Guitars

The Best Picks for Bass Guitars

Excellent guitar playing starts at the most inconspicuous of places; at the pick. If you are looking to bring out some soulful sounds from your electric bass, then unless you’re fingering or playing slap-style, you’ll need an excellent pick that can manage the larger strings.

As with anything, you’ll have better results if you pick the right tool for the job, and a bass pick is a quintessential tool for excellent bass guitar playing.

Funnily enough, there are a lot of bass players out there in the world who frown at bass playing with a pick at all, but I find that for some songs, a great pick is the best choice, especially when the tempo is faster.

Top Pick: Original Dragon’s Heart

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Polyamide-Imide and a 12 percent Graphite fill for inherent smoothness and flow. 3 edges: standard, a sharper edge adds a “pop” to string attacks, and a rounded edge for darker tone.

I am a bit of a guitar fanatic. I bought my first guitar several years ago and currently have almost 50 strewn around my house. Once I actually bought my first electric, which was a Fender Stratocaster, I decided to purchase my first bass to accompany it.

Since then, I’ve become proficient with most types of guitar playing, and I also now consider bass playing to be a bit of a passion of mine.

Ever since I bought my first bass all those years ago, I’ve been using a set of picks that came with that instrument. I’ve always loved how springy they felt when strumming.

I’ve probably even used then on my guitar more than I’ve used them on my bass. But as time passed, these picks started to degrade, and now I’m in the market for some replacements.

I’ve found that the Dragon’s Heart Guitar Picks are the best for playing quality and soulful bass. It’s amazing how deep the pick world goes, and to find out which would work better for me, I checked out several guitar stores so that I would be able to test out a wide variety of picks.

I also consulted a fellow musician, Natasha M. who is in a local band here in NYC. She has a good take on these things, and like me, she values the pick when she plays her bass.

How to Choose a Pick

Picks, as you know, are a very optional product for bass guitarists, but there are a lot of great options to select from that can really enhance your playing. First, let’s take a look at some of the materials that comprise the standard plectrum or pick.

First, let’s take a look at some of the materials that comprise the standard plectrum or pick.

Materials

Traditionally, there has been a wide variety of choices of materials when it comes to pick composition. At one time, picks came in tortoiseshell, tusk, or even bone.

These picks are very rare these days, but to this day, some guitarists swear by their unique tone and feel. If you do come across these types of picks, tread lightly because, as you might expect, ivory picks are very illegal.

These old-school choices aside, there are several materials used today that is relatively easy to come by. Here is a list of them:

Metal

Metal picks may sound like the types of picks that you’d use for heavy metal, but in truth, they are much more versatile than that.

Metal bass picks are also some of the most destructive when it comes to bass string maintenance; and as a result, take a lot of getting used to.

These picks provide a very crisp attack for your strumming and actually can act a bit like a fret if you strike the strings a certain way. They tend to be incredibly thin and simply won’t bend when you’re playing.

Metal picks definitely feel unique, but the loss of that pick-like bend will definitely wear your strings quickly, so expect to have to change them at more regular intervals, but some bassists find that this is a small price to pay.

Wood

If you are an acoustic bassist, then this type of pick may just be what you’re looking for. As you might suspect, wooden picks feel very natural and warm.

These are the most silent options for picking, which is why they are so useful for acoustic basses. These picks also have a very warm tone and are more round than many of the other types of picks out there.

When it comes to wooden materials, you’ll have a wide variety of tone woods to choose from. Here are just a few types of woods that you can purchase or even use to craft your own wooden picks:

  • Rosewood
  • African Blackwood
  • Cocobolo
  • Maple
  • Walnut
  • Cherry
  • Zebrawood
  • Mahogany

Plastic

Plastic picks are the most common types of pick on the market today. Just about every musician has used a type of plastic pick, and as a general rule, these picks are the most versatile and easy to use.

There are three types of plastic picks, celluloid, Delrex, and Delrin. Let’s take a look at them each in a more in-depth manner:

Celluloid

When you think of a guitar pick, you’re probably thinking of a celluloid pick. These picks are famous for their crisp and bright attack when you use them to strum your bass strings. Personally, I prefer a celluloid pick when I’m playing my six-string bass just because of the sound it helps generate on my bass amp.

Celluloid feels smooth and looks shiny and contributes a lot of pick noise to your strums. As a result, whether you’re playing bridge-side, middle, or neck-side, you’ll know that you’re using a celluloid pick.

Amazingly, celluloid picks have been in production since the 1850s. The material itself, which is a derivative of plastic, also became famous because it was what old-timey film was made of.

It’s this shared composition that serves as a drawback for celluloid picks; they’re unfortunately flammable. Celluloid picks will also decompose quickly as well.

Delrin

Delrin is a type of plastic made by DuPont. Delrin is made of acetal resin and is very durable. This Delrin material has a high degree of flex endurance so that you can confidently play without fear of snapping the pick.

When I was doing my pick research, I found that I liked the overall grip of Delrin; it simply seems like it would be very hard to accidentally drop a Delrin pick while playing.

Delrex

It is also called Tortex is a plastic pick material that is designed to emulate the look and feel of tortoise shell. It’s also a DuPont material, so that means that it’s a sister material to Delrin.

The pick tone and rough feel of Delrin is present in Delrex, but Delrex picks can also have a very chalky feel to them, which is great for overall grip and handling.

Nylon

My previous picks that needed to be replaced were made of this material. Nylon is an amazingly bendy pick material that is perfect for fast playing on the bass.

I actually loved this on my electric guitar because nylon really makes tremolos easier in my opinion. On a bass, nylon is also a very silent type of pick that really helps when you need to play a bassline at a quick pace.

Stone

This is becoming a very popular pick for many bassists today. The Dragon’s Heart guitar picks are actually crafted partially from graphite, which comprises some stone picks.

Stone materials like these grant a heightened degree of grip and are very resonant when you are strumming.

How the Shape of Your Pick Effects Your Play

While we all want to play on the skull-shaped Pick of Destiny, the truth is, more classical shapes tend to have an excellent effect on our bass playing.

Shape is definitely a major contributor to sound and also greatly effects how the strings vibrate. Some of the classic shapes of a pick are:

Teardrop

The most popular type, these have a nice comfortable grip and a semi-sharp point that’s perfect for quick and definitive attacks.

Triangle

A tri-sided option. You can technically pluck your strings with any end of these. I recommend these for those that constantly break the tips of their picks.

Rounded

Funnily enough, I’ve played a teardrop pick so much that I’ve worked it down to this shape. Rounded picks provide a more transient sound that comes off as haunting. If you are looking to play your bass strings with less force, these are for you.

The Thickness of Your Pick

This is a feature that will greatly depend on your own personal preference. The thickness of your pick will change its flexibility, weight, and overall durability. Here are some of your potential selections when it comes to thickness:

  • Extra Light (under 0.40 mm)
  • Light (0.40 mm – 0.63 mm)
  • Medium (0.63 mm – 0.85 mm)
  • Heavy (0.85 mm – 1.22 mm)
  • Extra Heavy (1.22 mm and above)

The Competition

After hours of testing and research, here's the final competition.

InstrumentRatingCurrent Pricing
Original Dragon's Heart Guitar Pick
Created these picks to have three unique surfaces for different types of playing$11.97
Dunlop 473P3.0 Tri Stubby
Triangle-shaped pick that allows you to use three identical edges for your strumming$6.59
Dunlop 472RH3 Tortex Jazz
Provide a nice, full sound when playing the bass that has a lot of string resonance and crispness$12.26
Dunlop 417P2.0 Gator Grip
Provide a ridged gripping surface and the pick is also thick enough to feel firm when you are strumming$3.89
Dunlop 445P3.0 Nylon Big Stubby
Perfect for someone who is looking to bring a jazzy sound out of their electric bass guitar$4.83
Dunlop 431P1.14 Tortex Triangle
Picks are triangle-shaped, which will give you three picking points$5.40
Fender 346 Shape Classic Celluloid Picks
Great for bass because they have a longer body that has a semi-rounded tip, which is great for bass playing$7.99
Hardened Dragon's Heart Guitar Pick
Bassist can expect a much brighter tone out of these, which can be perfect for solos or for certain genres of music$11.97

Top Pick: Original Dragon’s Heart

These picks are like night and day when I compare them to the extra flexible nylon picks that they replaced.

The Dragon’s Heart line is crafted from a polyamide-Imide and a 12 percent Graphite fill. This material is used in many aerospace applications, which means that the material is smooth enough to be used in aerodynamics.

Unlike my nylon picks, these don’t really have any give, so while this can take a bit of getting used to, I find that I actually play faster on the Dragon’s Heart picks because of their inherent smoothness and flow.

Iwning the Dragon’s Heart is somewhat like owning three different picks. This is because the manufacturers created these picks to have three unique surfaces for different types of playing. Let’s take a look at each so that we can see what makes each shine:

The Standard Edge – The standard edge on this pick is pretty much what you’d expect from a regular pick that’s somewhat thicker in dimensionality. This edge is very normal so that experienced guitarists can instantly pick it up and play with it.

The Sharper Edge – The sharper, more pointed edge is where the pick starts to become more unique. This edge really adds a “pop” to your string attacks, which makes this edge perfect for playing bass solos. Compared to the standard edge, this pointed area has a sharper feel and sound.

The Rounded Edge – Even more unique than the sharper edge of this pick is its rounded edge. Since this is a thicker pick overall, it has a darker tone to it when you strum.

When you apply this thicker sound to the strums that come from this rounded edge, your bass strings will sound much more resonant and full. I find that it also makes strumming very easy, which is perfect for a quicker style of play that is enhanced by the smooth materials of the pick.

Thanks to these numerous edges, this guitar pick has the most versatility on the market; bar none. You can simply use it to play in three different ways that all have unique sounds.

The Dragon’s Heart pick is about 0.3 ounces, and while that might not seem heavy, it is a bit heavier than your standard pick. The weight of a pick can definitely affect the severity and sharpness of your attack, especially on bass.

The weight of a pick can definitely affect the severity and sharpness of your attack, especially on bass. The weight of this particular pick comes in handy when you want a more when you want more note-to-note articulation in your strums.

One of the chief selling points for the Dragon’s Heart series of picks is its durability and lastingness. Since it is comprised of such strong materials like polyamide-Imide and Graphite, it will last you through more playing sessions than just about any other pick.

he manufacturer actually guarantees 1000 hours of playing with this pick, which is a lot of extended playing.

Runner Up: Dunlop 473P3.0 Tri Stubby

Credit: Amazon.com

While I admittedly did fall a bit in love with the Dragon’s Heart, that isn’t to say that I didn’t have another pick that I thought was exceptional.

Our runner-up is the Dunlop 473P3.0 Tri Stubby, which is a pick by a company that has an iconic name in the instrument business, especially when it comes to guitars.

Firstly, the Tri Stubby has a very thick feeling design that feels great when you are playing bass. Thicker and heavier picks produce a more resonant sound so this really is a great bass pick for blues, rock, or even pop.

This is a triangle-shaped pick that allows you to use three identical edges for your strumming. This feature is very nice for quickly playing without the need to find the edge of your pick between sets.

It is made of a plastic called Lexan, which has a great level of durability and has very minimal flexibility when you use it on your bass’s fret board.

I also really thought the physical design of this pick was very cool; it has some great contours that make it a pleasure to hold during practice or during a set.

The inner surfaces are also textured so that it’s very hard to drop this pick inadvertently. Also, each tip comes to a relatively sharp point so that there is a lot of extra pop in your string attacks, which is perfect for a punchy bassline.

Other Products to Consider:

Dunlop 472RH3 Tortex Jazz, Purple, 1.14mm, 36 pack

While the picks that we’ve covered can cost anywhere from five to ten dollars, most guitarists have grown accustomed to their pick purchase being very inexpensive.

This pack of 36 picks is very cost-effective and will last you for a very long time. This was my initial choice, since I was looking to replace a pack of nylon picks that I had purchased some years back.

While these are far from flexible like those picks, these picks are really great feeling in the hands. Comprised of Tortex, which is the material that DuPont developed to replace tortoise shell, which was banned in 1973, these picks actually feel like the real thing.

These picks are also relatively thick at 1.14mm, which combines well with the sharp tip. Together, they provide a nice, full sound when playing the bass that has a lot of string resonance and crispness.

It has a great tactile experience that is easy to grip and play during gigs. I really loved the fact that you can get a full 36 of these for a really competitive price.

You can expect to find this large pack of picks from anywhere between $7 and $11. If sharp isn’t your thing, you can even purchase this pick in rounded varieties as well.

Dunlop 417P2.0 Gator Grip, Black, 2.0mm, 12/Player’s Pack

Credit: Sweetwater

The Gator Grip line of picks has attained something of an iconic status. There’s a reason why these are called the Gator Grip series of picks, the picks are simply hard to dislodge from your hand while you are playing.

They are textured in such a way as to provide a ridged gripping surface and the pick is also thick enough to feel firm when you are strumming. I feel like these have a more easy-to-grip design than the Tortex picks, which are known for their staunch pro-grip design.

While playing around with these on the bass that I used to demo the picks, I really noticed how robust the Gator Grip picks felt. As a bassist, it’s nice to really “feel” each string attack.

Since bass can require a lot more of a tactile experience than regular electric, it’s nice to have a strong feeling pick when you’re playing.

There is even a very nice-feeling contour around the edges that really adds to the nigh-un-droppable feel that Dunlop has cultivated in this line of picks.

For those who are used to thin celluloid or plastic picks, the Gator Grip may take a little getting used to.

This particular product provides a pack of 12 picks for a very affordable price, which is perfect for the bassist that just wants to grab some picks and produce some luscious bass licks. You really shouldn’t expect to have to pay more than five bucks for this pack of 12.

You really shouldn’t expect to have to pay more than five bucks for this pack of 12.

Dunlop 445P3.0 Nylon Big Stubby, Black, 3.0mm, 6/Player’s Pack

Credit: Amazon.com

You may have noticed that we’re hitting on a lot of Dunlop picks. This is because Dunlop has become one of the top brands producing plectrums in the world. Simply stated, you can depend on their picks to provide a unique experience when playing bass.

This is another in the Stubby line of picks that spawned our runner-up. While these aren’t triangular and a bit overlarge like that one, these are thick and full feeling picks that are perfect for someone who is looking to bring a jazzy sound out of their electric bass guitar.

To start, I really loved the presence of the “Big Stubby” logo. It’s this logo that actually provides a unique gripping experience for this series of picks.

It really feels unique when you play with these picks and I found them perfect for basses with more than just the standard four strings.

There is an indentation in this pick’s body that allows bassists and regular guitarists alike to grip firmly on the pick.

I found this indentation very useful, not because it helped me avoid dropping my pick, but because it helped me avoid pick slippage, which is the tendency of my sweaty hands causing me to gradually slide my hands towards the tip of the pick when I play.

Outside of the indentation, these also have a fairly smooth surface that’s relatively cool to the touch. I’d recommend these to anyone who is looking for a thicker pick so that they can get the most resonance and action from their thicker bass strings.

These come in a pack of six, and once again, shouldn’t cost you much more than $5.

Dunlop 431P1.14 Tortex Triangle, Purple, 1.14mm, 6/Player’s Pack

Credit: PicClick LLC

Parting is such sweet sorrow, but we’ve finally reached our last Jim Dunlop pick. This is a Tortex-type, which means that it was initially designed to give bassists an option once tortoise shell picks were banned back in 1973, so what makes these Tortex picks different than the last?

These picks are triangle-shaped, which will give you three picking points. These things are rough feeling, which admittedly can be a bit off-putting for those who aren’t used to the natural feel of these picks.

In a way, these almost feel like stone, which is quite an achievement considering that Tortex is actually a plastic material. When you take a look at these picks, you’ll see irregularities that are there to provide a sense of texture and feel.

These particular picks are actually a bit thin compared to some of the other picks that we’ve reviewed thus far, but this thinness adds a bit of give that some bassists prefer when they play.

It was this give that I preferred in a bass pick before I tried the Dragon’s Heart. The picks don’t have an indentation on them, which means that despite their rough texture, there could still be a bit of slippage.

Dunlop has marked these with a picture of a cartoon turtle, which may or may not be your thing. Like the Gator Grips, these come in a “players pack,” which means that the company provides six picks for you to play with for less than six dollars.

Fender 346 Shape Classic Celluloid Picks

Credit: Amazon.com

If you know rock music, you know Fender. Fender’s lines of guitar picks are almost as iconic as their lines of guitars, so we definitely had to include a Fender pick or two in this guide.

This pack of 12 celluloid picks is great for bass because they have a longer body that has a semi-rounded tip, which is great for bass playing.

You will tend to get a round and smooth tone out of these, which is really great for jazz and a few other solo-friendly genres of music.

When I tested these picks, it was immediately clear that these were longer than the picks that I have become accustomed to. It definitely felt different at first, but it didn’t have too steep of a learning curve.

These are also some of the most flexible picks that I had a chance to sample during my research; and as a result, I have to say that these are probably my third favorite after our runner up.

Because these are made of celluloid made them feel very natural, which is a facet of the material. Celluloid is a plastic, but it degrades naturally, so these almost feel like organic plectrums.

I liked the bone white coloration of these and the fact that they come in a pack of 12 really means that these should last any bassist more than a couple of months or so.

The price is also very reasonable; you can find these anywhere from $3 to around 7$, so shop around before you settle on a purchase.

Hardened Dragon’s Heart Guitar Pick

Credit: Amazon.com

Needless to say, I was really impressed by the Dragon’s Heart line, so our final product is another type.

This one, the hardened version of their picks, uses the same polyamide-Imide, but rather than using a 12 percent graphite fill like our recommended item, this version of the Dragon’s Heart uses a 30 percent glass fiber fill.

As a result, these picks are even harder than the previously mentioned pick, which means that they last even longer. In totality, the manufacturer guarantees a lifespan of 1500 hours of playing with these picks.

From a sound perspective, a bassist can expect a much brighter tone out of these, which can be perfect for solos or for certain genres of music. Like the other Dragon’s Heart pick, these also have three unique edges that make these picks very versatile.

When you’re playing, you can pick using the standard point, the sharper edge, which delivers a more poppy sound, or the dimmer, more resonant sound that comes from the rounded side.

I liked the way this pick made my strings sound, but in the end, I decided against these because the test version I played with left a black residue on my picking hand.

Sources

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