Do You Need a Pick to Play Mandolin?

Yes, you need a pick to play the Mandolin because mandolins are designed with four sets of doubled strings that are tightly stretched. The tension on the strings that run right up to the Mandolin’s neck requires some reasonable force to be exerted for the strings to produce the right tones and which can best be achieved by using a pick. Of course, you can also play your Mandolin without a pick, but you will first have to let go of the strings and then strum the Mandolin with your fingers. 

Apart from producing the right tones, Mandolin picks also boost the playing speed and volume. Important to note that getting the correct type of pick for your Mandolin can make a massive difference in the tones produced, eliminating the need to invest in a new mandolin. 



How to pick the best mandolin pick 

When it comes to picking a mandolin pick, players must first note that mandolin picks are not very different from guitar picks, so the features that you will be looking out for are the shape and thickness of the mandolin pick. Notable is that the body and consistency that you decide to settle with must resonate with the musical genre performed and the playing style. 

 Most importantly is that there are no specific criteria for evaluating a mandolin pick. Still, one surest way of settling with a reliable mandolin pick is by testing the various types of picks in the market. Additionally, Mandolin picks come in different sizes and thicknesses. Thick mandolins are usually durable, while the thin mandolin picks are less durable but suffice for the delicate playing styles. 

Pick Densities

Mandolin picks retail in three types of densities, and there are the heavy types of picks that have thicknesses ranging from .80 to 1.2mm. These types of picks are used mainly by the lead guitars and the solos. We then have the medium picks with sizes ranging from .60 to .80mm; these types of picks are pretty common among players and are used mainly by electric and acoustic instruments. 

Lastly, we have the thin types of mandolin picks that come in sizes ranging from .4 to .60mm and which are typically used in settings that don’t require a too high volume. 

Pick Shapes 

Do You Need a Pick to Play Mandolin?

Now, apart from the different densities, mandolins also come in different shapes. One of the standard shapes in the market is the Triangle, which is usually big and works well for the base acoustic instruments. 

We then have the standard shape pick, which is common among players and the most popular available shapes. There is also the teardrop shape that is quite popular among mandolin players. The teardrop pick suffices for use with acoustic instruments. Lastly, we have the Jazz-shaped pick, this shape is usually smaller, and you will notice that it has a pointier edge that facilitates better precision and control. 

So, as you scout the markets for a reliable pick, remember that the pick shape and size will vary regarding the type of music you will be playing. If you are looking to pluck and produce precise melodies, then the tiny and pointy picks should get the job done. And if you are looking to work with the rhythmic and strumming types of music, then the bigger types of picks characteristic of wider wedges will do the trick. 

Consider pick material 

While the shape and size of a pick are primary to the tones produced by a mandolin, the pick’s material is also of utmost importance. Pick material mainly relates to durability, and the idea is that the pick should give you a more extended service. A robust pick should provide you at least two years’ service and retain its structural integrity through the long-playing nights. 

Some of the best picks in the market are made of celluloid material and have been determined to sound like the tortoiseshell. Players also love this pick because they tend to have a warm tone and respond pretty well. Another suitable type is the blue-chip mandolin pick, made of melding; the above is an industrial grade plastic that is extremely hard and will probably remain without wear on the edges if you were to use it the whole night. 

Overall, players should always invest in a hard pick for the Mandolin because it will ensure enough stability to play the chords and the single-note lines. The pick should also be able to withstand the beating of playing the mandolins double strings. 

Pick hold and technique. 

mandolin_pick play

Now that we have established that we need a pick to play the Mandolin, the hold and technique will decide if you will produce the right tones. So, first, you must familiarize yourself with the anatomy of the Mandolin. This musical instrument usually has four sets of doubled strings, which have a great deal of tension. The above means that you must exert some force with the pick to make the pluck strings sound. 

The only fingers that will hold the pick as you play are your index finger and your thumb, and you must also ensure that you have aligned the thumb and the index finger, which translates to maximum stability. If you want to explore the picking technique, be sure to master the downstroke and then the upstroke, and lastly, you can alternate between the two. 


As you get conversant with using a pick, you will also have to find a comfortable grip that works for you. Try playing with different pressure and angles until you can strike the perfect balance between single notes lines and chord strumming. 


  • What is the best size pick for beginners? 

                       A 0.75mm pick should be perfect for beginners, and it should additionally be robust. 

  • Is pick material important? 

                       Yes, pick material is essential because it affects the tones produced. 

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