Have you ever arrived somewhere to practice (or worse, to play a gig) and realized you have no guitar picks with you?
I only had two experiences of this kind of panic before I decided to find some guitar pick alternatives.
I don’t know about yours, but my guitar picks disappear all the time. En route to gigs, from a locked room, or even from my pocket.
If you regularly lose guitar picks, I’ll share some alternatives you can find close by in a pinch!
Then I’ll share a few options that may be safer — though they take slightly longer to make.
Do I Have to Play with a Guitar Pick?
No! If you can play with your fingers or your nails, then go for it.
But unless you specifically want to play only fingerstyle, it’s a good idea to learn to use a guitar pick too.
Your fingers should be just fine if you’re:
- Playing casually in the church every weekend
- Playing strum-heavy country music
- Jamming easy songs with your friends
But you should definitely use a pick if you want to:
- Play 7-string or 8-string electric guitars
- Learn intricate metal or rock songs
- Improve picking speed
Alright enough about that. Now let’s get into those guitar pick alternatives!
7 Quirky Guitar Pick Alternatives You Can Use in a Pinch
Whether you’re playing at a club or restaurant or jamming at home, you’re likely to find these within easy reach!
Keep in mind, these are all meant to be used as short-term alternatives. And some of them aren’t the safest options (more on that below).
A coin can work well in a pick emergency, as there’s most likely one in a pocket somewhere nearby.
Brian May (Queen) and Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) both use coins exclusively. May uses a British sixpence piece and Gibbons uses a Mexican peso!
The thinner the coin, the easier it should be to use as a pick. Be aware that the serrated metal can damage your strings. This should be used only when you can’t find another alternative!
Here’s an excellent comparison of different types of US coins and how they sound and feel on the strings:
A paperclip is an easier shape to hold and play with than a coin.
Heavy strumming may bend the paperclip. But you could always double up the layers for more strength.
Paperclips covered in plastic will give a slightly warmer sound. But the plastic may chip off as you’re playing!
Wherever you’re playing, chances are there’s paper close by.
Folding a piece of paper to use as a pick is easy. The bonus here is that you can customize it a little more than other things.
Too thin? Fold it again to make it thicker.
Wrong shape? Fold or cut it to the shape you want.
You can use money, junk mail, a receipt, or even any paper you find in the trash can!
This may sound weird, but a toothpick is a good guitar pick alternative if you like picking. The tip is thin enough to be able to play each string separately with ease.
A wooden toothpick may break easily if you try strumming with it. A plastic one would be a better choice for strumming.
There’s also more than enough room to hold it comfortably and play. Just be careful not to stab yourself while playing!
5. Bottle Cap
Any club or venue will probably have a bottle cap lying around. If not, order a drink!
Some may find the thicker, beveled shape of a bottle cap hard to play with. But in an emergency, it could do for strumming.
It’s unlikely to be a good fit for picking. Unless you can stamp down the edges, in which case it may work!
6. Necklace Pendant
If someone is wearing a flattish pendant on their necklace, it may do well as a guitar pick.
Do you lose guitar picks often? Consider wearing a guitar pick pendant around your neck! Or you can get a pick holder necklace so you always have a pick on hand.
But anything from a cross to an initial on a necklace could work.
Make sure that the metal is not fragile, though! Being knocked against metal strings can damage jewelry. If you’re using someone else’s jewelry, make sure they know the risks and give you permission.
7. Credit Card
If you can’t find anything else, you can always use your debit or credit card to play guitar with.
It’s not the best choice. After all, there’s always a chance of breaking it or getting lost in the middle of a hectic guitar solo!
It’s also not the most comfortable thing to play with. A card is much bigger than a regular pick, and quite differently shaped.
But it is the perfect thickness and it will do if you’re stuck!
Safe Guitar Pick Alternatives – Make Your Own!
While all of the choices above can work as guitar pick alternatives in a pinch, they’re not all the safest.
Some can damage your guitar strings. Others are fragile themselves. Some of them may even hurt your hands while using them!
I recommend making your own picks if you can.
Advantages? They’re fairly quick to do and you can make them out of a bunch of different materials.
All you need is a pair of scissors. But I suggest investing in a guitar pick punch like this one if you’re likely to be making them often! Although you’ll only be able to make them one size and shape.
Keep a pair of scissors and some of these materials in your guitar case. Then you can even make a pick or two before a gig if you’re stuck!
1. Old Plastic Cards
Instead of throwing away old plastic credit cards, why not make guitar picks out of them? You can use:
- Credit cards
- Old gift cards
The plastic material is equivalent to about a 0.71mm guitar pick. You can get about five or six picks out of one card if you do it right!
2. Old CDs or DVDs
We all have old CDs or DVDs lying around! Repurpose them into new guitar picks.
There are two layers to a disc. Here’s a trick: heat the disc up from underneath using a lighter. Then, using a thin blade or knife, separate the two layers.
This way the layers are easier to cut through, a nice thickness to play with, and you can get twice as many picks out of a disc.
Draw an outline of a pick onto both layers. Cut them out with a pair of scissors and file the edges down until they’re smooth. It’s that easy!
You can do the same with old plastic rulers, thin plastic containers, and even water bottles!
You can punch guitar picks out of really thin wood if you want to. But these are unlikely to be very strong.
If you’re a woodworking fan, though, you can make amazing picks with just a little effort. You will need some woodworking tools, though!
Here’s a quick and easy tutorial:
If you lose your pick often, knowing some guitar pick alternatives you can grab in a pinch is helpful!
Keep in mind that what works best for you will depend on preference. But in a jam, you may not have a choice!
In case of emergencies, it’s wise to keep a few coins or a pair of scissors in your guitar case.
If you can’t find anything we’ve mentioned, you’ll need to get creative! The good news is that almost anything small and thin can work with a bit of effort.
Thanks for reading, and look after those guitar picks!