Guitar Plectrums Part 3: Shapes and Bevels

by Alec Plowman, May 16, 2018 . 4 min read

Guitar Plectrums Part 3: Shapes and Bevels

Welcome back to Roadie’s guitar plectrums series! If picking the right pick has you lost in a world of confusion, then this is the series for you!

We’ve covered plectrum gauges, we’ve covered plectrum materials, and by now you’re probably starting to get a feel for which plectrums are right for your sound.

But, we’ve got one important category to get through before you’re fully familiar with the ins-and-outs of guitar picks – and that’s plectrum shapes.

The humble pick comes in all shapes and sizes, and those variables have all kinds of implications for your playing.

So, before you reach for that bag of cheap guitar picks on the guitar store counter, before you fumble around with the freebie plectrums that came with your cheap acoustic guitar or electric guitar starter kit, heed the words of this guide.

Because, whether you’ve just started guitar classes and had some basic guitar lessons or you’re a seasoned pro playing live across the country, finding the right plectrum is key to your playing.

Understanding tips and bevels:

You’ve probably heard the terms “tip” and “bevel” used in relation to plectrums before, but perhaps haven’t understood what they mean.

Put simply, the tip is the pointy bit on the end of your plectrum, while the bevel refers to the sloping edges around that tip.

That’s all great, we hear you say, but what does that man from a guitar playing perspective? Well, the sharper the tip, the faster you’ll be able to play. Sharper picks tend to be better for fast lead lines – especially when it comes to things like tremolo picking, as well as chuggy rhythm parts. Rounded edges, meanwhile, are going to produce mellower sounds, and are generally preferred by acoustic strummers.

Likewise, the bevel affects the plectrum’s attack on the guitar string. That more contoured that edge, the lesser the degree to which the pick grips the string. A good bevel is preferred by most players, simply because it means that the pick glides off the string, making playing easier.

Plectrum shapes:

Picks come in many shapes and sizes, but here’s a list of the usual suspects you’ll find at your local guitar store and what they’re good for:

Standard:

This heart shaped plectrum is pretty ubiquitous, and sometimes referred to as the 351 after its manufacturer number. It’s a good all-rounder, and not a bad place to start if you’re picking your first pick.

Standard Shape, Sharp Tip:

As the name suggests, more or less the same as a standard pick, but with a larger, pointed tip. Dunlop’s Ultex Sharp and Tortex TIII are popular examples. This one offers a bridge between the ease of use of a standard plectrum and the increased control you get with a jazz pick. Speaking of which…

Jazz III:

Smaller than the standard pick, the Jazz III, as the name suggests, initially found popularity with jazz players. But, it’s since become popular in many genres because it allows for increased speed and precision. Because of its smaller shape, the Jazz III isn’t as easy to hold as the standard pick, so is perhaps better suited to advanced players.

Pointy pick:

The clue’s in the name with this one. Small, like a Jazz III, its pointy tip is designed for precision playing. This one’s size makes it awkward, and it falls down when it comes to strumming. As a result, it’s something of a niche choice.

Teardrop:

Not dissimilar to the standard pick, the teardrop has a rounder shape and a less pronounced tip. It’s good for softer, mellow strumming, but not for screaming lead lines.

Triangular pick:

Popular with bluegrass players for playing lots of chords and fast lead lines, this one comes in a large size that is hard to use for regular playing. But, it does have three identical edges, meaning that when one wears out, you can switch to another.

Shark Fin:

Finally, we come onto the shark fin, so called because it looks like a shark fin (imagine that!). This one is also bit of an acquired taste. At the bottom is a rounded edge, allowing for normal playing, while there is a wavy line on one side, designed for effects and noises such as pick scraping. One for the avant-gardists out there!



Get our free Alternate Tunings Guide!
Submit

Check out some other similar articles

Take advantage of our biggest backer-exclusive discounts and get your hands on this next-generation automatic tuner. Back the Kickstarter campaign today and be the first to receive the Roadie 3.

Tuning is crucial. And it turns out, no one is more obsessed with tuning than a guitarist. Guitar players check their tuning excessively and for good reason. If a single string is out of tune, it can completely ruin a song (as well as your reputation).

Rodrigo Sanchez
Aug 4, 2020 . 4 min read

Bob Dylan has been a staple of music and culture for over 50 years. He’s considered by many one of the greatest songwriters to ever live.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 30, 2020 . 4 min read

“Stolen Dance” is a song by German pop duo Milky Chance. It was released in 2012 and became a viral hit on YouTube (it presently has well over half a billion streams).

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 20, 2020 . 3 min read

Some guitarists tend to focus solely on improving their left hand. The dirty little secret is that the left hand can only be as good as the right hand allows. Good hand synchronization is imperative for any guitarist.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 17, 2020 . 3 min read

Released in February of 1970, “Fire and Rain” has been a staple of fine songwriting for 50 years.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 15, 2020 . 5 min read

Guitarists are a dime a dozen. Unique guitarists are not. And then there are those who stand in the rarified air of having their unique guitar playing styles widely imitated.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 14, 2020 . 4 min read

Is it really over?! Well, not quite! Roadie 3 is now available on Indiegogo with exclusive perks for a limited time!

For most of you, Roadie 3’s launch on Kickstarter on May 20, 2020, is not new news. 

Hussein El Annan
Jul 7, 2020 . 3 min read

As guitar players, practicing is the most important tool we have to get better. I hate to break it to you, but there is no way around this one.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 6, 2020 . 6 min read

There are two kinds of bass players: the born ones and converted ones. The latter are the guys who start off on guitar and transition to bass later. Born players, on the other hand, start playing bass without any previous music experience or knowledge.

Frederik Nielsen
Jul 4, 2020 . 4 min read

Some say that few things match the gift of giving. Sharing and giving usually does good to all parties involved. People love presents, and guitar players are no exception. So to help make the right impression, here are the top ten gifts your guitar-player friend will love.

Rodrigo Sanchez
Jul 3, 2020 . 6 min read

Earlier this month, we witnessed a historical mass day of observation – Blackout Tuesday. Many called it the largest modern showing of solidarity in the fight against racism that the Black Lives Matter organization has ever seen.

Donna Maurer
Jun 23, 2020 . 3 min read

John Lennon was one of the most beloved songwriters of his generation and was taken from us way too soon. Lennon is well-remembered to this day, not only as a musician but as an activist and a counter-culture icon.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 19, 2020 . 3 min read

Practice makes perfect, but there’s always room for improvement. If you want to become a master, then you need some effective habits to improve your guitar skills.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 16, 2020 . 3 min read

Released in 2013, Counting Stars by OneRepublic is one of the most successful singles produced by the band. Due to its simple chord progression, the song can be played by both experienced and inexperienced Ukulele players.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 12, 2020 . 3 min read

Although the lockdown is slowly easing up in many parts of the world, we’re still not at the stage where we can all jump around and frolic in the wild. So how will you spend the last months and weeks of the quarantine?

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 9, 2020 . 3 min read

We’ve previously covered 5 of Today’s Best Fingerstyle Guitarists so you could find some inspiration among the greats. Now it’s time to look at some popular fingerstyle guitar songs that you can try out at home.

Frederik Nielsen
Jun 3, 2020 . 3 min read

Did you see that? The start of our campaign was explosive! In under 10 minutes, we reached 100% of our funding goal and so far raised over $290K in the first 14 days alone! 

Tamara Habchi
Jun 3, 2020 . 2 min read

Although many parents have found the iPad to be a good substitute for parenting, there are those who believe that DIY crafts make more balanced human beings in the long run.

Tamara Habchi
May 28, 2020 . 4 min read

Roadie 3 has finally launched on Kickstarter in the most explosive way possible!

Tamara Habchi
May 21, 2020 . 2 min read

‘’Let It Be’’ was the last single released by The Beatles while Paul McCartney was still in the band. Currently, the song is part of the Great American Songbook.

Frederik Nielsen
May 12, 2020 . 3 min read
We'll be bringing you recommended tabs and plenty of interesting quotes from guitar legends along the way!