Guitar Finger Picks
Guitar finger picks are small devices use to pluck the strings
instead of using your fingers. There are broadly two types; one type you grip between your thumb and finger to
pluck the strings and the other you actually wear on your fingers and thumb. In fact, purists would say these
are really the only true guitar finger picks, the other flat picks merely being plectrums. In this article
we’ll try and keep both camps happy and look at each type of guitar finger
The triangular shaped flat pick is most suitable for playing guitar chords and
was originally made from the shell of the sea tortoise.
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However, these days nylon is a very common material but acetal plastic and
metal are also used. Leading pick maker Jim Dunlop used ‘Tortex’ which is a brand name for DuPont’s Delrin which
is specially treated to have a matt surface which is easy to grip even with sweaty fingers. Other exotic
materials have been used such as agate gemstone, lignum vitae (a rare hardwood) and New Tortis which is made
from organic materials and as its name might suggest imitates very accurately the sound and the feel of the
original, now endangered, sea tortoiseshell plectrums.
Various Dunlop Tortex Picks
Some musicians have been very innovative in their choice of the flat plectrum
type finger pick. For example, Brian May of Queen uses a pre-decimal British sixpenny piece coin as a plectrum.
His distinctive guitar sound is said in part to be because of this choice of plectrum and in 2008 the British
Royal Mint made a limited edition sixpenny piece to commemorative Brain May’s ‘Back to the Light’ tour. This
commemorate coin/pick was of the same size, weight and composition as the original sixpenny piece but was
inscribed quite differently - it has Brian’s head on it instead of the Queen’s.
If you are playing finger style you are going to want guitar finger picks that
you wear. Bluegrass, Hawaiian and Cajun type music all lend themselves to the use guitar finger picks that you
wear. Generally three guitar finger picks are used, one on the thumb (often called thumb picks), one on the
middle finger and one on the index finger although some guitarists have been known to wear picks on their ring
finger as well. Although plastic picks are common, metal picks are still the guitar finger pick of choice for
the accomplished guitar player.
Guitar finger picks that you wear are available in a range of thicknesses, the thinner ones
producing quieter, delicate sounds and thicker guitar finger picks which produce a sharper, heavier sound. The
tip shape also varies. Some guitar finger picks have a rounder tip to simulate that of the finger nail whilst
others have a sharper tip shape which is particularly suitable for guitars that use metal
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