Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]

It would be easy for string instrumentalists if picks were universal. If you know nothing about guitar picks, you may think they’re all the same. Picks are different from each other because the strings and their setup vary from instrument to instrument.

As a matter of fact, picks can even change a lot on just the guitar alone because players have different needs. The same thing goes for when you compare mandolin and guitar picks as well. While the two instruments seem like they’re fundamentally the same, they’re different in a couple of ways.

Mandolin picks tend to be wider and thicker than guitar picks although they may look similar at first glance. Considering a mandolin’s strings are usually doubled by definition: (smaller and thinner) they’ll require a pick with more surface area than what a standard and pointier guitar pick offers.

A mandolin is much smaller than a guitar; therefore, the setup is tighter, and because the strings are doubled, the pick shape is even more critical. If you didn’t have a proper mandolin pick though, a guitar pick would work just fine and vice versa. Let’s talk more about that now.

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What Are The Significant Differences Between Guitar Picks and Mandolin Picks?

Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]
Mandolin and guitar picks

Guitar picks and mandolin picks are slightly different because the mandolin strings are smaller and doubled up. In simple terms, they are set up with four sets of two strings very close together.

Mandolin and Guitar Picks - Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]
As you can see, the mandolin pick in this image is kind of stubby and fat. It’s also a lot less pointy than a standard guitar pick (image taken from Wikimedia Commons)

So a regular guitar pick can be hard to use on a mandolin because its picking side is also very small. There are some other reasons why guitar and mandolin picks are a bit different from each other in structure and design.

A closeup of a Mandolin - Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]

1) Mandolin Picks Tend To Be Fatter & Wider Than Guitar Picks

Mandolin and Acoustic - Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]

A guitar pick’s area often looks like an isosceles triangle shape, meaning they have two equal sides that come to a point. Additionally, they are made of materials that resonate well on guitar strings and are easy to play with a standard guitar setup.

Mandolin picks are a wider, equally-sided triangular shape, called semi-round, that is very curved like a circle. There is also the oblong heart shape that is thin in width and longer in height.

2) Mandonlin Picks Are Often Thicker Than Guitar Picks

Mandolin Picks -  Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]
4 different examples of Mandolin picks – taken from this Wikimedia page

Mandolin picks are usually thicker. There are guitar picks that are thick as well; in fact, both types come in many different thicknesses. In classical pieces and bluegrass, when mandolin is used, it is played relatively fast, so you need a stiff pick.

With mandolin, it’s not uncommon for players to prefer a thickness of 1.3mm to 2mm. With guitar, depending on the type of music and what type of guitar you are playing, there are several preferred types. They range anywhere from extra light (less than 0.44mm) to more than 1.20mm. 

The guitar pick comes in several thicknesses, and some mandolin players might prefer a guitar pick rather than a mandolin pick in some cases. With all instruments, it’s what feels better to you.

I recommend going to a local guitar shop and trying out different picks to find what you like most. That said, I prefer the Dunlop Jazz III MAX Grip (on Amazon). As a matter of fact, I just mentioned in my article on losing picks.

3) Mandolin Picks Are Bigger Than Guitar Picks

Picks - Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]
An assortment of guitar picks

Mandolin picks are a lot bigger in size than guitar picks. Usually, they have a larger surface area to keep playing comfortable and easy. It’s a lot harder to use a smaller pick with the smaller strings of a mandolin. 

The larger semi-round picks are almost twice the size as normal triangle guitar picks and the oblong heart shape is a lot longer than the normal guitar pick. That said, a lot of this depends on the player and their style.

Can You Use Mandolin Picks on Guitar?

Old-Gibsons-Guitar-Acrylic-vs-Nitro-All-You-Need-to-Know

It is harder to use a mandolin pick on a guitar than a guitar pick. The guitar pick is a smaller pick that can be a lot thinner, so a larger pick like a mandolin pick may be uncomfortable for many players.

It’s going to be harder to play the strings on a guitar with a larger flat pick, so a mandolin pick is not recommended. Of course, that’s not to say you couldn’t try it out though. 

It’s encouraged for anyone playing a guitar or mandolin to try out all sizes of pics, so try them and see if you can play with them. If it is too hard to do so, then move on to a different size. 

That all said, let’s be completely honest about it though. If you think that you could use a regular mandolin or guitar pick for a mandolin, then you probably could. I’ve never been a fan of convention, I don’t think you should be either.

Simply put, if you think you can play the mandolin with a guitar pick, go for it because you probably can. There is no creative police watching over you to make sure you’re doing things “properly.”

The same critics who are constantly watching over you to make sure you’re doing things “properly” are often the same people who never achieve any success at all. People come up with new things through experimentation and a willingness to break convention.

Can You Use Guitar Picks On Mandolin?

Mandolin - Guitar Picks Vs. Mandolin Picks [What You Need To Know]

You can use guitar picks on a mandolin, but it is a lot more comfortable to play the mandolin with a mandolin pick. You have a lot less surface area on a mandolin so picking can be harder with a smaller pic, like a guitar pick. 

If you wanted to use a guitar pick on the mandolin, you would have to turn it slightly upward to get a good clean sound and see what you are doing.

If you wanted to use a guitar pick on a guitar, you would have to pinch up on the corner of the pick a lot and that may be uncomfortable. 

Gear Mentioned 

1) Variety assortment pack (on Amazon)

2) Mandolin picks (on Amazon)

3) Dunlop Jazz III MAX Grip (on Amazon)