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Does the guitar pick really make that much of a sound difference?


It can if you know how to chase after certain tones the right way.

There are certain things you can do with electric guitar that will make a noticeable change in the sound. One very cheap and effective way to do this is changing your pick - and sometimes changing how you hold it.

One of the best examples of this is how guitarist The Edge from U2 gets that super-plucky sound in the song Where The Streets Have No Name. Yes, it's a Stratocaster you hear. Yes, there is obviously a delay effect in use. But even if you have both of those, the sound just isn't there. Then when you dig deeper you find The Edge used Herdim guitar picks, so you get those. However, you still can't get the sound.

So what's the secret? Flip the pick around so the textured side is hitting the string on each string pluck. Now you've got the sound. What you needed all along was the introduction of pick scrape.

Do you need Herdim picks to achieve the same result? No. All you really need is a nylon pick that is textured on top (the "grippy" side), and there are a bunch of those to choose from.

Material and texture counts more than thickness

Thickness of a pick in my experience doesn't change the sound of an electric guitar all that much. Whether I'm playing a 0.60mm or 1.0mm or anywhere in between, I still sound the same after my picking hand makes the adjustment to whatever pick thickness I'm using.

Where pick edges are concerned, that really doesn't count for all that much either. Round tip, pointed tip, flat edged, rolled edged, doesn't really matter. Again, my picking hand will adjust and I still sound the same.

When the material and texture changes however, that's when I can hear tonal differences.

If I have a Dunlop Tortex in the hand, the end result is less treble response and a pronounced pick scrape. Good for overdriven rock tones.

If I have a Fender California Clear in the hand, the end result is greater treble response, greater "clack" and no pick scrape. Good for surf rock and clean tones.

The Tortex is textured and made of delrin (polyoxymethylene) material. The Calfornia Clear doesn't have any noticeable texture and is made from some type of thermoplastic (probably polyetherimide).

I hear a pronounced difference between the Fender and the Dunlop, and it's because the pick materials and textures are different.

What about shape?

I've tried different pick shapes and the only one that has ever agreed with me is 351, which is the shape most picks use. Other shapes be it 355 large triangle, 346 rounded triangle, "teardrop" 358 shape, Dunlop's jazz pick and so on have never worked for me.

I will try nylon at some point

Some guitarists favor nylon and play nothing else. Herco (a Dunlop brand) is supposed to be quite good but I've never tried them. Not yet, anyway.

Nylon was a really popular pick material in the early days of electric guitars because it had already been well established by the time the '60s rolled around. The famous Herco pick is known as shape #25, which is best described as a slightly sharper 351 shape with rounded edges.

Something I wish Dunlop would do is make a Herco sampler pack because I don't know whether I'd prefer the "Holy Grail", Flex 50, Flex 75 or Vintage '66 Heavy, Light or Extra Light. Alas, Dunlop doesn't have a Herco sampler, so I'll just have to spend the cash on each type at some point to see which I like best.

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