Using a pick to play bass guitar is acceptable, no matter what anyone tells you, but which one is ideal? Some factors are optimal for bass and can make your life easier while playing it, and in this article, I will discuss some of these features that you should look into as well as provide some of the best picks for the bass guitar that I’ve come across.
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What Should You Look For In A Bass Pick?
When choosing the best bass guitar pick for you, there are three primary things that you should consider before you buy some. These three features are:
- Size & Shape
What you choose can make or break the feel and sound of your playing, and as you continue to read, I will elaborate on each of these, by talking about why they are so important when trying to decide on some, as well as talk about some of my general recommendations for each.
Towards the end, I will also share my personal favorite bass pick, that I have found extremely reliable and have helped me achieve the sound I want.
Pick Size & Shape
Regarding the size of a pick, I want to say right off the bat, that you should try avoiding using smaller picks, like teardrop ones or the regular Jazz III guitar picks.
While they can certainly work, I don’t recommend them because they don’t give you as much surface area to work with.
However, the Jazz III XLs can still be viable, since they’re considerably bigger than the regular ones, and they’re quite thick, which is something I will discuss in the next section.
Anyway, I digress! Let me explain why plectrum size makes a difference.
As you know, bass strings are a lot thicker than guitar strings, and I believe that more substantial pick will be able to offer you more control when plucking them. The gauges on guitar strings are significantly thinner in most cases, and this is why small Jazz IIIs work super well for them, especially for fast playing.
Anything from the standard-sized picks that you see everywhere to the triangle ones will do the trick for bass guitar. Here are some examples of what I am talking about:
In addition to size, you’ll also want to take shape into account. Some picks can have a sharper point than others, whereas others might be a bit rounded.
I kind of like having something somewhere in between, so I tend to go for conventional shapes.
I enjoy having a nice, precise attack but also value some roundness in my tone, too. However, the best shape is entirely subjective, and I recommend trying some out to see what sits in your hands nicely and sounds good to you.
In my opinion, the thickness of a bass pick is the thing that matters the most!
Having a pick that is too floppy simply won’t offer you the most control and consistency as one that is thicker and stronger.
Think about it – if you use a thin, flexible pick when you hit a string, it will take a little bit of time to return back to its neutral position. It’s only a fraction of a section, but it makes all of the difference.
Thin picks have their uses; I think they’re great for strumming chords on a guitar, but for bass, it’s best to go with something else. I firmly believe that something that is at least 0.88mm will suit most people, but I personally prefer my picks to be 1.0-1.5mm.
With a sturdier pick, you will have a more consistent and accurate attack, since there won’t be any floppiness to it to hold you back. In fact, picks for bass are just heavy guitar picks, really; there isn’t really a distinction most of the time.
However, is it possible to go too thick? That depends on you.
Some people love them, but I think the Big Stubbies are just too massive for my taste. The ones I’ve tried are 3.0mm, which I feel are too large. Depending on how I hit a string, Big Stubbies have a tendency to fly out of my hand, also, despite the bevel on them. Here’s a close-up picture of one:
You’re welcome to give them a shot, and other people really like them for their durability, but so far they’re not for me. I might give them a second chance and try one of the thinner ones but think other picks in the 1.0-1.5mm range will get the job done just fine.
The material that your plectrum is made of influences how your tone will sound, and out of the three parameters we’re discussing, I think it’s the most subjective.
There are tons of different choices out there – you have delrin, nylon, carbon fiber, celluloid, ultex, and many more!
I believe that delrin and nylon are by far the most popular types of pick materials out there, and you won’t be hard-pressed to find an awesome pick that uses them.
If you need a step in the right direction, I say that you should check out Dunlop’s stuff. They are the most famous guitar pick manufacturer, so you can always count on finding what you’re looking for.
Sometimes, the material will be listed right on the packaging, whereas other times you might have to do a little bit of research to find what the pick is made of.
If you’re new to playing bass with a pick and you still prefer the tone of your fingers, there are also rubber picks that work pretty well to try to reduce pick noise and emulate the smooth sound of the fingers.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a great, general-purpose bass pick, but still unsure of what to get, I recommend checking out this Dunlop Variety Pack, which has an impressive selection to experiment with, and it’s very cheap for how many you get.
There are different sizes, shapes, materials, and textures, but they’re all medium/heavy picks that start at 0.88 and go up to 1.14. That way, you have many choices, and then you can decide to commit to your favorite one later!
The Best Bass Picks (In My Opinion!)
I’ve tried many plectrums in my lifetime, and I’ve actually enjoyed most of them, but I’ve narrowed down three types that I’ve found to be superb for playing bass.
My top 3 bass picks are:
- Dunlop Gator Grips
- Dunlop Max Grips
- Clayton Triangle Acetal
Let’s get into the first one!
1. Jim Dunlop Gator Grips
The Gator Grips might look very ordinary, but it has a lot that you want in a great pick.
Let’s talk about where it gets its name first – the grip.
These picks’ surface has a matte, somewhat chalky, feeling to them, and the Gator logo on it has a slightly rough texture, and all of this will help prevent the pick from slipping out of your hand. Having a secure grip is quite important, especially if you get sweaty hands like me!
This texture is due to the material used to make the pick. Dunlop Gators are made from delrin, but technically, they refer to picks with the matte finish as “delrex.”
I currently use these 1.5mm thickness picks, and this is about as heavy as I’ll go when it comes to picks. It’s very durable, but not overbearing, and it gives me the control I need. The 1.14mm ones are also awesome (and can be found in the variety pack shown earlier)!
It doesn’t have the sharpest point to it, but you can still get a really nice, intense attack out of it.
Check out how a 1.5mm Dunlop Gator sounds in one of my bass covers here. Be sure to use headphones to hear the bass clearly!
2. Jim Dunlop Max-Grips
Unlike the Gator Grips, the Max-Grips are made of nylon, and instead of the matte texture, these picks have a very coarse area located where most of your thumb will rest on. This gives you the most anti-slippage possible.
Therefore, I think Max-Grips win in that regard, but the Gators are still highly-effective in doing its job!
On the other hand, delrin tends to be a lot stiffer than nylon, which is why I lean towards the Gator Grips more. Even at heavier thicknesses, nylon tends to have some flexibility to it.
Right now, I currently have the 1.14mm Max-Grips (I was using these before I tried the 1.5mm Gators), and I think they’re great, but I’ve taken a liking to heavier ones, lately.
I still need to pick up some 1.5mm Max-Grips and give them a try, but if I can reduce more of the “flex” with that thickness, there is a good chance they will become my favorite plectrums since it has a similar standard shape as the Gators.
.It is something that I’ll probably need to experiment with, but it can’t hurt to have both types of picks at your disposal. To be honest, it’s pretty tough to determine which one is truly the best.
I just know that I love the grips on these, and they sound good, so I’m recommending the Max-Grip line as a whole.
3. Clayton Triangle Picks
If you’re looking for something a little different than your traditional, standard-sized picks, from experience, I can recommend the triangle picks by Clayton.
These picks are made from a material known as “acetal,” which is actually very similar to delrin.
However, due to differences in how the plastics are blended, acetal produces a warmer and softer tone than delrin, which is known for being brighter.
Triangle picks are typically considerably larger than the standard-sized ones that we just covered. Some people find this more advantageous, whereas others find no benefit at all.
Nonetheless, here is a size comparison between my Clayton 1.26mm and my Dunlop Gator Grip 1.5mm so you can get an idea of how much more you’re getting. It might be hard to tell, but these Clayton acetal picks also have a matte finish like the Gators.
Using one doesn’t really make or break my performance, personally, but a robust pick like this does feel very comfortable in my hands and gives me a great sense of control of my playing, so naturally, I really like these picks a lot just for those reasons alone, and I think you will too.
Overall, I think triangle picks are severely underrated, and they are definitely worth a shot. I know for a fact that you’ll definitely see more bassists using these than guitarists, though due to their size.
As mentioned before, choosing a pick for bass guitar comes down to a matter of preference, but there are a few things that objectively make playing much easier. Having a larger, thicker pick as opposed to a small, flimsy pick will be the way to go, and I’ve provided some good examples of them throughout this article, including what I think are the best bass guitar picks.
These plectrums will offer you lots of control over every stroke, which will help facilitate fast playing. Therefore, if you play both guitar and bass, you won’t need to buy two different sets of picks.
Though, if you’re like me, you might have a preference for each instrument. I love using Jazz III picks on guitar, even though I know that the ones talked about here are awesome too – they are guitar picks after all, not bass picks, specifically. Like I said earlier, “bass picks” just tend to be heavy guitar picks anyway.
Hopefully, I was able to steer you in the right direction, but more importantly, I hope you have a better understanding of the things to look for when purchasing a pick. If all else fails, you can always try that variety pack that I mentioned earlier.
Experimenting with different things can be quite fun, and there are no rules saying that you need to commit to just one type of pick. You might come across a few that you really enjoy, but eventually settle into one you find feels just right for you.