Can you use a coin as a guitar pick? – Absolutely! However, you need specific techniques to employ a coin as a guitar pick to its fullest potential. Pay attention to what coin you pick as a guitar pick! Otherwise, you risk damaging your strings, your guitar, or the coin.
But before you grab the next best beat-up coin you can find in your purse, you should read on…
This blog post will answer all your questions when it comes to using coins as guitar picks:
- What are the benefits of using a coin as a guitar pick?
- What coins work best as guitar picks?
- You can use a coin as a guitar pick! But should you?
What are the benefits of using a coin as a guitar pick?
Using a coin as a guitar pick alters your tone significantly. But, to employ a coin as a guitar pick to its full potential, you need to learn some new techniques. In the next paragraphs, I give you an overview of the benefits and techniques of using a coin as a guitar pick!
You don’t have to only take my word for it, though! In this video, Brian May explains why he uses a sixpence coin to create his iconic guitar tone:
A coin gives you a better feel for your attack on the strings.
Did you ever try playing guitar with a coin instead of a pick yourself? If so, then one of the main differences you noticed to any other plectrum probably was what you feel in your hand when you hit the strings.
That’s mainly because a more robust pick lets you feel the string movement more intensely. And guitar pick’s don’t get harder than a coin!
When using a soft pick, a part of the hand motion is absorbed by the flexing movements of the plectrum.
With harder guitar picks, the translation of motion is more direct.
A hard pick or a coin is not as flexible. Therefore you have a better feel for the entire motion of the strings in your hand.
A coin gives you more options for articulating your playing.
As you read in the previous passage, a coin or a thick pick gives you less flexibility than a soft pick. That’s why you usually use thinner plectrums when strumming (and on acoustic guitars).
However, you can use a simple trick to play soft strumming parts nonetheless:
Hold the coin loosely in your hand so that it can move and swing around when hitting the strings.
This even gives you additional options for articulating your sound.
Additionally, you can use the angle of the coin to the strings to articulate your sound:
- When you hold the coin parallel to the strings, you get a clean but loose strumming sound.
- When you hold the coin angled to the strings, you get a brighter, firmer lead sound.
A coin allows more fluid hand movement when playing guitar.
Most guitar picks are triangularly shaped and pointy. This makes them more prone to get stuck on a string when strumming the guitar.
Because of their round shape, coins will never get stuck on the strings. This allows more fluent hand movement and fast legato runs.
Even Brian May himself says that this technique is one of the main reasons for his unique style of guitar playing!
Coins don’t wear off like guitar picks.
If you have already played guitar for a longer time, you probably noticed that your plastic picks show apparent signs of use after some hours of practicing.
It may not have a massive effect on your tone, but you’ll likely notice that it gets harder to hit the right strings when your pick is excessively worn off.
However, a coin doesn’t wear off if you use it as a guitar pick!
This means that you can use your coin guitar pick until you lose it. 😉
What coins work best as guitar picks?
Now that you know the perks of using a coin as a guitar pick, it’s time to get down to business: What should you keep in mind when looking for your personal coin guitar pick?
Misconception: Coins damage the strings
Many guitarists think that coins generally damage your strings over time. That’s not true for every coin!
However: If you just pick a random coin out of your wallet and start shredding away, you severely risk damaging your strings and your guitar!
But when choosing the right coin to use as a guitar pick, you need to pay special attention to the metals the coin is made of.
What material should a coin used as a guitar pick be made of?
Let’s look at the British sixpence coin that Brian May personally uses. The composition of contained metals was changed multiple times in the past (source):
- Between 1551 and 1816, the sixpence was made of pure silver.
- Between 1816 and 1920, it contained 92.5% silver.
- Between 1920 and 1946, it contained 50% silver.
- Between 1947 and 1970, it was made of cupronickel.
Brian May recommends using a coin made before 1946 because the proportion of silver in older coins was substantially higher than in most modern coins.
The reason for this recommendation is that silver is softer than steel. Therefore silver coins won’t damage your guitar’s strings!
To be sure that you won’t damage your strings while using a coin as a guitar pick, you should use coins with a silver proportion of at least 50%.
Of course, you can also use softer metals (like gold) if you’re trying to waste money… 😉
Here are some examples of coins with a high silver proportion you could use as a guitar pick:
You can use a coin as a guitar pick! But should you?
Now you know what perks there are to using a coin as a guitar pick and what coins work best as guitar picks.
Can you use a coin as a guitar pick? – Absolutely!
But should you? – As always, it depends…
If you want to successfully use a coin as a guitar pick, you have to practice the techniques mentioned in this article. So you have some work to do before you sound just like Brian May.
However, there is a solution that gives you the unique tone of a coin without the problem of adjusting your whole picking-hand technique first:
Some custom-made guitar picks are made out of original silver coins but shaped like traditional picks! These give you the best of both worlds.
Here are some examples that might be worth a closer inspection:
I hope this article answered whether you can use a coin as a guitar pick and all other questions regarding using coins as guitar picks! If there is anything other you’d like to know or have feedback to share, please leave a comment!