photo of bass guitar picks

Does a bass player need a bass guitar pick, or not?

It’s a funny and, in my opinion, quite unambiguous topic. But every now and then a war erupts somewhere in a semi-abandoned forum or in the comments of social networks. In a nutshell, the answer is, of course you need one. The more tools you have in your arsenal, the broader your horizons, and the richer your imagination.

Basically yes, we get used to playing with our fingers, they give us more room for articulation. It’s like with a plectrum you have 7 colors of the rainbow, and when you play with your fingers, there’s an infinite number of shades and combinations. But you have to admit that such a daring attack, speed, and touch simply cannot be achieved when playing with your fingers.

As for sound variation, you can also achieve it by moving from the bridge to the fingerboard, depending on your goals and objectives. You can also play with the thickness and the angle, everything is limited only by our imagination.

Well, and as Billy Sheehan says:

The world’s richest bassist, Paul McCartney, plays with a pick! What other arguments do you need?

Bass guitar picks and their thickness

There’s no definite recipe, but I still think you should use 1.2mm and thicker. Thin ones are for the guitarist. I personally if I take a plectrum for a bass guitar, I’m going to do my best, turn on the distortion and do pure evil. My favorite gauge is 2mm.

Also, your final sound depends on the material. The most basic materials for picks are:

  • The familiar plastic plectrum from my childhood. Also, by the way, they can be different in feel and sound. For example, Dunlop picks are made of a slightly stringy, non-glossy plastic.
  • Wooden ones. I haven’t tried them.
  • Steel. Tried them, but they sound too harsh to me.
  • Bone bass picks. Never tried.
bass picks thickness

How to play the bass guitar with a pick

There are two basic techniques for playing the bass guitar with a pick. These are alternating strokes, where you alternate strokes on the string up and down and up and down. And what’s called a down stroke, where all the strokes are downward. Well, and of course any of your individual inventions in the form of a combination of techniques. It all depends mostly on the style of music you play.

…If you played punk rock, you were always obliged to play only downwards. Otherwise you’re a wuss.

Flea on his punk youth.

The only thing I would advise is to get used to keeping your brush compact from the beginning. Relaxed, but still grouped together so that the unoccupied fingers don’t hang out below. It’s not for aesthetics’ sake – during high-speed passages, it’s just the laws of physics that those fingers will make it difficult for you to play.

Playing bass with a pick

I should also note that when you play with a plectrum, you do switch to a slightly different type of thinking or something. Sometimes I pick up a plectrum just when I’m stuck, bored, can’t think of anything.

My choice
Does a bass player need a bass guitar pick, or not?

Dunlop bass picks set

  • Features a carefully curated selection of picks
  • Contains a wide range of shapes, materials, and grips
  • A collection of shapes and materials that perfectly complement the low end and playability of the electric bass

Who are the famous bass players that play with a pick?

And finally, here’s a selection of all the famous prominent musicians who predominantly played the plectrum:

Our world’s greatest bassist, Sid Vicious, played the pick…


So, gentlemen, my opinion is that playing bass guitar with a pick is not just possible, but necessary. It’s silly to give up the opportunity to add color to your music because of prejudice.

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