ACOUSTIC WEEK Originally the term plectrum was used to describe any material used to strike the strings of instruments such as the harpsichord, luter, mandolin, zither and, of course, guitar.
These materials ranged from quills, to wood and ivory. Nowadays, as you’d either be laughed off stage (or arrested) if found using several of the above, we have settled on the ubiquitous modern forms of plastic or nylon for this purpose (although many of us will remember fishing around for an old coin to use as a last resort!).
As with most things these days, plectrums come in all shapes, sizes, thicknesses and textures. Whilst shape and size are pretty much down to personal taste, the thickness and texture of the pick will have a direct result on your sound. Whichever type you go for, make sure the part that hits the strings is free from any rough edges. That said, you can always make a few scratches on the part in contact with your fingers for some added grip if necessary.
If you're just starting our, and you're keen to experiment with lots of different styles, a medium pick will serve you well. However, if you feel you’d like to delve a little further, go out and buy yourself 3 or 4 different thicknesses of pick and you’ll soon find that one type is often more suitable than another for different styles of music.
For example, if you want to play a lot of lead lines on your acoustic guitar, a thicker pick will give you a harder attack. Not only will this help your sound project more in volume, but it will also give the higher strings a fuller bodied sound (many acoustic jazz players use a thicker pick with heavy gauge strings for this reason).This works equally well for rock styles on the acoustic, although we would personally opt for a lighter gauge of string, otherwise those bluesy bends may result in the loss of blood!