There’s no denying that fast guitar playing comes from practice and coordination. However, there is a fair chance that you may be holding yourself back with the guitar pick that you’ve been using up to this point. The type of pick you are using does make a difference when attempting to shred, and this article will tell you why.
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The Best Guitar Picks You Can Buy
If you’ve been using thin to medium guitar picks, sorry to say it, but it may be time to let those ones go, or save them for acoustic guitar strumming.
These flimsy guitar picks are not ideal for fast guitar playing because when you strike a string, it will bend and move, which compromises accuracy.
Accuracy and producing less effort to travel to the next note or string are significant when trying to maximize your guitar speed. It doesn’t matter how big in diameter the pick is, it just needs to be thick and durable enough to make movements effortless and precise.
Do you need tortex or nylon pick? How about ultex or delrin ones? Truthfully, the material is a matter of comfort and personal preference, and when you’re feeling relaxed and not fighting with your pick, you should definitely be able to perform better.
While there are many options to choose from, if you’re looking for guitar picks for speed, you’re mainly looking for thickness. The following section will discuss this further in-depth for you.
What Thickness Of Guitar Picks Is Best?
When looking for guitar picks for sale, pay attention to the thickness of the pick. It will be listed in millimeters on the package. Sometimes they will also be labeled as “thin, medium, or heavy” as well.
In my opinion, you should strive for your pick to be a bare minimum of 0.85mm, but I’ve seen some go all the way up to 4mm. Personally, I think 4mm is a bit excessive, and I think anything over 2mm feels like you’re holding onto a flat rock, but to each their own. Some people like them, I don’t.
Just don’t go under 0.85; otherwise, you may be going into “medium” territory, which may be just a little too floppy for what you need here.
My favorite guitar picks mm gauge range from about 1.1 to 1.35mm. For me, this is the perfect guitar pick thickness. Who makes these picks? Dunlop – and one of their most famous ones (possibly rivaling their own Tortexes) is known as the Jazz III. It is in the very top-left in the picture below:
Why The Jazz IIIs Are The Best Guitar Picks For Shredding
The Jazz III is amazing not only because of their stiffness but also because of their sharper, pointed tip which facilitates precision and control – things that contribute to optimal speed.
Some of the most world-renowned guitarists have been using Jazz III’s for many years, and some even have their own signature ones, such as John Petrucci, Eric Johnson, and Kirk Hammett.
Nowadays, in addition to signature models, there are a wide array of different types of Jazz III guitar picks for sale. They all have the same core features like similar thickness and the pointy tips, but they offer the Jazz III in different materials and sizes. Here are some of the different types that are out there:
- Classic Nylon Reds
- Max-Grip Nylon Reds & Carbon Fiber (My All-Time Favorite)
- Tortex Jazz IIIs
- Ultex Jazz IIIs
- Jazz III XL (Available In Various Materials)
There may be a couple that I am missing, but these are by far the most favorable ones out there. Back when I first started using Jazz IIIs, there wasn’t this much variety; if I recall right, there were only the small red and black ones, and I never looked back once I started using those.
I think it’s awesome that Dunlop has expanded on their Jazz III design by providing them in different materials, sizes, and slightly varying thicknesses. I think this makes them accessible to players who may be used to using a particular size or material but are looking for some new guitar picks for speed.
For example, the standard Dunlop Tortex picks are easily some of the most popular guitar picks of all time. Despite being accessible to basically anyone and feel pretty nice in my opinion, the rounded tip on them isn’t as optimal for speed compared to the Jazz III. That’s not saying you can’t play fast with them. You can, but you have more potential elsewhere.
Because there is a Tortex Jazz III XL, transitioning to that pick from a standard tortex should be effortless because of the same material and very slight size difference overall.
Size, material, and even having guitar picks with grip are all personal preference, but the most important thing here is that you will be using one with a sharper tip while also benefitting from an increased thickness.
Dunlop’s Jazz III has these key characteristics, but they also have diversity between their picks, and this is what makes them unparalleled. If you are unsure which one is exactly right for you and can’t decide, why not check out this Jazz III variety pack? It has basically all of the different ones that were listed out earlier in one small 6-pack assortment.
“My Favorite Guitarist Doesn’t Use Them Though!”
This statement will inevitably come up when discussing any guitar-related gear or accessory, and it’s perfectly fine. Not everyone will or has to use the same pick, but the overwhelming consensus is that the Jazz 3 is incredible for shredding. If not the Jazz III, what guitar picks do the pros use then? Generally, if you survey almost every top shredder, they will in most cases always be using a guitar pick that’s on the thicker side. This segment will demonstrate this by taking a look at a few of the most well-known guitar acrobats of all time.
First, let’s examine the most famous shredder of all time and the pioneer of neoclassical metal – Mr. Yngwie Malmsteen. So what guitar picks does Yngwie Malmsteen use? To answer this question, the man himself uses a 1.5mm Delrin pick by Dunlop, the makers of the Jazz III. Delrin is a super tough plastic that allows it to be very thick.
Steve Vai uses 1.0mm polyacetal guitar picks with rubber grips by Ibanez, which also has a pointed tear-drop shape to it. Paul Gilbert also has a signature Ibanez guitar pick that is 1.0mm; however, its made of celluloid, and its size is smaller than Vai’s and comparable to a Jazz III.
Paul Gilbert has also mentioned that he likes the Tortex 0.5mm picks too, which makes sense because he is a really diverse player and may need a thinner pick for many of his songs. His band, Mr. Big, really showcases this, but others may be more familiar with his guitar work from Racer X and his solo career.
These are some colossal guitar legends that do not use Jazz IIIs. Yet, their picks do share some similarities with that particular type.
It’s understandable that not everyone will be using the same type of pick; people are loyal to what they’re used to and maybe don’t like change.
Nonetheless, as mentioned before, Jazz IIIs come in different sizes and material which makes them easy to adjust to when these new and different guitar picks for speed. They have advantages with its pointed edge, and its thickness gauge is objectively superior to thin and medium picks for agile playing.
Even if your favorite player doesn’t use them, you should at least give them a fair shot because they have a lot to offer.
Summary & Conclusion
There are a lot of different picks out there, but if you want to become a faster player, there are two things you need to do – practice your technique and use a pick that is designed for speed.
If you’re wondering what guitar picks are best for metal and shredding the Jazz III is your best bet. Of course, they’re useful for other genres too that use plenty of fast leads, like Jazz and Blues. Jazz is in the pick’s name after all!
You have plenty of choices as to what your Jazz III is made out of and what it looks like which I think is great for anyone who is interested in giving them a try. I can do just fine with most of these, but like the guy in the previous video, my absolute favorite ones are the Max-Grip Carbon Fibers.
I like this one the most because I tend to get sweaty, slippery fingers when I play the guitar, and I think the grip on these is fantastic for that reason. I like having a smaller pick like this one because it seems to allow me to pull off pinch harmonics way more effortlessly.
I still like the red ones and will play them if given the opportunity; in fact, they were the first Jazz IIIs that I’ve tried. Somewhere down the line, I came across the Carbon Fibers with the grips, stuck with those, and didn’t look back.
Although some will swear by it, I have never noticed a real tone difference between the nylon and carbon fiber picks, and since the nylon ones come with grips now, it’s possible that I will use them interchangeably in the future.
When I first found the Jazz III almost 15 years ago, it was a match made in heaven, and I honestly believe you will be doing you and your guitar playing a favor by snagging up a pack of these.
If you’ve been on a hunt for the greatest guitar picks for shredding, the Jazz III and its many variants have been presented to you on a silver platter here. Don’t forget to keep practicing though – while these have been miraculous for thousands, if not millions of guitarists, they won’t fix poor technique.
If you need more advice on what you can do to improve your technique and guitar speed, be sure to check out this guide!
Hey, I’m Mike! As a guitarist for over 15 years, I’ve decided to combine my passions for music, writing, and teaching all into one outlet – GuitarMeet. I love talking about music gear and sharing what I know with others. I appreciate all genres of music, but metal will always be #1!