If you’re new to using a guitar or want to start learning, there’s a very important aspect to it that many newcomers take for granted: the wear and tear of guitar picks. After several hours of continual use, they will become dull and don’t provide that crisp clear sound they did when you first used it.
But, there are a few things you can do to preserve your picks so they will last just a little bit longer. While that’s not entirely guaranteed, you can invest in some higher-quality picks that will give you the most bang for your buck. And no discussion about worn-out guitar picks would be complete without mentioning how to dispose of them.
Guitar Picks DO Wear Out
It’s unfortunate but true, but the average guitar pick does wear out. You should see them start wearing out at about 10 hours of use. After 15 to 20 hours, they’ll go kaput. Not only will it sound strange against the strings, but you could also scrape the skin on the tips of your fingers.
How fast a guitar pick wears out will depend on your frequency and method of play. If you gently strum it on occasion, a pick should last you about a month or so. But, in the event you’re trying to recreate the legendary moments of Pete Townsend on the daily, then you’ll be changing out your pick at least once per week if not more.
Preserving Guitar Picks for Longer Use
There are some things you can do to keep your guitar picks in good shape and slow down the dulling process. First, you want to ensure that you store your picks in a safe spot and that your cat or children can’t get at them. A small, closable container like a small Tupperware box, an old (but clean) ashtray or a toothpick case will do the trick.
You can also use a fine-grit piece of sandpaper to keep the playing edge of the pick sharpened. This also helps to remove any bent or torn parts of the pick tip. But, you should do this very gently and in a “V” shape, maintaining the same direction.
Since most guitar picks comprise plastic, many factors go into its wear-and-tear. Of course, playing is the major culprit, but so are your dirty fingers and shoddy strings. So, make sure you clean off your guitar picks and strings after using them. This is especially true when you notice any funkiness. Being meticulous about this will keep the oils and acids on your fingers from building up on your pick.
Purchasing Long-Lasting Guitar Picks
Of course, the quality of the guitar pick will help elongate the length of time before it begins wearing out. If you’re the kind of player that manipulates single strings like Jimi Hendrix, then investing in higher-quality picks will be essential.
Sure, guitar picks shouldn’t be a huge expense. But constantly buying cheaper picks will end up being more expensive in the end. Therefore, it’s a good idea to study up on the various brands available and the materials that comprise their picks. Consider the list below. These contain some of the best, longest-lasting picks on the market:
- Dunlop Torex Standard – treated delrin
- ChickenPicks Badazz III – thermosetting plastic
- Dunlop Ultex Jazz III – ultex
- Winspear – composite of ultex and glass
- Fender 351 Shape Wavelength – celluloid
- Dunlop Carbon Fiber Jazz III – molded carbon fiber
- BlueChip – unknown proprietary composite material
- V-Picks – acrylic
- Gravity – acrylic
- Dunlop Big Stubby – nylon
Throwing Away Worn Out Guitar Picks
When your guitar picks are no longer useful, you have to dispose of them properly. This will heavily impinge on the material they comprise and whether they’re recyclable or not. Most brands will advertise that their picks are recyclable. In this case, you can put it out with the weekly pickup but you can also toss them in the regular trash.
You can recycle picks made of pure ultex, plastic, nylon, or celluloid. But ones made with a composite of glass, carbon fiber, or delrin cannot go into recycling. However, you may want to call your local recycling center and ask them what they accept. Some municipalities have the ability to recycle anything while others are a little more limited in this regard.
In the event, you don’t want to throw away your picks or you can’t recycle the ones you have, you can repurpose them. You can start a collection of all your old guitar picks by making a wall mural, guitar case embellishment or some other kind of art project.
Depending on how you feel about your pick, you can use it as a cleaning tool for tight, narrow spaces like the grout around your kitchen sink. Alternatively, you could keep and frame your old pick if it has some sort of memorable story behind it.
Conclusion – Do Guitar Picks Wear Out?
So, yes, guitar picks do wear out after some point. Even if you get the higher quality kinds of picks, there is a limit to their lifespan. But, if you take care of your picks by cleaning them off and giving them a little sharpening once and a while, they should last a little longer than the average 15 to 20 hours.
This includes how you store, play, and handle the picks as well. If you let your cat chew on your picks or leave them out at random, expect the pick to have a shorter lifespan. So, it’s advisable you have a case or other container for prolonged use.
Then, when the pick finally goes to guitar pick heaven, you will have to dispose of it. You can toss these into the regular trash. But, it might be better if you opt to recycle or repurpose them to stay in line with eco-friendly practices. Of course, there’s always the option of holding onto your picks for posterity, especially if they have an interesting back story.
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