Although most guitarists use plastic guitar picks, they do come in a variety of other materials, and of these it’s probably metal guitar picks that are the most popular. Let's take a look at why many guitarists like to use metal guitar picks, as well as some of the disadvantages they have.
Advantages of Metal Picks
Ice Pix Brass Guitar Pick
Metal guitar picks basically produce a much brighter sound than picks made from other materials. This bright timbre is favoured by some guitarists, especially those who are experimenting with different tones and are trying to produce a sound that sets them apart from their contemporaries.
Metal guitar picks are also, unsurprisingly, relatively heavy in the hand, and many guitarists see this as an advantage also. This is especially true of those who find that plastic picks can be hard to keep hold of.
Metal plectrums can be made of different metals; stainless steel picks are very common, although some guitarists also use picks made from brass, silver, and even gold. As well as traditional plectrum-shaped picks, some guitarists also use metal finger picks, which attach to the end of the fingers and which many find to make fingerpicking easier on steel string guitars.
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Disadvantages of Metal Picks
Guitar picks made from metal do have their disadvantages however. A metal plectrum is more damaging than the plastic variety, both to the strings and to the guitar itself. With repeated use, guitar strings will become worn down more quickly if you're using metal plectrums, so they'll need replacing more often.
Using a metal pick to play the guitar can also result in the guitar's finish becoming damaged easily if the pick should happen to slip - as can often happen when strumming the guitar.
Metal guitar picks can also make a distinctive clicking sound as they hit the strings, which can be an issue, especially if you're recording your guitar. This is true of picks made from various other materials as well, however.
The choice of metal guitar picks is often more limited too, since they’re less popular and thus less widely produced than their plastic counterparts. However, there’s still a decent variety available, and as well as using commercially produced metal guitar picks, some guitarists also opt to use other metal objects, such as small coins. Prominent guitarists who have decided to go this route include Brian May from Queen, who famously uses an old English silver sixpence coin as a plectrum.
Overall, metal guitar picks are certainly worth experimenting with, but just be aware that they are harsher on your guitar and strings, so more care is required when using them.
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Alexis on November 05, 2017:
I played guitar for a brief period years ago and now play violin. I always opted for wooden ones when I did because I tend to be pretty conscious of anything breaking strings.
Soddy on October 07, 2017:
I once fashioned a pick from a bronze coin. Somewhat rough but it worked. Never liked it much however
jimbo on September 27, 2014:
I use my teeth, even though they stick straight out, I can jam..
6 String Veteran on March 07, 2011:
I heard George Lynch (from Dokken) used, at one time, a dime to pick with...