Guitar picks are pretty low-tech. They’re usually little pieces of plastic and you buy a few dozen and keep them for years or promptly lose most of them and then buy another few dozen.
Now, however, there’s a new pick in town. Called the Attak Pik, these oddly-ridged guitar picks promise distortion and harmonics that normal picks can’t match, allowing you to add nuance to your music without electronics or pedals.
Mark Labbe, the creator, began having mobility issues in his hand. He used to play with his fingers and he switched to using picks but hated them.
“I thought about how to improve them,” he said. “It turned out no one has ever made them with bumps and ridges on the tips—the only changes in picks in decades were to add band logos and tweak the thicknesses. I printed up hundreds on a 3D printer until I got one that created a sound I was missing. We had a team of testers — all-pro studio guys — who all loved them.”
The picks are available in two styles - Attak and Ambush - and they create different levels of distortion when raked over your strings. I also tested a prototype pick, the Blade, that had softer ridges.
“The Blade is based on the Ambush model but offers less resistance and more versatility. The ridges aren’t as high and they don’t peak, but have flat tops, which means the strings travel less and you get less percussive effects while still getting the harmonic advantages of the multiple strikes,” said Labbe. “This offers more fluidity in playing to the likes of tremolo picking guitarists and reduces the learning curve with regard to adjusting to resistance.
I tested all three out on the hollow-body electric guitar I play and if you listen carefully you can hear how the ridges change the sound. The Attak has diamond-shaped bumps on the tip that “enhances the mid-range harmonics while exciting the upper-mid harmonics” for lead guitar, according to the site. The Ambush is a bit sharper and actually holds and plucks the strings as you strum. Finally, the prototype offers a mandolin-like strum that hits the strings multiple times per motion. I recorded a few tests and showed my guitar teacher, Charlie Apicella, who noted these picks were “cool” but asked me to use a standard pick when playing Jazz standards.
The picks cost $10 for a three-pack off one style or $13 for a four-pack containing two Attaks and two Ambushes.
While these might be a little goofy for most professionals, who tend to ascribe to the “if it ain’t broke” motto, they should be fun for hobbyists or people newew to guitar playing? Will these make you sound like the greats? Probably not. They will, instead, add a little bit of distortion to your strums, something that can add depth and nuance to your guitar without electronics or amps. These picks are pretty high-tech—the creators prototyped the original models using simulators and 3D printers — and I did enjoy how they subtly changed my strumming. They’re a fun add-on for the guitar fan and, at $10, they’re worth a look.