Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Flatpick Guitar, Choosing The Right Pick

The sound of your instrument can be significantly altered by the pick you choose...Experiment!

I began to concentrate on crosspicking in November of 2014. A friend gifted me a couple of picks, high quality, and very different from the plastic varieties I'd been using for the past 10 years. One thing led to another,and soon I found myself with a half dozen more fancy picks. Most didn't work well for me, but I learned much from the experience of trying them all out.

                                          Picks 1 through 8 in the video, left to right.

1 - Jim Dunlop Coconut shell, dimpled  -bright sound, thick, quick, hard and large

2- Jim Dunlop Buffalo Horn, dimpled   -bright sound, not hard to play

3 - Dunlop Tortex, 2 mm  - for an inexpensive plastic pick, produces nice sound/volume ez play

4 - Fender Extra Heavy  - very quick, little short on volume

5- John Pearse Fast Turtle 4 mm, dimpled -described below the picture

6 - Jim Dunlop Heavy  -quick, produces a bright, "snotty" sound I really like for crosspicking

7 - Dunlop Ultex, 88 mm - triangular, quick, snotty, 

8 - John Pearse Camel Bone, dimpled -very bright, loud but sticky on the strings

The different tones produced by various exotic materials used in their manufacture vary greatly, as do the ways you need to adjust your style to get the most out of them. Figuring out what works best for your needs requires an investment of time, effort and a few bucks (some of them are relatively expensive compared to plastic).

For over a year I played them exclusively, eventually choosing one as my go-to gear. For the record, that was a John Pearse Fast Turtle. Made of a proprietary material similar to tortoise shell, they come in various thicknesses. After trying the three different gauges available, the one I settled on was a 4 mm beauty. That's thick! They glide over strings, yet are capable of producing serious volume. That said, if you're old and arthritic like me, the transfer of power from the pick to your hand can wear you down. That's what happened to me.

I'm back to a lighter gauge plastic Jim Dunlop heavy for my daily standard, but not one bit sorry for the experience I gained using the "turtle." Fact is, the muscle memory gained from the heavier pick has transferred over to the lighter one, vastly improving my overall speed, accuracy and cadence.

If you insist on using real tortoise shell, please choose a credible source who uses only naturally deceased animals.