Billy Gibbons with Les Paul guitar

While it’s true that most rock guitarists use a guitar pick, or simply their fingers, there are quite a few really famous musicians that have come up with their own make-shift picks, or modifications thereof. In this feature we’re celebrating the ingenuity of these people, whose unique picking style in part helped create their sound.

Billy Gibbons - Peso coin

ZZ Top mainman Billy Gibbons is known for his blues rock style filled with pinch harmonics. While it’s true that a guitarists tone come from his or her fingers, part of Gibbons’ sound can also be attributed to his guitar pick. See, Billy doesn’t use a conventional pick, but rather a Mexican peso coin. The vibrations created by the metal-on-metal collision between the coin, and the strings adds that little extra urgency to Gibbons’ blues riffs, and pinch harmonics.

The Edge - Upside-down dimpled pick

Ever wondered how U2 guitarist The Edge gets that “chingy” sound in songs like “Where The Streets Have No Name,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?” No matter if you get the exact same gear to create the parallel delay effect The Edge has going for those songs, it’s still going to sound a bit weak. The secret is in the guitar pick! The Edge uses a blue Herdim pick that has dimples to make it sit better between your fingers, but what he does is turn the pick upside down so that the dimples hit the strings. This creates sort of a scratching effect as the dimples tear across the strings, giving you that final piece of the puzzle to Dave Evans’ unique guitar sound.

Jimi Hendrix - Teeth

While Jimi Hendrix would mainly pluck the strings using just his fingers, or a pick, the picking method that would have audiences around the world talking long after his death was when Hendrix would play the guitar with his teeth! Many people have mimicked his style, most notably hairband guitarists in the late eighties, but also blues greats like Buddy Guy. It’s a surefire way of entertaining the crowd (and probably great if you find yourself without a toothpick after a nice steak dinner).

Paul Gilbert - Power drill

Possibly the most bizarre, and ingenious picking method on this list comes courtesy of Mr. Big guitarist Paul Gilbert, who would use a power drill for a rapid-speed tremolo picking effect. Gilbert would mount three guitar picks to the top of a rod that’s attached to a power drill, and then simply hold them to the strings while the drill is spinning. For an example of Gilbert’s power drill action, check out Mr. Big’s “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy.”

Brian May - Sixpence coin

Much like Billy Gibbons, Queen guitarist Brian May is also fond of using coins for his picking needs. His coin of choice is a British sixpence, which he likes because of the coin’s serrated edge. It produces a similar result as The Edge’s dimpled guitar pick. May has specially made coins which has his picture in place of the Queen.