I’m often asked by students which pick is best: light medium, or heavy. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, because they each serve a different purpose. I’m addressing flat picks here, not beveled picks, finger picks, or jazz picks, which are all slightly different.
In general, light picks produce a clearer, thinner tone. Heavy picks produce warmer, mellower tone. I personally find that I prefer the warm full sound of heavy picks when playing melodies, but the light clear sound of thin picks when strumming chords. As a result, when I play a piece of music that is mostly comprised of melodies or arpeggios I use a heavy pick. When the piece is mostly strummed chords, I use a light pick. If the piece has a combination of both melodic and chordal bits, I would use a medium pick as a sort of all around compromise.
However, that doesn’t mean that there is a situation where I might prefer the sound of a heavy pick on strummed chords, or a light pick on melodies. The musical situation will dictate.
I might recommend that you start with medium picks. But picks are really inexpensive, so go to the guitar store, or online and buy several of each. Variety is the spice of life, and by exploring the different varieties of sound that your guitar picks can produce, you playing will be more alive.
Watch the video below so that you can hear the different sound qualities produces by 3 picks that are made of the same material but with differing thicknesses. Then be sure to check out our post on How To Hold a Guitar Pick, and see here if you drop it into your guitar and need to get it out.