Holy Plectrum! What are guitar picks made from?

11 Jul

We are a material conscious world in many aspects but in this case the interest is focused on what things are made of and even better what are guitar picks made of. Here we will go over the highlights on what guitar picks were made of, why the industry changed and what you will find being used today.

Guitar Picks were originally made out of tortoiseshell. Tortoiseshell was used to produce combs, sunglasses, guitar picks and knitting needles. This material was popular with consumers because of its beauty, durability and pleasing tactile quality.

The tortoiseshell comes from the slow moving Hawksbill Turtle. This reptile is on the endangered species list and banned from trade in 1973 causing a shift within the industry to find a new material replicating the flexibility, durability and sound produced by the tortoiseshell.

The industry turned its attention to plastics as a means to duplicate the tortoiseshell experience. It made sense to pursue this material since plastics were not a new material to the guitar pick world. They had been using plastics in the manufacturing of guitar picks as early as the 1920’s.

Today you will find most guitarist with a plastic or nylon pick. The pick making industry offers a nice variety of different plastics (nylon, polyethylene, celluloid and others) each offering it own unique distinction. Other less common materials, because they can cause harm to the strings, are copper, bronze and steel. Lastly, and even more exclusive are stone, wood and leather picks which have their own natural beauty and tonal qualities.

The materials that make up guitar picks have a unique story. There are many different material options and each offer their own unique qualities. Whether it is nylon, wood or steel. It is all about how it sounds and how it feels. Only the guitar player knows which is the right fit.

tortoiseshell guitar pick tortoiseshell products

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