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Do Guitar Picks Wear Out?

Like comets and rainbows, a worn-out guitar pick is a rare sight. 

If you’re anything like me, your picks don’t stick around long enough to get worn out, forever being lost to the void and replaced over and over again before they’ve had a chance to wear down…

But for those of us who can hold on to our plectrums for more than a session or two, a worn-out guitar pick can become a real issue. Like any object, yes, guitar picks can and will wear out.

Different factors go into deciding how often or how seriously they wear out, but the outcome is always the same… a misshaped piece of plastic that can seriously impact a player’s tone and playability if not replaced.

To find out more about worn-out guitar picks, let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions regarding the lifespan of everyone’s favourite playing aide.

How Long Do Guitar Picks Usually Last?

There are a number of factors that can decide how long a guitar pick usually lasts. Material, thickness, shape and time all play an important part in a pick’s lifespan.

Certain materials used for guitar picks are more durable than others. Ultex is considered by many to be one of the strongest pick materials out there. Delrin is also pretty sturdy and should survive even the most punishing playstyle.

Meanwhile, picks made from softer materials like Acrylic, tend to have much shorter lifespans, because the materials are weaker and more fragile.

Pick thickness is a no-brainer… the more material there is, the more durable it’ll be. Because of the extra material, thicker picks can take a beating for longer before their shape is altered too severely.

Thinner picks meanwhile will wear down quicker simply because there is less material to go through and they have less structure keeping them together.

Surprisingly, the shape of your pick can also determine just how long it’ll last. A sharper-ended pick can wear out and deform quicker than a rounded or even standard-shaped pick because it loses its sharp edge easier.

As a general rule of thumb, the average guitarist should see their picks last anywhere from a few weeks to a month, before the plectrum starts showing signs of wear and tear.

If you’re a bit more than an “average” player, then you may need to change your pick more often. Many pros replace their plectrum after every show and recording session, always favouring a fresh pick over a worn one.

How Will I Know If a Guitar Pick Is Worn Out?

There are a few things you wanna look out for to know if your guitar pick has worn out.

Firstly, check its shape

As the pick suffers the general wear and tear of a life spent being dragged across metal strings, it’ll start to change its shape. 

Edges become bevelled, notches grow in size and the once pointy tips might start to round out. This is usually a telltale sign that your guitar pick has worn out.

Another point to consider is tone.

Guitar picks have a direct impact on the tone of your six-string. If your guitar doesn’t sound as full or bright as it once did, it could be a sign that the plectrum has worn down. 

Finally, consider playability.

A worn pick might feel awkward or uncomfortable to hold as it loses surface area and becomes lighter in your hands. If you’ve noticed a difference in the playability of a once comfortable pick, then it might be time for a replacement.

Can You Still Use a Worn-Out Guitar Pick?

I mean look… nobody is going to stop you from using one… 

But why would you want to?

A worn-out guitar pick can cause a number of problems, and considering how cheap a pick is to replace, there really is no reason why you would continue to use a worn-out guitar pick.

Obviously, you can still use a worn-out pick, unless it’s really damaged it’ll still work like a pick is supposed to. But don’t be surprised if playability and tone begin to slip.

Which Guitar Picks Are the Most Durable?

As we touched on before, there are a few materials that you want to look out for when choosing a guitar pick that is durable.

Delrin, Ultex, Nylon and Acetal are all considered long-lasting and durable materials to use because of their high tensile strength. Metal and Carbon Fiber picks are another obvious choice for strong and durable plectrums.

Below we’ve put together a few picks worth checking out if durability and quality are what you’re looking for:

Steve Clayton Ultem Guitar Picks

Revered for its toughness and durability, the Steve Clayton Ultem guitar picks are a great option if you’re looking for a pick that’ll survive even the most punishing playstyles.

Offering a bright and crisp tone, these guitar picks aim to mimic the tonal properties of tortoiseshell, making it a lead guitarist’s dream.

The pick comes in 4 sizes: rounded, triangle, standard or small as well as thicknesses ranging from super thin .38mm to extra thick 1.20mm. Their top-notch durability and clear, bright tone make these picks a must-have.

Dunlop John Petrucci Jazz III Guitar Picks

If you’ve been here before then you already know about our love for the Dunlop Jazz line of guitar picks. These guys rock!

Small, agile and with a sharp tip perfect for shredding lead lines and landing tough riffs, the John Petrucci custom Jazz III now comes in Ultex, meaning they’re tougher and more durable than ever before.

Its bevelled tip not only gives this pick better attack and release, it also extends its lifespan by creating less resistance against the metal strings. The thick 1.15mm profile also gives it enough body to survive multiple sessions before needing to be replaced.

Thanks to a combination of expert design and high-quality materials, this pick is one of the most durable on the market today.

Ernie Ball Prodigy Guitar Picks

“Super-stiff, long-lasting and low-friction”, that’s how Ernie Ball describes their Prodigy guitar picks. And they’re not wrong…

Thanks to its thermoplastic Delrin body, these guitar picks are super sturdy and highly durable giving you improved accuracy, output and control, with every note.

The textured body also gives you an improved grip when the sweat starts to pour, and its bevelled edge means resistance between the pick and the strings is kept to a minimum.

Available in a thick 1.5mm gauge, these are some of the most durable picks on the market, offering great tone and unmatched control perfect for amateurs and professionals alike.