Metal picks have been a topic of debate among guitarists for years. Some swear by them, while others insist that plastic picks are the way to go. The truth is that metal picks can offer a unique playing experience that plastic picks simply can’t match.
Understanding Guitar Picks Before delving into the pros and cons of metal picks, it’s important to understand what they are and how they work.
Guitar picks are small, flat pieces of material that are used to pluck the strings of a guitar. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, each of which can affect the sound and tone of the guitar.
Types of Guitar Picks There are two main types of guitar picks: plastic and metal. Plastic picks are by far the most common, and come in a wide range of thicknesses and shapes.
Metal picks, on the other hand, are much less common, and are typically made from materials like brass, copper, or stainless steel. While plastic picks are generally more versatile, metal picks can offer a unique playing experience that is well-suited to certain styles of music.
Key Takeaways on Are Metal Picks Good for Guitars
- Metal picks offer a unique playing experience that plastic picks can’t match.
- There are two main types of guitar picks: plastic and metal.
- While plastic picks are more versatile, metal picks can be well-suited to certain styles of music.
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Understanding Guitar Picks
Guitar picks, also known as plectrums, are small, flat tools that are used to pluck or strum the strings of a guitar. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials, each with their own unique characteristics and advantages.
Shape and Size
The shape and size of a guitar pick can greatly affect its playability and sound. Picks come in a range of shapes, including teardrop, triangle, and jazz. The size of a pick can also vary, with smaller picks being more suitable for intricate playing, and larger picks providing a fuller sound.
The material of a guitar pick can also have a significant impact on its tone and durability. Common materials include plastic, nylon, and celluloid. Metal picks, such as those made of brass or copper, are also available, but are less common due to their harder and more abrasive nature.
Compatibility with Guitars
When choosing a guitar pick, it is important to consider the type of guitar being played. Picks that are too thick or heavy may not be suitable for acoustic guitars, while picks that are too thin may not provide enough volume on electric guitars.
Types of Guitar Picks
Guitar picks come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Each type of pick has its own unique sound and feel. Here are some of the most popular types of guitar picks:
1. Plastic Picks
Plastic picks are the most common type of guitar pick. They are affordable, lightweight, and come in a variety of thicknesses and sizes.
Plastic picks are ideal for beginners because they are easy to hold and produce a bright, crisp sound. They are also a good choice for strumming chords and playing rhythm guitar.
2. Metal Picks
Metal picks are less common than plastic picks, but they offer a unique sound and feel. They are made from materials like brass, copper, and stainless steel.
Metal picks produce a bright, metallic sound that is ideal for playing lead guitar and soloing. They are also more durable than plastic picks and can last a long time with proper care.
3. Nylon Picks
Nylon picks are made from a flexible, durable material that is ideal for playing acoustic guitar. They produce a warm, mellow sound that is perfect for strumming chords and playing fingerstyle. Nylon picks are also great for beginners because they are easy to hold and produce a consistent sound.
4. Tortex Picks
Tortex picks are made from a unique material that is designed to mimic the sound and feel of tortoiseshell. They are available in a variety of thicknesses and sizes and produce a warm, mellow sound that is ideal for playing rhythm guitar.
Tortex picks are also more durable than traditional tortoiseshell picks and can last a long time with proper care.
5. Bone Picks
Bone picks are a traditional choice for playing acoustic guitar. They are made from actual bone and produce a warm, natural sound that is perfect for playing fingerstyle. Bone picks are also more durable than plastic picks and can last a long time with proper care.
6. Acrylic Picks
Acrylic picks are a newer type of guitar pick that is gaining popularity. They are made from a clear, durable material that produces a bright, crisp sound. Acrylic picks are ideal for playing lead guitar and soloing, but they can also be used for strumming chords and playing rhythm guitar.
Metal Picks Vs Plastic Picks
When it comes to guitar picks, there are two main materials to choose from: metal and plastic. Each material has its own unique characteristics that can affect the sound and feel of playing the guitar.
Metal picks are often favored by experienced guitar players who want more control and precision when playing. They are typically more durable than plastic picks and metal picks can last longer. Metal picks are also known for their stiffness, which can produce a brighter and more defined sound.
However, metal picks can be less flexible than plastic picks, which can make them more difficult to use for beginners. They may also be harder to grip, especially if the player’s fingers get sweaty during a performance.
Plastic picks are a popular choice for beginners and experienced players alike. They are more flexible than metal picks, which can make them easier to use for beginners who are still developing their technique.
Plastic picks also tend to have a softer feel, which can produce a warmer and smoother sound.
However, plastic picks may not be as durable as metal picks and may need to be replaced more frequently. They may also be less precise than metal picks, which can make it harder to achieve certain techniques and styles of playing.
Effect on Sound and Tone
Metal picks can have a noticeable effect on the sound and tone of a guitar. The type of metal used, the thickness of the pick, and the playing style can all contribute to the resulting sound.
When using a metal pick, the sound produced by the guitar can be brighter and more aggressive compared to a plastic pick. This is because metal picks tend to have a sharper attack and produce more harmonics.
The tone of the guitar can also be affected by the metal pick. Thicker metal picks can produce a fuller and warmer tone, while thinner metal picks can produce a brighter and more focused tone.
When playing an electric guitar with a metal pick, the sound can be further shaped by the use of effects pedals and amplifiers. Metal picks can produce a more pronounced distortion effect when used with overdrive or distortion pedals.
When playing an acoustic guitar with a metal pick, the sound can be more percussive and have a sharper attack compared to a plastic pick. However, the use of a metal pick can also cause more wear and tear on the strings and the guitar itself.
Metal Picks and Various Music Genres
Metal picks are a popular choice for guitarists across various music genres. They offer a unique sound and feel compared to traditional picks made of materials like plastic or nylon.
In heavy metal music, metal picks are often used for their ability to produce a sharp and aggressive sound. The thickness of the pick can also affect the tone and attack of the guitar, allowing for more control over the sound.
In the genre of djent, metal picks are a common choice due to the emphasis on heavy, distorted guitar tones. The sharp attack and precise control offered by metal picks can help achieve the desired sound.
Punk music also often utilizes metal picks for their durability and ability to produce a bright and cutting sound. The fast-paced nature of punk music requires a pick that can keep up with the speed and intensity of the music.
In black metal and death metal, metal picks are favored for their ability to produce a dark and aggressive sound. The thickness of the pick can also impact the overall tone and sustain of the guitar.
Power metal often utilizes metal picks for their ability to produce a bright and clear sound, allowing for intricate and melodic guitar work to shine through.
Finally, in the genre of doom/stoner metal, metal picks can help achieve the desired heavy and sludgy sound. The weight and thickness of the pick can impact the overall feel and tone of the guitar.
Considerations for Guitar Type
When considering whether metal picks are good for guitars, the type of guitar being used is an important factor to consider. Electric and acoustic guitars have different characteristics that can affect how well they work with metal picks.
Electric guitars are generally more suited to being played with metal picks than acoustic guitars. This is because electric guitars have a thinner body and lighter strings, which makes them more responsive to the attack of a metal pick.
Additionally, the pickups on an electric guitar are designed to pick up the sound of the strings more accurately, which means that the use of a metal pick can help to produce a brighter, more defined sound.
However, it is important to note that some electric guitar players may prefer to use softer picks, such as nylon or celluloid, depending on their personal playing style and the type of music they are playing.
Acoustic guitars are generally more sensitive to the type of pick being used. The body of an acoustic guitar is larger and the strings are thicker, which means that the use of a metal pick can produce a harsh, metallic sound.
For this reason, many acoustic guitar players prefer to use softer picks, such as those made from nylon or tortoiseshell.
That being said, some acoustic guitar players do use metal picks, particularly those who play in a style that requires a lot of picking and strumming. In these cases, it is important to choose a metal pick that is relatively thin and flexible, in order to minimize the harshness of the sound.
Ultimately, the choice of pick will depend on the individual player’s preferences and playing style, as well as the type of guitar they are using. It is important to experiment with different types of picks in order to find the one that works best for your particular situation.
Specifics of Metal Picks
Metal picks are a popular choice among guitarists, particularly those who play electric guitar. They offer a unique tone and feel that can be difficult to replicate with other materials. Here are some specifics to consider when using metal picks:
Metal picks are typically made from stainless steel, which is a durable and corrosion-resistant material. Other metals, such as brass and copper, are also used, but they are less common.
2. Weight and Thickness
Metal picks are typically heavier and thicker than their plastic counterparts. This can take some getting used to, but it can also provide a more solid and precise attack.
Metal picks can be polished to a high shine or given a matte finish. The finish can affect the tone and feel of the pick, so it’s worth experimenting with different options.
4. Shape and Size
Metal picks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including traditional teardrop shapes and more angular designs. The size and shape can affect the way the pick feels in the hand and the way it strikes the strings.
5. Tip Shape
Metal picks can have a rounded or pointed tip. Rounded tips are more common and can provide a smoother attack, while pointed tips can be more precise.
Metal picks are available in a range of gauges, from thin to thick. Thicker picks can provide a more powerful attack, while thinner picks can be more flexible and responsive.
7. Tip/Edge Type
The tip or edge of a metal pick can be shaped in different ways, such as a beveled edge or a sharp point. This can affect the way the pick interacts with the strings and the type of attack it provides.
Potential Harm to Strings and Guitars
Metal picks are often used by guitarists for their durability and bright sound. However, the use of metal picks can potentially harm both the guitar strings and the guitar itself.
Metal picks are made of harder materials than plastic or nylon picks, which can cause more wear and tear on guitar strings. Over time, this can lead to a loss of tone and intonation, and may even cause the strings to break more easily.
Additionally, metal picks can leave scratches on the surface of the guitar, which can be unsightly and potentially reduce the resale value of the instrument.
Furthermore, the use of metal picks can put more stress on the guitar’s neck and body, potentially leading to damage over time. This is especially true for guitars with a softer wood construction, such as acoustic guitars.
The heavier weight of metal picks can cause more tension on the strings and put more strain on the guitar’s structure.
While metal picks can provide a unique sound and durability, it is important for guitarists to be aware of the potential harm they can cause to their strings and guitars. It is recommended to use metal picks sparingly and to regularly inspect the guitar for any signs of damage.
Famous Guitarists and Their Pick Choices
Many famous guitarists have their own unique pick preferences. Some prefer metal picks, while others prefer picks made of other materials. Here are a few examples:
- Brian May: The legendary guitarist from Queen is known for using a British sixpence coin as his pick. The coin’s thickness and weight give him the perfect amount of control and power.
- Eric Johnson: This Grammy-winning guitarist is known for using a Jazz III pick made by Dunlop. The pick’s small size and sharp point allow him to play with precision and speed.
- Eddie Van Halen: The late guitarist from Van Halen was known for using a custom-made pick made of nylon. The pick’s flexibility allowed him to play with ease and speed.
- Steve Vai: This virtuoso guitarist is known for using a pick made by Ibanez. The pick’s unique shape and material give him the perfect balance of attack and control.
- John Petrucci: The guitarist from Dream Theater is known for using a pick made by Dunlop. The pick’s thickness and material allow him to play with power and precision.
As you can see, each guitarist has their own unique pick preference based on their playing style and personal preference. While some prefer metal picks, others prefer picks made of other materials. Ultimately, the choice of pick comes down to what feels best for the individual player.
Pros and Cons of Using Metal Picks
Metal picks are a popular choice among guitarists due to their durability and unique sound. However, there are also some downsides to using metal picks that musicians should consider before making a purchase. In this section, we will explore the pros and cons of using metal picks.
- Longevity: Metal picks are known for their durability and can last for years without showing signs of wear and tear. This makes them a great investment for musicians who play regularly and want to avoid constantly replacing their picks.
- Tone: Metal picks produce a bright and crisp sound that is well-suited for genres such as metal, rock, and punk. They can also add a unique edge to acoustic guitar playing.
- Playstyle: Metal picks are ideal for fast and aggressive playing styles, as they allow for precise and controlled picking. They are also great for rhythm playing, as they produce a consistent sound.
- Taste: Some guitarists find that metal picks have a metallic taste that can be unpleasant. This may not be an issue for everyone, but it is something to consider before making a purchase.
- Opinion: The sound of metal picks is a matter of personal preference, and not everyone may enjoy the bright and crisp tone that they produce. It is important to try out different picks and find the one that works best for your playing style and musical tastes.
- Rhythm Playing: While metal picks are great for rhythm playing in some cases, they can also be too harsh and produce an unwanted sound. It is important to experiment with different types of picks and find the one that works best for your playing style.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do metal guitar picks damage strings?
Metal guitar picks are generally safe to use on guitar strings. However, it is important to note that metal picks are harder and denser than plastic picks, which means they can cause more wear and tear on strings over time.
It is recommended to use a lighter touch when playing with metal picks to avoid damaging the strings.
Are metal guitar picks better than plastic?
The choice between metal and plastic guitar picks is a matter of personal preference. Metal picks tend to be more durable and offer a brighter, more articulate tone.
Plastic picks are generally more flexible and offer a warmer, smoother tone. It ultimately comes down to the sound and feel that the player prefers.
What are the benefits of using metal guitar picks?
Metal guitar picks offer several benefits over plastic picks. They are more durable and long-lasting, which means they do not need to be replaced as often. They also offer a brighter, more articulate tone that can cut through a mix.
Additionally, metal picks can be used for a variety of playing styles, from aggressive strumming to delicate fingerpicking.
Can metal guitar picks affect tone?
Yes, metal guitar picks can affect tone. Metal picks tend to produce a brighter, more articulate tone compared to plastic picks. This is due to the harder and denser material of metal picks.
However, the tone produced by a pick is also influenced by the guitar, strings, and amplifier being used.
How long do metal guitar picks last compared to plastic?
Metal guitar picks are more durable than plastic picks and can last much longer. While plastic picks may need to be replaced after a few uses, metal picks can last for months or even years with regular use.
Who are some famous guitarists that use metal picks?
Many famous guitarists use metal picks, including Eric Johnson, John Petrucci, and Paul Gilbert. Metal picks are popular among guitarists who want a brighter, more articulate tone and need a pick that can withstand aggressive playing styles.
My name is Howard Matthews and I have been playing the guitar since I was knee-high. My parents like to joke that I was pulling the strings even before I was born. In fact, one of my earliest memories is sitting on the couch with my dad’s guitar, wreaking havoc on the chords.
Now, 40 years later, I can attest that I play them much better than I did back then. I have followed in the footsteps of both my parents – much to their delight – and have been the main guitarist in my band for the best part of three decades.
Music has always been my passion, and until recently my life has been so consumed with it that I haven’t had a moment to have a breath (and I wouldn’t have it any other way)!