History of Guitar Picks (2019 Infographic)

Updated: Jun 15


Learning about the history of guitar picks is a common question guitar players have. Where do these little devices derive from that assist in our playing? How many different guitar pick variations have there been throughout history? From bone to feathers, to plastic, guitar players have all been searching for one thing: a type of guitar pick that can maintain a tight grip and also produce the best sound.


In this post, you will learn about all the different types of guitar picks that have been made throughout history. The below info-graphic can be used as a guitar pick material sheet to help you decide the best guitar pick for your needs. We even include custom guitar picks and fender guitar picks! The various guitar pick dimensions and thicknesses varied throughout the years and is still a widely discussed topic today.


This info-graphic on guitar pick history includes information on guitar pick thickness and will help you understand how guitar gurus and scientists crafted the perfect guitar pick to help players maintain a firm hold while playing.


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Check out our info-graphic below on the history of guitar picks:

711 a.d. - 1400: The history of guitar picks begin with feather quills being believed to be the first standardized guitar pick among Europeans during the middle ages to play the Middle Eastern lute.

1600: It is also known that musicians would manipulate the string of a bow and arrow using an arrowhead to create different tones.

The French began handling the Italian mandala using the combination of a finger and feather plume.

1700-1800: It became standard to play the Neapolitan mandolin with a plectrum made from an ostrich feather.

A single ostrich feather could produce 5 plectrums, while an entire bird could create a ten-year supply.

Late 1800's: Musicians begin to regard the outer casing of an Atlantic hawksbill sea turtle as the superlative plectrum because of its tone, durability, and flexibility.

1870: John Wesley Hyatt patents a new type of plastic called celluloid. Along with this plastic, he was able to patent a new plastic machine called an injection molding machine. This allowed manufacturers to create custom molds for many different industries, including medical injection molding and aerospace molding.

1885: John Farris created the 8-string banjo/mandolin combo and regarded a thin tortoiseshell wedge as an accessory.

Turtle shells began to become expensive and limited, so other options became available such as leather, ox horn, gutta-percha, and hardened tree sap.

1896: Charles F.W. Seidel creates the first patented custom plectrum designed to help musicians maintain a grip while playing the mandolin.

1920-1940: Soon the history of guitar picks began to weigh down the guitar community and finally someone decided to make a change. The D'Andrea company creates the first commercialized pick out of celluloid that mimics the flexibility and rigidness of a tortoiseshell.

By the late 1930's, they begin to offer various colors and shapes in their famous no. 351 style plectrum.

1940-1950: Companies begin to steer away from celluloid and begin testing out new synthetic plastics. Two of the three largest pick manufacturers move away from celluloid altogether to use composite plastics.

1950-1960: D'Andrea begins making custom picks for companies like Fender using their signature no. 351 style, which became one of the most famous guitar picks in guitar pick history.

1960-Present Day: Celluloid is still a common plastic used today for guitar picks used by famous musicians,

but many other materials are also utilized such as nylon, bone, glass, metal, wood, horn and steel and various custom guitar picks are now offered.

Download the info-graph here!

You can also check out the best guitar podcasts to help you learn more about the guitar industry and to help you achieve great guitar playing skills.

A lot of what can be found in this graphic is from Fender.com, Premierguitar.com, and Picks! by Will Hoover.


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