Using the rounded side of a guitar pick, while isn’t common, isn’t unheard of. Guitars are one of the most versatile musical instruments that musicians can play. Different shapes and components can completely change the way the guitar sounds but different techniques applied to playing it can also be just as effective in changing the sound. Guitar picks are not a necessity for playing the guitar but offer several benefits that make them popular to use.
Guitar picks are used to get a brighter and more contrasting sound as opposed to fingerpicking. Different types of guitar picks exist with different materials and thicknesses that change the sound. Guitar players of all skills however should be able to experiment with using the guitar pick in different ways to achieve unique rhythms in their strumming patterns, especially using the rounded side of the guitar pick instead of the point.
Guitar picks have existed throughout history in the form of various plectrums used to strum other stringed instruments however picks were not originally used with the first guitars instead finger picks like for a banjo were used.
Nick Lucas popularized the pick that most people think of today with a vaguely rounded triangular shape. Celluloid proved to be the more sufficient material for guitar picks and combining a celluloid plastic pick with a high relief logo or image allows it not to slip out of the musician’s fingers.
Types of guitar pick with rounded sides
Some early guitarists used tortoiseshell guitar picks however this became illegal in the 70s due to a decline in the population of tortoises and turtles due to their harvesting.
Modern guitarists have a wide variety of materials they can use for guitar picks and it’s also possible to improvise. Some guitarists are known for using cut-up credit cards to use as guitar picks. It is important to know what different picks do before slapping anything across the guitar strings.
One can use a metal pick to strum the guitar but they must understand that it will wear against the strings much harder compared to softer materials. This is also true for guitar picks, a pick made out of a softer material may not last as long as something stronger. Different materials of guitar picks also change how they sound and play, some materials are firm and some materials have a little bit of flexibility.
Very firm picks will have a crisp and clean sound but may feel rigid to play with compared to a more flexible pick. It is up to the musician to choose what guitar pick feels best for what they are playing and it’s not a bad idea to have some variety on hand to experiment with. Nylon and acrylic are popular materials for guitar picks but it is also possible to get wood, glass, carbon fiber, and even imitation tortoiseshell.
Once one has a guitar pick that feels right they can start strumming. Different styles and shapes of picks offer their benefits but an equilateral or triangular pick will be good for using the different edges of the pick. Using a corner instead of the tip of the guitar pick is very good at plucking out individual strings but using the longer blunt side can completely change the way the guitar plays.
Using the rounded side of the guitar pick allows one to not only hit more strings but apply more force to each string that is hit. Pick attack is the term used for the way one strikes the guitar strings with the pick in hand. One can either have a soft or a heavy pick attack and both of these have their benefits.
Having a heavy pick attack can add a nice distortion to a guitar riff without losing clarity but it can muddy some of the voice and tone of the guitar and amp. The opposite is true for having a soft pick attack in that it sounds clean and precise but can lose some of the attitudes and bite that makes some guitar riffs sound really dynamic.
Use the side of your guitar pick you’re most comfortable with
Here’s a good video explaining why you might want to use the rounded side of a guitar pick VS the corner:
One should experiment with using the corner instead of the tip of the guitar pick and taking special care to how they are hitting the strings and using an alternating and dynamic pick attack to use the guitar pick to its fullest potential. Using the rounded side of a guitar pick allows all of the force from the pick to be applied directly and evenly among the strings being played.
There are many ways to play the guitar and just as many different types of guitars to play. Guitar players have innovated in so many ways by using different picks and picking methods to achieve different effects.
It is always worth trying out a new technique or experimenting with a new idea as one will never know what it will sound like. Trying a new type of pick or a new style is a really good way to get out of an artistic rut and grow in skill as an artist.