Different picks, different strokes

We’ve had an interesting last couple of Sunday’s and setlists. For normal worship service, we’ve had to pretty much hope everyone can remember old stuff– face it, its the holidays and we can’t get together to practice. We have to pull it together!!

Amazingly enough, soundchecks went PERFECT (thanks baby Jesus) and the songs picked were slightly older, but enough time had passed where people wanted to hear them again. And interesting for me was the fact that for first service I play an interesting combo of lead/rhythm, whilst the 2nd and 3rd its all lead. The first service I am guaranteed the piano/keyboard and drummer. There is a bass/rhythm acoustic but I usually can’t have both. So I pull the weight of whoever is not there. If that makes sense…
1) no acoustic: play more strums, more natural chords.
2) no bass: more bassy notes, bass-like riffs, power chords attenuating the bass changes.

Which leads me to the point of the blog:

Today I realize I have 3 main pick styles I swap back and forth between during sets. And each pick has a different reason/role in the band setting.

1)Dunlop Tortex “Yellows”

The best pic ever! Grip low and strong and its tight and strong- riffing awesomeness. Grip high and loose, and it bends- rhythm awesomeness!

The best pic ever! Grip low and strong and its tight and strong- riffing awesomeness. Grip high and loose, and it bends- rhythm awesomeness!

This has been my old “stand-by” pick. Its fairly stiff, but has a hint of elasticity to strums and hard riffs. It all depends on how you hold it. Hold closer to the tip and it won’t bend much- very stiff. Hold closer to the wide base and it has a nice string attack when playing, like on an acoustic.
I use these when I have to fill for the acoustic; for when my electric play is taking acoustic-type rhythms. Or for when I play 1/2 lead and 1/2 natural chord rhythms. (ex: Holy is the Lord- Chris Tomlin– light lead riffs for verses, chord for verses).

2) Dunlop Jazz III picks

Shorter, Stouter, faster

Shorter, Stouter, faster

These guys are awesome for speed, firm riffing, delayed dotted eighth riffs and light strums. Now, these are the favorite of many hardcore guitarists’ selections, so many may not 100% agree with me here. Most of these guys use this pick, and ONLY this pick for everything. Me– I can’t strum so well with this. I can get about 4 strings. If I try for all 6, I usually hit my fingers or drop the thing. But thats no problem: in my philosophy of electric playing, you should play on top of the bassline, and rhythm. So for playing a power chord, or a triad mid neck on the first 3 strings- no problem! You can hit it fast and accurately. I mainly use these when my role is straight lead.

3) Dunlop Nylon pick (bendy, with those little notches on them)

Can you see the bumps on the thumbgrip? Those make this pick special!!

Okay, I do not use these as you would a standard pick. I actually hold these upside down. (A few of you know where I’m going with this) In a study of techniques from guitar GENIUS “The Edge” (or AWESOME as I call him), one finds out that this gentleman has been using his Herdim (brand name) picks for years. They have all these little bumps on the top, much like the Dunlop pictured. The Edge attributes his workings to being self taught and having never been told HOW to hold a pick- so he held it in what he thought was the most logical way. That is, by the point, so the wider area could hit the strings as that was the most surface hitting the strings for the loudest sounds. But as fate would have it– those little bumps all hit the strings too, and sometimes unevenly. This produces a drag, and string friction. The end product is light, chimey harmonics. Try it- its noticable. Not everyone will hear it, but its there. Our pianist heard it, our bass player and drummer did not….
I use this when I mainly am playing the chimey Tomlin-esqe parts for the ‘cheese’ songs (like Holy is the Lord etc.. y’know, the same ol’ same ol’ Tomlin pattern). Or if we are doing a U2 type feel song (Matt Redman’s live version of Blessed Be Your Name). Awesome.

In closing, if you are not happy with your overal tone, first change your strings. After that, find a new pick. I believe the pick and pick attack define your sound as much as your guitar and strings you use. More than your new Tim Overdrive, or Zendrive, or Boss SD1. And they are cheap!! Spend 5 bucks and buy all sorts of picks and see if  you can cop some sounds that you would never have heard otherwise.

Then in direct contradiction to the above: realize that the normal layman can’t tell the difference in the sounds created by different picks. I’ve only met a couple who know the difference between Analog Delay and Digital Delay, and they preferred the Digi sound (GASP!).

But whatever makes YOU happy!

Do you guys have favorite picks for different roles as a guitarist?

4 Responses

  1. I use the green Dunlop Tortex M3 picks for everything electric. They’re shaped like the Jazz III, but made of Tortex so they’re easier to grip. For acoustic, I’ll use pretty much whatever’s lying around.

  2. I’ve said this before, but I switched from light tortex to the jazz IIIs a few months ago and really like them. It took a while to get used to, but I use them for everything now. The only problem is get get hard to hold on to if my hand sweats. I keep a spare on my amp and switch out if it’s getting slippery.

  3. i sometimes use DAVA picks, which have a rubber grip but some sort of plastic tip. you can change the “thickness” of the pick based on how hard you grip it. I’ve been using the fluoro green Jm Dunlop M-L pick lately and finding that good for electric guitar. Mind you i’m still learning about “pick science” =) the thickness of picks affecting diferrent styles of metal, blues, rhythm/lead etc…
    sometimes I also use a dunlop tortex, green 88mm, I used that on bass guitar and that was great, no drama’s with that.
    I’ve also used an australian 5cent piece!!! and that worked ok, I know Brian May from the rock band Queen uses/used to use an old penny, with the edges smoothed down!!

    just a side note, Jesus isn’t a baby any longer. He’s a conquering, warrior, king, who is rich in mercy and love, and also has a side of justice! Sure He had his time on earth as a baby, who grew into a boy, then a man. remember at christmas, that this “baby” is a dragon-slayer within Him and can move many mountains. It would be unhealthy for anyone on this earth to stay as a baby. Even more so for the King of Kings…

  4. hey mike,

    try talcum powder on your hands, it may stop the sweat a little and help you grip the pick for longer. otherwise, maybe, chalk like what rockclimbers use…

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