Top 7 Ways to Make a Substitute for a Guitar Pick

So you lost your guitar picks again? – Don’t worry, it happens to all of us. But if you don’t want to wait till your order of new picks arrives, you need a good substitute for a guitar pick!

This post will show you how to find the substitute for a guitar pick that best suits you!

I organized this post in the categories of plastic-made, metal-made, and natural material-made substitute guitar picks. At the end of the post, I will go over characteristics to consider when choosing a substitute guitar pick!

Substitute for a guitar pick made of plastic

A piece of plastic can be the perfect substitute for a guitar pick. Since you’re probably already familiar with using plastic guitar picks, this option provides the best usability for most guitarists. 

Additionally, you can make a plastic substitute for a guitar pick out of many everyday-use items.

Here are some ideas for guitar pick substitutes made of plastic:

1. Plastic card guitar pick substitute

Using a plastic card to substitute a guitar pick is the customizable option for plastic-made guitar pick substitutes.

Like SIM cards, most plastic cards have a thickness of 0.030 in (0.76 mm). This thickness is perfect for making hard yet slightly flexible guitar picks out of them!

However, unlike with SIM cards, you have some work to do before you can use a plastic card as a guitar pick substitute:

How to make a substitute for a guitar pick out of a plastic card

If you don’t have a guitar pick at hand, you can make one out of a plastic card. These 4 steps show you the process!

  1. Draw your wanted guitar pick shape on the plastic card

    How to make a substitute guitar pick out of a plastic card. Step 1: Draw your wanted substitute guitar pick shape on the plastic card.

    The first step to crafting your custom substitute guitar picks is to draw your wanted outline on the plastic card. You can draw a shape by hand or outline another guitar pick or a coin.

  2. Cut the substitute guitar picks out of the plastic card

    How to make a substitute guitar pick out of a plastic card. Step 2: Cut the outlined shapes out of the plastic card.

    Now grab a pair of scissors and cut the pre-outlined shapes out of the plastic card. Don’t worry too much about your precision, as you’ll file the substitute guitar picks in their exact form in the next step.

  3. File down the edges of your substitute guitar pick

    The last step to crafting your substitute guitar picks is filing down the edges. You can use a nail file, sandpaper, or anything else you have at hand. You can also roughen up the surface of your substitute guitar pick for a better grip while playing.

  4. Your substitute guitar picks are ready for playing!

    How to make a substitute guitar pick out of a plastic card. Step 4: The substitute guitar picks are ready to use.

    Enjoy your self-made substitute guitar pick! As there is space for multiple guitar picks on one plastic card, you might want to experiment with different shapes and textures.

All in all, DIY guitar picks made of plastic cards are a flexible but more work-intensive option. You can shape your substitute guitar picks however you want, but you have some crafting to do before you can use them.

2. SIM cards as a guitar pick substitute

Using a SIM card as a substitute for a guitar pick is the most convenient plastic-made option.

SIM cards can be used as a substitute for a guitar pick.

SIM cards have a perfect thickness for using them as a pick:

  • Micro-, Mini-, and Full-size-SIM have a thickness of 0.030 in (0.76 mm).
  • The Nano-SIM is the slimmest format, measuring a thickness of 0.026 in (0.67 mm).

Their thickness makes SIM cards flexible enough to play strumming rhythm parts and hard enough to play fast lead runs. 

The only problem with SIM cards as a substitute for guitar picks is their size:

  • Mini-SIM: 0.98 in x 0.59 in / 25 mm x 15 mm
  • Micro-SIM: 0.59 in x 0.47 in / 15 mm x 12 mm
  • Nano-SIM: 0.48 in x 0.35 in / 12.3 mm x 8.8 mm

In my opinion, both the Nano- and the Micro-SIM are too small to hold them comfortably while using them as a pick. I found only the Mini-SIM to have sufficient size for holding it comfortably.

The crucial advantage that SIM cards have over the other plastic-made guitar pick substitutes is that you don’t need to hone down the size and thickness yourself. They’re the quick solution for substituting a guitar pick!

(Source: SIM card sizes)

Substitute for a guitar pick made of metal

Pieces of metal can be attractive substitutes for a guitar pick. Unlike guitar picks made of plastic, they have a unique sharp tone to them.

As with substitutes for guitar picks made of plastic, the guitar picks in this category are very accessible. Additionally, they don’t require much work besides some filing and smoothening of edges.

Here are some ideas for guitar pick substitutes made of metal:

3. Coins as a substitute for a guitar pick

Coins are an excellent substitute for a guitar pick! Many guitarists prefer using coins to using traditional plastic picks. Queen’s Brian May is the most famous guitarist playing with a coin instead of a plastic guitar pick. 

But before you grab the next-best coin in your wallet and start playing with it, you need to know a few things!

Not every coin should be used as a substitute for a guitar pick because certain materials can damage your guitar and its strings! 

You can read everything about recommended coins and essential techniques for playing with a coin in my article “Can you use a coin as a guitar pick?”. Click here to read more!

Substitute for a guitar pick made of natural materials

Natural materials and organic substances can be a unique-sounding option for a substitute guitar pick.

The only downside to the examples in this category is that you have lots of work to do before using these materials as a guitar pick. Most of the time, you need to file for a long time to achieve your desired shape and thickness.

However, when finished, these guitar picks can last you a lifetime!

4. Glass shards as a substitute for a guitar pick

Glass has a very inspiring tone to it when used as a guitar pick!

To make a glass guitar pick substitute yourself, you need to file down an appropriately sized glass shard. I advise using sandpaper first and a smaller-sized file for the fine work.

When making your own glass substitute guitar pick, you can adjust the size and thickness to your preference.

But be careful and wear gloves! Glass is always sharper than it looks!

5. Stones as a substitute for a guitar pick

A stone guitar pick can create a uniquely warm and thin guitar sound.

If you’re lucky, you might even find a stone that’s perfectly sized for your pick preferences.

Otherwise, you might have to adjust the size and thickness of your stone substitute guitar pick with sandpaper and a file.

6. Wood or coconut shell as a substitute for a guitar pick

Wood and coconut shell creates a warm, organic, and vibrant tone when used as a guitar pick.

If you’re willing to spend some time crafting your substitute guitar pick, then this option might be the best for you!

A wood or coconut shell guitar pick can last you a whole lifetime and creates a beautiful patina over time.

However, before you can use a pick made of wood or coconut shell, you’ll have to cut out a piece in the right shape and then file it down to your desired shape and size.

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7. Horn or bone as a substitute for a guitar pick

Have you ever dreamt about playing the guitar with the bones of your enemies?

No? – Am I the only one? – Whatever?!

A guitar pick made of bone or horn can create a warm, organic tone like wood but with a sharper punch comparable to plastic guitar picks. 

Some guitarists swear that a guitar pick made of horn or born will be the best guitar pick you’ll ever try! It’s also likely the oldest method of crafting guitar picks, dating back several thousand years!

However, obtaining horn or bone material and cutting and filing it down to a guitar pick may take more time than just ordering new guitar picks online.

If you want to try it anyway, there are several affordable options online!

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How to choose a guitar pick substitute that suits you

Now you hopefully have enough inspiration to choose the guitar pick substitute that’s right for you! 

But what should you consider if you’re unsure about what option you should use?

If you want to know how long guitar picks usually last, go read this post!

Thickness and flexibility of the guitar pick substitute

Thickness and flexibility should be the first characteristics you consider when choosing a substitute for a guitar pick.

How thick and flexible you prefer your guitar pick comes down to your style of playing. 

If you have a heavy attack on your strings and mostly play heavy metal riffs on your electric guitar, you most likely need a hard and thick guitar pick. Maybe a substitute guitar pick made of metal or glass would fit you well!

On the other hand, if you mostly play soft strumming parts on an acoustic guitar, you might consider a more flexible and slimmer guitar pick. Maybe plastic or softer wood would be the right choice of material for your substitute guitar pick!

Material of the guitar pick substitute

Different materials can create very different sounds when used as a substitute guitar pick. 

That’s why the second characteristic you should consider when choosing a substitute for a guitar pick from this list is how your preferred material should sound!

Are you looking for a clear-cut, metallic, and sharp tone? – Then, a substitute guitar pick made of metal or glass is the right choice for you!

Do you want your playing to sound smooth, soft, and warm? – Then, a substitute guitar pick made of organic materials like wood or bone would be the right choice for you!

Aesthetics of the guitar pick substitute

The final characteristic of your substitute guitar pick you should consider is the aesthetic.

In the end, the guitar pick you choose should feel right for you. If you don’t want to use a substitute guitar pick made of plastic, opt for metal or organic materials!

Or maybe you adore the aesthetic aspect of a substitute guitar pick made of metal? You know what you should go with then!

Even if you like playing with your guitar pick, you won’t use it for long if you don’t find it aesthetically appealing.

I hope you enjoyed this post about the best substitutes for a guitar pick! What substitute for a guitar pick did you like the most? And have you tried using any substitute guitar pick from this list before? Please share it in the comments!

Read more posts about guitar picks on the Unholy Guitars blog!

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