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.
Table of Contents
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.
Toward the end, I will also share my favorite bass pick, which 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 usually a lot thicker than guitar strings, and I believe that a more substantial pick will 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.
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 time to return to its neutral position. It’s only a fraction of a second, 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 at least 0.88mm will suit most people, but I 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 tend 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 I 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 some research to find what the pick is made of.
If you’re new to playing bass with a pick and still prefer the tone of your fingers, there are also rubber picks that work pretty well 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 is 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 essential; 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.”
- Incorporates quick-release beveled edges and matte gripping surface
- High-quality plectra
- Provides both playability and positive attack
- World famous brand
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 their job!
On the other hand, delrin tends to be a lot stiffer than nylon, which is why I lean towards the Gator Grips more for bass. Even at heavier thicknesses, nylon tends to have some flexibility to it.
I actually currently use both the 1.14 and 1.5mm Max-Grips, and I think they’re both great choices depending on if you want a little bit more flex in your pick too.
- Carefully engineered coarse grid provides an unparalleled non-slip surface
- Extreme precision & durability so that you can dig in and maintain control
- Perfect pick for speed pickers and hard strummers
One reason I like having both sizes is that I think the 1.14mm Dunlop Max Grips are amazing for playing the guitar, too, because of the control they offer.
So, if you happen to play both instruments, going with that thickness is a very solid option if you’re looking to save some money, but if you like to play bass exclusively, you can’t go wrong with the 1.5mm ones. You can also grab yourself a variety pack to see which one you like most.
However, I really enjoy the sound and texture of these picks in general, so I’m recommending the Max-Grip line as a whole. They also come in different shapes too like the standard ones and Jazz III, whichever suits your preference. If you’re interested in seeing what other grip picks are out there, I have a guide with more picks with added grip you can look into here.
- Contains 2 each of the following picks: .60, .73, .88, 1.00, 1.14, 1.50
- Great for experimentation and practice
- Recommended for beginning guitar and fretted instrument players
- 12 pick package
3. Pickboy Edge
Last we have these amazing picks by Pickboy that will give you an even sharper attack and tone and are great for rock and metal players who need that plus some extra precision.
This is all possible because of the pointed tip that they have, which is quite similar to a Jazz III pick.
However, these are a little bigger than your ordinary Dunlop Jazz III, so you’ll have more surface area to work with, but they are still smaller than the previous options talked about here.
This, plus the excellent grip texture will give you the control you need to execute fast passages. Also, the grip, and the entire pick itself, are very high quality and durable, so these don’t go dull very fast. Because of this, these picks are pricier than other options, but you won’t need to replace them as fast unless you lose them.
Speaking of feel and control, these do feel slightly different than your ordinary nylon pick, and that’s probably due to the carbon fiber that’s blended into it. That said, it doesn’t really feel like a carbon fiber pick, either.
Basically, in my opinion, this feels like nylon but has the hardness of carbon fiber, which is excellent for bass playing. As mentioned before, nylon can have some flexibility to it, so these are ideal who are looking for something stiffer, even at a lesser gauge like 1.14 mm.
Overall, these picks sound great and are very responsive, so I can recommend these to anyone looking for the qualities that it has, especially if you happen to play metal guitar too.
As mentioned before, choosing a pick for bass guitar comes down to a matter of preference, but a few things objectively make playing bass with a pick much more effortless.
To me and many others, 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” 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 before
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. Who knows, it could be one of the bass accessories you’ll cherish the most.