Yes, you can use a penny as a guitar pick. Many famous players, including Brian May from Queen, use coins to play guitar due to the shape, feel and sound they make. There are some potential downsides and these are discussed throughout this article.
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Pros of Using a Penny As A Guitar Pick
Pennys Do Not Wear Out
Like a conventional guitar pick, a penny will outlast any player, you are guaranteed to get a good life from your Penny plectrum.
Many players, including Brian May, love the impact of the round edge. The pointy shape of a regular pick can sometimes get stuck between strings, and take some extra hand movement to pull it out, however, the roundness of a Penny means the coin slides over the strings without getting caught.
When playing with a Penny, given how rigid they are, you get very clear feedback to the muscles and nerves in your hand, as to the movement of your hand and you can adjust accordingly. Much more so than plastic plectrums.
The metal on metal creates a different sound than the plastic or nylon and you get really good harmonic sound.
Cons of Using a Penny As A Guitar Pick
Can Be Harder To Hold
Some people find Pennys more slippery than traditional plectrums. Especially when your hands get sweaty. You will need to test this for yourself.
Might Damage The Strings
Given the Penny is going to be harder metal than the guitar strings, this poses a risk that the coin might break the string more often than a plastic plectrum will.
Could Scratch The Guitar
Given the rigidity of a Penny, if your hand slips past the strings and the Penny touches the guitar surface it could scratch the guitar deeply.
The good thing about using a Penny as a guitar plectrum is that you can try it today, at a very low cost and try it out for yourself.
If you like it, you can keep on doing it, and if you do not like it, then you can stop using a Penny and go back to a traditional plectrum.