Picks

Tortex is a type of plastic manufactured by the successful company named Dunlop. Jim Dunlop created the plastic known as Tortex to replace tortoiseshell guitar picks- since an international ban on tortoiseshell in the 1970’s restricted the sale of one of the best guitar pick materials used around the world.

Dunlop Tortex Picks

Figure 1 – Standard Dunlop Tortex Picks

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