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Guitar picks and finger picks

The pick or pick (plurality plectra and picks, latinisierte form of ancient Greek πλῆκτρον pick "the plectrum tool for beating") is a small plate to which the strings of plucked string instruments such as the steel string guitar , bass guitar , mandolin , Sitar or shamisen can be struck (plucked). Among guitarists, the plectrum is also colloquially called pick (taken from English ) or, for short , plek .

The use of an opening pick usually allows a louder, more concise sound than plucking with the fingers with the same amount of force. Due to the shape and material of the pick, the proportion of overtones in the sound is greater than when you touch the finger.

Also in keel instruments such as the harpsichord , the strings are struck with picks ( quills ) that are moved by a key mechanism.

to form

Triangular picks in different degrees of hardness

Picks are usually about the size of a coin, which are usually held with the thumb and index finger of the striking hand, sometimes with the thumb, index and middle finger. Flat picks come in a variety of shapes, usually teardrop or triangular. With some triangular-shaped picks, the corners are shaped differently or have different thicknesses to allow different sound results with just one pick. Picks are usually 0.3 to 1.5 mm thick, rarely several millimeters thick. Some picks have a roughened center, which increases the grip. This reduces the risk that the pick will slip out of your fingers while making music. The rough zone is often circular, raised or recessed, designed as a spherical depression or with a rim, so that a centered holding position can be found and controlled solely with the sense of touch. Other designs used for electric basses have a curved extension that gives the fingers a better grip.

The fingerpick is a special form ; it is attached to a finger with a ring-like clip. Picks of the appropriate size are placed on the index, middle and ring fingers and sometimes also on the little finger . The thumb has a differently shaped thumb pick.


In the past, flat picks were usually made from organic materials such as wood , bone , horn , tortoise shell , but also from glass , stone (especially semi-precious stones ) or metal ( sheet steel , brass ). Later on, early plastics were used, such as ebonite , galalith (artificial horn) and celluloid, which is still widespread today . Today, a wide variety of plastics are used for picks, including nylon , polycarbonate , acetal (Delrin), polyetherimide (Ultem), and acrylic glass .


Plucked instruments with steel strings in particular are played with a plectrum. Because of its closely spaced strings , the mandolin is almost exclusively plucked with a plectrum. Picks are also predominantly used when playing electric guitars . Some electric guitarists play without a plectrum and pluck or hit the strings with their fingertips or fingernails as "plectrum replacement". Examples of this playing technique are the guitarists Mark Knopfler (rock music) and Wes Montgomery (jazz).

Guitar play can also be observed in which some notes / strings are played with the plectrum, others with the fingertips. This requires special changing techniques and holding the pick with hand and fingers. So the sound can be varied more. The guitarist Carlos Santana , for example, is known for this playing technique . This can be seen and heard very well in his piece Samba pa ti .

With a special form of simultaneous use of the pick and fingers, hybrid picking , the lower strings are struck with the pick and at the same time the higher strings are struck with the middle and ring finger and sometimes the little finger. This technique, also known as chicken picking , is used particularly in country music and similar musical styles.

The different materials, shapes and thicknesses of the picks influence the sound of the instrument. Thinner picks tend to produce a thinner sound, while thicker picks produce a stronger sound. Harder materials produce more overtones, while softer materials produce a more fundamental, duller sound. For rhythm playing on the electric guitar, thinner picks are usually used, as they offer less resistance to the strings and can therefore be struck faster. When playing the lead , thicker and smaller picks are often used, which require a smaller immersion depth between the strings and thus shorter stroke distances. With stronger strings, such as electric basses, larger and stronger picks are usually used. Instruments for playing the plectrum are often provided with a pickguard to protect their cover from damage by the plectrum.

Change techniques

Plectrum collection waiting to be used on the microphone stand by DD Verni, the bassist of the band Overkill

There are different methods of switching between playing with and without a pick as quickly as possible:

  • The pick is placed between the lips.
  • The pick is inserted into the gap between the pickguard and the body of the guitar.
  • The pick is clamped in the angled little finger of the hitting hand (with practice this can be done without interrupting the game).
  • The pick is clamped between the index and middle finger (near the palm of the hand, facing up) (so you can use all your fingers when playing without a pick).
  • The pick is put into a holder on the guitar (pick dispenser).
  • The pick, which is provided with a magnet, is attached to a magnetic ring on the player's hand.
  • The opening pick is dropped and, when needed, replaced with a new one. Many stars among the guitarists / bassists like to throw their picks into the audience during live performances - a coveted souvenir among fans.

Picks as advertising media

Numerous artists also use the plectrum as a merchandising product that is either thrown into the crowd during the concerts or, especially for collectors, offered for sale at concerts.


The American satire - rock band Tenacious D turned the 2006 released film comedy Kings of Rock - Tenacious D , which is about a Pick of Destiny comes ( "Pick of Destiny"), which gives the owner impressive game skills and ultimately as a tooth of Satan turns out.

Web links

Commons : Plectrum  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Plectrum  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Plectrum  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence