Photo by Andy Ellis

Guitar-like instruments played with some sort of plectrum have existed for centuries, but nearly 100 years ago plectrum innovations sparked a tone and technique revolution.

Many of us have had the experience of picking up someone else’s guitar and feeling instantly at home. But have you ever tried playing your own guitar with someone else’s pick? Unless it has a gauge, shape, and texture similar to your own, an alien pick can make playing even a familiar axe feel like someone changed the locks on your house.

And today, we’ve got more choices than ever—from handmade boutique picks made of unusual organic materials to mass-produced models with closely guarded polymer recipes. Combined, manufacturers produce hundreds of millions of picks every year in a vast array of the aforementioned characteristics.

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