Known for creating some of the best riffs ever and having one of the fastest right hands in the business, this dude needs ZERO introductions. But what guitar pick does James Hetfield actually use?
When James Hetfield plays guitar, it is kind of mind-blowing. Especially if you play yourself. Hetfield has one of the most insanely powerful right hands in the business.
The master of the downstroke, Hetfield has been pumping out killer riffs longer than most of the people reading this have been alive. Now well into his fifties, Hetfield shows no signs of slowing down.
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Metallica’s last album, Hard Wired To Self Destruct, had some really killer riffs on it – riffs born from Hetfield’s command of his right hand and his ultra-precise playing style.
The guy hits notes like no one else. And is also one of the best string muting experts in the game, a skill he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for.
You’ll probably never be as good, famous, or as rich as James Hetfield but you can use the exact same guitar picks that he does – and they don’t cost much at all.
What Pick Does James Hetfield Use?
As of right now – so, during the last decade or so – James Hetfield has been using custom Jim Dunlop picks (either 1.0mm or 1.14mm).
One, called Black Fang, is a vintage tortoise-shell pick and the other, called White Fang, is based on a Dunlop Flow pick.
If you watch any of Metallica’s live stuff from the last 20 years, you’ll see that he uses these guitar picks pretty much exclusively.
Let’s take a look at these in more detail, shall we?
Black Fang Pick (AKA Papa Het Wheel)
The first appearance of Hetfield’s Black Fang pick was in and around 2008, during the Death Magnetic tour. The Black Fang features a monster face on the front and is 1.14mm and made from ultra.
Hetfield went through a few different design styles, testing each one out extensively, before settling on the final model which features a beveled edge for faster attack and improved tone.
It also features an exaggerated point, much like the Dunlop Jazz III, currently our #1 favorite guitar pick for metal, that allows for fast, precise playing just like the gods of rock demand.
White Fang Pick
Hetfield’s White Fang pick is newer, it first appeared in 2018, and is kind of a hybrid pick that takes design elements from both the Dunlop Flow and the Black Fang.
The White Fang is 1mm, so it is slightly thinner than the Black Fang but Hetfield also uses 1.4mm versions of this pick too.
The White Fang features a dot-and-dash grip on both sides, as well as a wolf face and HETFIELD branding on the front and back. Hetfield’s official ones, meaning the ones he ACTUALLY uses live, do not have a dash over the “d” – this is how you tell it was a pick actually used by the man himself.
Plenty of collectors have been scammed by this too, whereby scammers by the standard White Fang pick and scratch off the dash above the “D”, and attempt to sell it as official Metallica gear.
How Many Guitars Does James Hetfield Own?
Being in the biggest metal band in history comes with a lot of benefits, the least of which is access to one of the biggest collections of guitars on the planet.
Metallica reportedly owns between 500 and 600 guitars, guitars that it has accumulated over its near four decades in the business.
And here’s a list of some of James Hetfield’s most notable custom guitars from the last 30 years:
- 1969 Gibson SG Standard
- 1984 Gibson Explorer “So What”
- 1984 Gibson Explorer “More Beer”
- 1985 Jackson King V Custom “Kill Bon Jovi”
- 1987 ESP MX220 “Eet Fuk”
- 1987 ESP MX220 “So Fucking What”
- 1988 ESP MX220 “Fuk Em Up”
- 1996 ESP MX250 “Elk Skull”
And here’s what guitars James Hetfield plays in the studio and when Metallica are on tour:
- Ken Lawrence Custom Explorer Natural
- ESP Custom Black Explorer – Deerskull Inlay
- ESP Custom Black Explorer – Snake Inlay
- ESP Custom Black Explorer – Wood-Burn Deer
- ESP Custom Black Explorer – Black Diamond Plate
- ESP Custom Black Explorer – Silver Diamond Plate
- ESP Custom Black Explorer – Bright Diamond Plate
- ESP Custom Black Flying V – Green Flames
- ESP Custom Black Flying V – Hot Rod Flames
- ESP Custom Black “Fuel” Les Paul Style with Gold Pinstripe
- ESP Custom Black & White Pinstripe Les Paul
- ESP Custom Black & Gold Pinstripe Les Paul
- Gibson Les Paul Custom
- ESP New Model Black Explorer – Mother-of-Pearl Inlay
- Electra 2236 Flying Wedge (Gibson Flying V replica)
- Gibson Explorer
- Gibson Explorer “MORE BEER”
- White ESP Explorer “EET FUK”
Back in the day, however, Hetfield’s first proper touring guitar – the one he used in early days of Metallica – was a Flying V copy made in Japan by Electra. Hetfield made some customisations to it, however, adding in a Seymour Duncan Invader (SH-8) pickup.
This setup was used by the man almost exclusively until 1984 when he switched to a Gibson Explorer.
From the 1990s onwards, Hetfield has been an ESP man though and through. His latest ESP signature model is the ESP LTD Iron Cross. And unlike most signature models, it is actually pretty reasonably priced.
James Hetfield FAQs
What Pick Does James Hetfield Use?
James Hetfield, of Metallica fame, currently uses the White Fang and Black Fang picks. These are custom Dunlop picks based on the Dunlop Flow with some modifications that suit James’ style of playing (hard and fast).
What is James Hetfield’s Net Worth?
As of 2020, James Hetfield reportedly has a net worth of $300 million.
What is James Hetfield’s Latest Signature Guitar?
James Hetfield’s most recent signature guitar is the ESP LTE Iron Cross.
What Was James Hetfield’s First Guitar?
Back in the day, before Metallica really took off, Hetfield used a Flying V copy made in Japan by Electra. In 1984, he switched to a Gibson Explorer. And then, in the 1990s, he finally made the switch to ESP.
What Guitar Does James Hetfield Play?
James Hetfield has a massive collection of guitars that he uses in the studio and on tour. Here’s a full breakdown of his current collection that he uses on the road:
Ken Lawrence Custom Explorer Natural
ESP Custom Black Explorer – Deerskull Inlay
ESP Custom Black Explorer – Snake Inlay
ESP Custom Black Explorer – Wood-Burn Deer
ESP Custom Black Explorer – Black Diamond Plate
ESP Custom Black Explorer – Silver Diamond Plate
ESP Custom Black Explorer – Bright Diamond Plate
ESP Custom Black Flying V – Green Flames
ESP Custom Black Flying V – Hot Rod Flames
ESP Custom Black “Fuel” Les Paul Style with Gold Pinstripe
ESP Custom Black & White Pinstripe Les Paul
ESP Custom Black & Gold Pinstripe Les Paul
Gibson Les Paul Custom
ESP New Model Black Explorer – Mother-of-Pearl Inlay
Electra 2236 Flying Wedge (Gibson Flying V replica)
Gibson Explorer “MORE BEER”
White ESP Explorer “EET FUK”