Guitar picks are one of the most important accessories to have when playing acoustic or electric guitar. But unfortunately, they don’t last forever. Here’s everything you need to know about plectrum wear and tear!
Do Picks Get Worn Out?
Guitar picks do get worn out over time. Nylon picks wear out faster than tortex and metal picks, and thinner, softer picks will wear out more quickly. Most good quality guitar picks will last around 50-100 hours of playing.
The rate at which this happens depends on several things:
- Pick material
- Playing style and frequency
- Your guitar strings
Normally, guitar picks are made from much weaker materials than the strings on your guitar. So if you’re consistently plucking them, then the string will wear down the edges of your pick.
Of course, the amount you’re using your pick, plus how you’re using it, will affect how quickly it wears out, as well as the physical properties of the pick you’re using.
Playing style and frequency
It probably won’t come as a huge surprise, but the more aggressively you use your pick, the quicker it will wear out. If you pick quite delicately, then you’ll get less wear and tear than if you’re constantly playing heavy metal riffs. If you’re plucking the strings harder, faster, and more often, then you’ll notice that it wears out much more quickly. Also, if you’re doing a lot of pick slides, then your picks will get battered much faster!
There are a few main types of materials guitar picks can be made out of.
A lot of picks are made out of nylon. This is often quite soft and flexible, so means they don’t last the longest. Celluloid is a bit harder and stiffer than nylon, so picks made out of this material will likely be more durable. Tortex is the material used on for a lot of Dunlop picks and it’s one of the more durable types of plastic picks available.
The most durable material, is metal, as you can’t bend the pick at all. Metal picks are more resistant to damage caused by the friction that occurs when you strum the strings on your guitar. Softer materials on the other hand, like rubber and leather will wear down pretty quickly.
Thickness and Hardness
These are two separate points, although most thick picks tend to be harder than thinner picks. But you can get pretty stiff thin plectrums as well. The harder and thicker the pick is, the better it will be at resisting the damage that strings inflict on the edges of the plectrum.
It’s also worth noting that the shape of the pick can affect how quickly it gets worn down. Picks with sharper points are likely to wear faster because the thin edges will get pretty battered by the strings. More rounded picks tend to hold up a bit better.
your guitar strings
Finally, if you’re using thicker strings, then your pick will wear down faster. This is because the pick has a harder time plucking thick strings, causing it to get damaged more easily.
How Does it Affect your Tone?
So what does it mean if your pick is worn down? Well, this can affect your tone in two main ways.
- Worn picks have more rounded edges so produce a more mellow tone compared to sharper picks which sound brighter.
- Old picks are more flimsy and pliable, meaning you won’t get as quick an action when you play, so your picking won’t be as direct and clear.
So now you know how picks get worn and what it sounds like, you’ve probably got a few more questions about their durability and replacing them. So hear are some FAQs.
how long do they last?
This is a hard question to answer because it really depends on the pick itself, and how often/ aggressively you use it. If you’re only using one pick, and you’re playing for around an hour a day, then you’ll probably start to see signs of wear and tear after a couple of weeks when using a nylon pick, and a month when using a celluloid pick.
how often should you replace them?
You should probably think about changing your pick at least every month or so to make sure that it’s not affecting your tone. It can be hard to notice sometimes, because the wear and tear happens gradually, but most picks have a life of around a month if you’re playing with them daily.
how do you know when to replace them?
If you look at your pick and you start to see the edges becoming more rounded, then it’s time to swap out your pick.
Also if your pick is worn, then you’ll probably notice issues when you’re playing. It’ll be harder to pick more precisely, and your tone will probably sound more mellow. So swap out your pick if you notice any of these signs.
how can you make them last longer?
There’s not much you can really do to make a guitar pick last longer, besides playing with it less! If you’re tired of constantly changing your picks, then choose something that’s a bit thicker and harder, and made out of something like celluloid rather than nylon and you’ll probably notice an increase in the time it takes for the pick to get worn out.
Most Durable Guitar Picks
If you’re after a most durable type of guitar pick, then hear are a few to consider.
Metal Guitar Picks
If you want the most durable pick possible, then go for one that’s made out of metal. Metal plectrums were never really something I considered until a friend bought me an engraved one as a gift a few years ago. It’s hands down the most durable pick I’ve ever tried, it’s still going strong even years later. The sound of metal picks is pretty different compared to ones made out of plastic. The tone is brighter and snappier. I don’t use it for everything I play, but for some songs, it actually really suits the tone.
Something like this pack of 20 stainless steel picks on Amazon is a good option if you’re looking to try out metal plectrums.
Dunlop Tortex Picks
If you’re not a fan of metal picks, but still want something that’ll last a while, then take a look at Dunlop’s Tortex picks. They come in a great range of widths, have a grippy texture and they’re super cheap. You can pick up a multi-pack of Dunlop Tortex picks on Amazon for just a few dollars.
So there you go! That’s how to decide if locking tuners are actually worth it for you! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: