What Guitar Picks Do The Pros Use?

We all have an artist that we would like to play and sound like. Researching their technique and the gear they use helps us understand their sound. But have you ever considered what impact the pick they use has on their tone? What guitar picks do the pros use?

Most professional guitar players use standard picks. Depending on what guitar style they play, this can range from thin to thick, and round to sharp. They have selected the plectrum that best fits their sound and technique.

In this article, we are going to look at what type of picks some well-known artists use and why they have chosen them.

What Guitar Picks Do The Pros Use

What Guitar Picks Do The Pros Use

When you think of a guitar pick, the standard shape that comes to mind is a 351. This type of pick is ideal for strumming and technical styles. It is also the most popular choice amongst beginners. But what do the pros use, and how does it affect their tone?

Professional musicians select picks based on many variables.

  • Sound
  • Performance
  • Look
  • Speed
  • Feel
  • Grip

These are just a few things that a pro would need in order to settle on one certain kind. But they use what they do because they have found their tone and tool of the trade in the guitar pick they strike their strings with.

Some guitarists, like Paul Gilbert and Steve Vai, use a variety of different picks to achieve their desired sound.

Gilbert often uses a thinner pick for faster licks and a thicker one for chunkier rhythms. This is due to the fact that a thicker pick produces more volume and a thicker tone. But he likes thinner plectrums for ferocious pick scrapes as well.

Whereas Vai uses a 1 mm guitar plectrum of a normal 351 shape made from Delrin. His picks are made by Ibanez, but the size, shape, and thickness matter more than the brand.

This is because the shape of the pick can be tailored to the player’s needs and desires.

Some guitarists like Brian May of Queen opt for a coin as a pick. This is due to the fact that a coin gives more attack and brightness than a standard pick. It also has a good weight and grip.

Jimi Hendrix was thought to have used regular picks with a medium to heavy thickness. During the 1960s, the Fender celluloid picks were quite common and more than likely what he used when he wasn’t using his fingers.

Famous Guitar Players Picks

Now that we know what factors a professional takes into account when choosing a pick, let’s take a look at some of the most popular brands and shapes.

Eric ClaptonErnie Ball 0.94 mm
David GilmourD’Andrea 351 0.96 mm
Mark TremontiDunlop Jazz III Nylon 1.0 mm
The EdgeD’Andrea Medium Nylon
Dave GrohlDunlop 0.73 mm Gator Grip
Dimebag DarellDunlop Tortex 0.88 mm

As you can see, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to guitar picks. Every player has their own favorites and reasons for them. Check out our guitar pick guide to help you find the one that will best suit you!

Famous Guitarists Who Use Thin Picks

While not everyone likes to use a thin guitar pick, they do have some unique traits to them when used for lead playing or strumming. Some players like them because they offer less resistance when playing with speed. Others like them because of the sounds they make that thicker picks don’t.

Some thin picks also produce a flappy sound that some players like, and others cannot stand.

Paul Gilbert is known to use thin 0.60 mm tortex picks because of the “thwappy” sound they make. He likes the way they sound when strumming and adjusts his angle to produce a unique tone.

Eddie Van Halen is also known to use a thin pick, he too liked the 0.60 mm plectrum. He liked the speed and clarity that they offered when shredding.

Famous Guitarists Who Use Medium Picks

Most guitarists who use medium picks tend to stick with the standard 351 or jazz 3 shapes. They are a good all-around pick and can be used for any genre of music.

Some players, like Steve Vai, find that a thicker guitar pick offers more volume when they need it. While other players, like John Mayer, prefer them because they have a good balance of speed, volume, and tone.

Kirk Hammett is also known to use a 0.88 mm medium pick. He likes the thickness because it gives him a good attack when he requires it, while still remaining sensitive to the strings.

Learn to play without a pick, click here!

Famous Guitarists Who Use Thick Picks

Thicker picks are generally used for heavier styles of music. They offer more volume and a thicker tone than thin picks. This is due to the fact that they have more mass and are less flexible.

Some guitarists, like Zakk Wylde, John Mayer, and Joe Satriani use standard 351 shaped plectrums that are around 1.14 mm thick. This thickness is good for power chords and offers a strong attack.

Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield, of Metallica, both use heavy guitar picks for some techniques that are 1.14 – 1.5 mm thick. These picks offer a ton of volume and can be heard over the loudest of instruments.

Guitar Picks the Pros Use FAQs

Here are a few questions to help you find the pick your favorite pro uses.

Did EVH Use Thin Picks?

Yes, Eddie Van Halen was known to use guitar picks that were 0.60 mm thick and preferred them. In the early 1980s, he was known to use even thinner picks that were made from brass and copper. He always gravitated towards what felt right, and the lighter picks were the ones for EVH.

What guitar pick did Kurt Cobain use?

Kurt Cobain was known to use Dunlop Totex standard picks in orange color. His thickness of choice was 0.60 mm.

What guitar pick does Slash use?

Slash is known to use medium gauge guitar picks that are around 1.14 mm thick. He likes the thickness because it gives him a good attack when he requires it, while still remaining sensitive to the strings. His favorite shape is the standard 351 shape.

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Don East

My name is Don East, I'm the editor for Killer Rig. I've been playing guitar for over 20 years and have designed and manufactured products like guitar amps, effects pedals, and more. Over the years I have played in many bands and have a deep love for quality gear.I am an electrical engineer and have a passion for music gear, and now want to share what I know with the community!