Guitar picks usually last for a week to a month for hobby guitarists and a few hours to a few days for professional guitarists. The longevity of a guitar pick depends on the pick’s material, thickness, and shape, and the guitarist’s technique and demands.
That’s the short answer to the question, “How long do guitar picks last?”
Do you want to judge how long your guitar picks will last you and when you should swap them out?
In this post, I will summarize the key factors that determine a guitar pick’s longevity.
I’ll also give you some tips on how to judge if your guitar pick is worn out and if you need to replace it.
- 7 Key factors determining how long guitar picks last
- The guitar pick’s attributes determine how long it will last
- The guitarist’s traits determine how long a guitar pick lasts
- When should you get a new guitar pick?
7 Key factors determining how long guitar picks last
Do guitar picks wear out? – Absolutely.
But there’s not one specific time in which a guitar pick wears out. Instead, the pick’s properties and the guitarist’s technique, gear, and demands determine how long a guitar pick lasts.
The guitar pick’s attributes determine how long it will last
What do you pay attention to when buying guitar picks?
I usually consider the technical properties and the playing feel when buying new guitar picks.
I think you shouldn’t buy a guitar pick based on its technical properties alone. But, you need to pay attention to the material, the thickness, and the shape of a guitar pick when purchasing it. Here is a good guide explaining guitar pick material, thickness, and shape.
1. The guitar pick’s material
Softer materials usually wear out faster. That’s why guitar picks made of metal last significantly longer than guitar picks made of soft plastics like nylon.
How long do plastic guitar picks last?
Most modern guitar picks consist of plastics such as celluloid, nylon, or polyethylene.
These materials are cheap in production. Even if you need to swap them out more regularly, they’re still very affordable.
Additionally, they provide lots of flexibility and are gentle on your guitar’s strings.
However, guitar picks made of metal, glass, horn, stone, or wood can last a lot longer than conventional plastic picks.
That’s because small scraps of the guitar pick break off every time you hit the strings with it. Suppose your guitar pick’s material is harder than your guitar strings. Then the damage is more likely affecting your strings than the pick itself.
How long do guitar picks made of different materials last?
Here is a ranking on how long guitar picks made of different materials last based on my experience (most to least durable):
- Guitar picks made of metal
- Guitar picks made of glass
- Guitar picks made of stone
- Guitar picks made of horn or bone
- Guitar picks made of wood
- Guitar picks made of plastic guitar picks (nylon, celluloid, polyethylene)
2. The guitar pick’s thickness
Thinner and flexible guitar picks tend to wear out faster than thicker and harder guitar picks.
However, thinner guitar picks made of metal will still last you longer than thick guitar picks made of plastic.
Don’t just buy a thicker guitar pick because you want it to last longer, though!
Your first consideration should always be the tone you aim for, not how often you need to buy new guitar picks. 😉
Thicker guitar picks usually give you a warmer tone. Thinner guitar picks usually give you a sharper tone.
3. The guitar pick’s shape
Do you prefer pointy guitar picks or round guitar picks?
If you’re mostly playing with pointy guitar picks, you’ll probably notice your guitar pick wearing off faster.
A pointy guitar pick loses its sharpness with time because of the material wear I described above.
Even when made of the same material with the same thickness, a pointy guitar pick won’t last as long as a round guitar pick.
However, if you’re not picky about the shape of your pick, you can still use a pointy guitar pick even when it becomes rounder over time.
Let’s look at the example of Queen’s guitarist Brian May:
Brian May exclusively uses a sixpence coin as a guitar pick.
Chances are, he’s never switched picks due to excessive wear. You can bet he lost a ton of guitar picks during his career anyway. 😉
The guitarist’s traits determine how long a guitar pick lasts
Apart from the guitar pick’s characteristics, your style of playing, your gear, and your demands influence how long a guitar pick will last you.
4. Your playing technique
If you have a heavier string attack, your guitar picks will wear off faster than with a lighter string attack.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to adjust your playing style to spend less money on guitar picks!
Suppose you love playing fast and heavy, and you’re underwhelmed with the longevity of your guitar picks. In that case, you could try using thicker picks or picks made of harder materials. This will make your tone even more massive!
5. Your guitar string’s gauge and material
Your guitar picks will last longer with lighter gauge guitar strings than with heavier gauge guitar strings. And your guitar picks will last longer with nylon strings than with steel strings.
If you play electric and acoustic guitar with a pick, you might have different guitar picks for each.
With softer and thinner strings (or even nylon strings), you don’t need guitar picks that are as hard as the regular electric guitar’s picks.
The other way around, when playing with heavier gauge guitar strings, you’ll just shred softer guitar picks to pieces.
6. Your playing duration and intensity
The guitar pick of a hobby guitarist will last much longer than that of a full-time musician.
Suppose you’re only sporadically practicing guitar by yourself, playing with moderate intensity. Then your guitar picks might last for a few weeks or even a few months.
But what if you’re a professional musician, playing guitar as a full-time job? Then you’re probably using your guitar picks several hours a day, maybe even playing in the studio or on stage with high intensity. This will dramatically shorten the longevity of your guitar picks.
How long and how intensely you use your guitar pick will influence how long it will last.
7. Your personal requirements
If you expect your guitar tone to be consistent and reliable, your pick will last shorter.
Let’s think about the example of a hobby guitarist and a full-time musician again:
The hobby guitarist mainly wants to improve his playing and have fun. For him, the playing feel of the pick is most important. If he feels like the guitar pick handicaps his playing severely, he has to switch it out for a new guitar pick.
The full-time musician mainly wants his guitar tone to be as good as it can be. He wants his sound to be consistent and reliable in the studio and on stage. To have a consistent guitar tone, he also needs his guitar pick to behave reliably. That’s why he has to switch his guitar pick as soon as it alters his guitar tone.
If you don’t expect perfect consistency but maximum playability from your guitar pick, it will last longer.
When should you get a new guitar pick?
You might ask yourself how to tell when a guitar pick is worn out.
Here are some of the signs that can show you that you should get a new guitar pick:
- Your guitar pick gets stuck on your guitar’s strings.
- You’re having difficulties playing fast and precisely.
- The sharp tip of your guitar pick is rounded.
- The edges of your guitar pick are frayed.
- There are visible grooves on your guitar pick’s edges.
Now you know how long guitar picks last, what factors make guitar picks last longer and how to tell when you should get a new guitar pick!
I hope you enjoyed this post! Here you can check out my other posts about guitar picks. If you have feedback to share or any questions you want me to answer, please leave a comment!