Guitar Plectrums Part 1: Why Pick Gauge Matters

by Alec Plowman, May 2, 2018 . 4 min read

Guitar Plectrums Part 1: Why Pick Gauge Matters

In my experience, the beginner guitarists who stay the course are often those who take a lot of care when buying their first guitar.

They don’t just pick up a cheap acoustic guitar from the mall or the first used electric guitar they find at a yard sale: they do their research and make sure they find the guitar gear that will help, rather than hinder their playing journey.

But even the most diligent would-be guitar heroes have a tendency to overlook a vital piece of guitar playing equipment.

They’ll get a great guitar, amp, a quality lead and a reliable tuner (easy-to-use in rehearsal and onstage, Roadie 2 is a great option for beginner and experienced guitarists alike).

BUT, when it comes to buying a guitar plectrum, they’ll spring for any old bag of cheap guitar picks on the guitar store counter.

Big mistake…

Why? Because your playing lives and dies by your plectrum, and having the wrong kind of plectrum for your playing style will put a spanner in the works when it comes to learning the guitar.

Fear not! Roadie is here to help you pick the plectrum (in both senses of that phrase) that will aid you on your guitar-playing journey.  And in today’s article, we’re talking all about thickness.

Gauging your gauge:

You’ve probably noticed that plectrums have gauges printed on them in millimeters. Those gauges have a huge impact on the kind of sound you’ll get out of them. Here are the three main types.

1- Light Gauge Plectrums (.40mm to .60mm)

 These plectrums are very bendy and good for acoustic strumming, producing a nice, bright sound. They’re typically the choice of beginner guitarists because they offer little resistance compared to heavier pick, which makes strumming easier.

If you’re an acoustic singer-songwriter type, light gauge plectrums are your friends.

2- Medium Gauge Plectrums (.60mm to .80mm)

Light gauge plectrums are great for gentle strumming, but if it’s rocking rhythm or leads that you’re after, they’re not going to deliver the goods for two main reasons. First reason is because they don’t provide much in the bass or midrange department when it comes to tone. Second reason is that they lack heft when it comes to making your single note leads stand out. As Premier Guitar notes, .60mm to .80mm are the most popular guitar plectrums out there because:

“…they’re the perfect combination of stiffness and flexibility for rock rhythm work and full-bodied acoustic accompaniment (especially in solo situations), and they’ve got enough heft to produce powerful tones on leads and hook figures as well.“

 If you’re an aspiring Jimmy Page or Angus Young, a medium gauge plectrum is the way to go.

3- Heavy Gauge Plectrums (.80mm to 3mm)

 As obvious as it sounds to say it, a heavier plectrum is key to a heavier sound. Crunchy rhythms, dynamic solos and meaty sounding lead lines are much easier to obtain when you’ve got a .80mm to 1.5mm pick in your hand. Of course, it goes without saying that these picks are not your friend when it comes to mellow strumming, and are more the choice of a budding James Hetfield than a budding James Taylor.

At the extreme end of the heavy spectrum are your 1.5mm to 3mm plectrum behemoths. A bit of a niche product as far as plectrums go, they’re traditionally the choice of bebop jazzers for facilitating a mellow and warm tone and a clean tone. But, they also work for extreme metal riffers in the market for scooped mids.



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!