Picks, picks, picks… you’ve probably seen so many guitarists and quite a few bass players use them in so many instances. Functionally, they are used for the same purposes, But are guitar and bass picks the same?
Bass and guitar picks are not the same. Dedicated bass picks are slightly thicker and bigger on average than dedicated guitar picks. However, you can use any pick for guitar or bass, provided you like the tone you get with it and are comfortable playing with it.
Let’s take a look at the differences between a guitar and a bass pick and why they’re different. And then I’ll follow that up with some tips on using guitar picks for bass and vice versa. Let’s get into it.
Difference between Bass and Guitar Picks
There are different varieties of picks (or plectrums). But, what really distinguishes guitar picks from bass picks?
|Bass Picks||Guitar Picks|
|Thickness||Relatively thicker (about 1.1-1.4 mm thick)||Relatively thinner (about 0.8-1.0 mm thick)|
|Size||Relatively Bigger (width, length)||Relatively smaller|
|General ‘Feel’||Firm and stiff||Flexible|
Dedicated bass picks are generally thicker than guitar ones. On average, they are about 1.2 mm thick. Dedicated guitar ones, however, are about 0.9 mm thick. Bass picks are generally stiff compared with the dedicated guitar picks, which are usually more flexible.
There is a relationship between the sizes of picks, sizes of guitar strings, and tone quality. Here, the bigger the size of the guitar string, the chances are that you would want to use a thicker pick on it for richer tone quality. This will be further explored shortly.
The size of your pick is also important. The bigger your pick, the more surface area, control, and more comfortable you would be in using it on your bass.
Dedicated guitar picks are relatively smaller than bass picks. And depending on the personal taste and objective of the bassist, this could be a plus or not so much of a ‘plus.’
For instance, jazz guitar players, since they may want to prioritize speed, may go in for a smaller-sized pick. But this may not be the case for bassists generally.
Why Bass Picks are Different from Guitar Picks
Although they look quite similar, the bass and electric or acoustic guitar are two totally different instruments. Physically, one thing that differentiates a bass guitar from an electric or acoustic guitar is its string size.
Bass guitars typically have thicker strings than electric guitars and acoustic guitars. And this is the primary reason why both instruments have different picks. What do I mean,
Well, because bass guitars have thicker strings, you’ll need a thicker pick to pluck them to produce a clear and rich bass tone. Conversely, electric and acoustic guitars have slim strings.
And this means you don’t need thicker picks to pluck them effectively. And this is why guitar picks are usually flexible and small in size compared to bass picks.
This doesn’t mean you can’t use bass picks for guitars or guitar picks for the bass. That’s not the case at all. We’ll talk about that later in the article. However, without using proper technique, you won’t get a quality tone using guitar picks for bass or vice versa.
Can You Use Guitar Picks for Bass?
You can definitely use a guitar pick for bass. However, you may get a thin-sounding and bright tone than you would with a bass pick. But with the right technique, you’ll not notice any difference in tone between using a guitar or a bass pick for a bass guitar.
If you’re looking for a bass guitar tone with more high-end, using a guitar pick is actually an excellent way to achieve that quickly. Since guitar picks are generally flexible, they are incapable of plucking bass strings effectively. And this results in a thin-sounding bass tone that lacks punch and a lot of low end.
However, with the right technique, you can get a heavy-sounding bass tone even with a guitar pick. All you have to do is to hold the guitar pick firmly to prevent it from flexing and bending as you play. This way, you’re using your fingers to make the guitar as stiff and rigid as dedicated bass picks.
But if you want to save yourself some stress, just stick to using bass picks for bass guitars. Bass guitars require a relatively bigger and thicker plectrum to create a sufficiently rich tone. In other words, the bigger the size of the string, the chances are that you would want to use a thicker pick on it, generally speaking.
You’ll get more control over your instrument, and you’ll get a rich, heavy-sounding bass tone with minimal effort.
Can You Use Bass Picks for Guitar?
In short, yes. You can pick a bass for a guitar.
Because bass picks are generally bigger, thicker, and wider than guitar picks, you should anticipate louder, gain-thriving tones with more ‘attack.’ This would likely be coupled with sharpness- and slight discomfort since the pick would feel rather ‘too’ big.
But hey, music is art. It allows you to experiment in order to gain different tones and sounds you can identify with. And if that requires that you use a bass pick on the electric guitar, why not?
There are dedicated bass and guitar picks, respectively. But this should not restrict you to using only a specific dedicated one in creating music on your bass or guitar. Feel free and experiment- and have fun at it as you identify what works best for you.