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-   -   A Treatise (kinda) on guitar picks. (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=632028)

Silly Moustache 11-21-2021 04:50 AM

A Treatise (kinda) on guitar picks.
 
In the small dark hours of sleeplessness I sometimes ponder silly things to keep my mind off the darkness.

There are many and various qualities of these bits of material that we hit/pluck/pick guitar or mandolin (or whatever) strings.

Firstly there is shape and D'andrea "invented" three figure numbers for many different shapes -most of which, but not all - can be seen here :



Generally speaking the ones most likely to be seen/used today are the "351" often called the "teardrop" and the "346" "large triangle" - which has become my weapon of choice.

So we can differentiate picks by a number of factors :

1. Shape (see above)
2. Material
3. Thickness
4. Rigidity/flexibility
5. Point
6. Bevelled or unbevelled


Moving onto to 2 - Material - it used to be a matter of tortoiseshell, (actually hawksbill turtle and not duckbilled platypus), animal horn, bone, birds feather quill (!) or celluloid.

Other plastics and composites appeared usually with uninformative names: for many years I used Martin "Naturalsound" in both Delrin and Nylon. The Delrin were more rigid, and the nylons more flexible and wore quite rapidly) I still have a large quantity of them.

Dunlop use brand names such as tortex and ultex and seemingly many branded picks are made - possible by Dunlop or D'andrea with the same materials with differing names.

The newest material to appear is of course the Blue Chip picks made of Vespal which i believe is the most superior material for picks and the best finished and presented, although I still prefer Wegen TF140s for 12 string guitars.

3. Thickness. normally measured in millimetres, these vary from about .44 (of a millimeter) - to maybe 3m/m (doorsteps)

NOTE: There is no agreed definition of what is thin, medium or heavy etc., but I would offer my definitions :

Thin - Under 1 m/m
Medium - 1.m/m/ to 1.5 m/m
Heavy - 1.5 to 2 m/m
Extra heavy - over 2 m/m

4. Rigidity/flexibility - some thicker picks retain a degree of flexibility and some thinnish ones are rigid. "that's all I got to say on that!"

5. Point (or points) i.e. round, sharp or somewhere inbetween. I have some old TS picks which are perfect equilateral triangles (style 355) with points that you could cut with.

This feature affects the "attack" -i.e the immediate and very short duration sound of "impact" of the string rolling off the end of the pick.

A very rounded points can give a rather dull or virtually non existent attack.

NOTE: The angle of a point can vary -with a large triangle type, (equilateral pick) the angle of each point is around 60 degrees, (depending on side curves) but with a "teardrop" style the angle is noticeable more acute. and so puts more pressure on the pick and consequently the grip of the player.

6. Bevelled edges. This (to me at least) is a relatively new phenomenon, although when I used the aforementioned Martin picks I foud they I wore bevels on them fairly quickly and found that , up to a point (sic) they weer "faster" as they wore.

High volume stamped picks were never, to my knowledge, bevelled - at least not until Dunlop Primetones attempted to emulate Blue Chip designs.

Wegen (Netherlands) uses a fairly rigid material (Unidentified to me) which wears exceptionally well, and his picks are always bevelled.

I have recently tried Hawk and Gravity picks (on recommendation from one of my Y/T followers) picks which are very rigid but neither have real bevels.

So, there we are , "this is my theory - which is my own - cough" (Monty Python reference).

Let battle commence!

Brent Hutto 11-21-2021 05:51 AM

If you're ever expanding your "treatise" one thing you might want to comment on is ease of reshaping/rebeveling for the various materials.

The Wegen material, whatever it is, seems to a perfect combination of durable when in use but easy enough to recontour using sandpaper. You can round off a point, flatten out a shoulder, etc. fairly quickly then reestablish the bevel on the edge and the modified pick will still hold it shape nicely under frequent use.

Some of the more old-school materials are easier to shape but less durable while OTOH Blue Chip's Vespel takes a lot more elbow grease and/or a file to make substantial shaping modifications.

singlechange 11-21-2021 08:14 AM

This post is very useful source for quick and easy information material about picks. Kudos to Silly Moustache for this well written post.
Robert A.

Robin, Wales 11-21-2021 10:19 AM

Hi Andy,

That must have taken you quite a while to pull together!

I would suggest an amendment to your section on thickness:

There is a non-formal but universal agreement on the nomenclature for pick thickness - based on the D'Andrea/Fender/Gibson et al celluloid picks. This is close to these figures:

Thin - 0.46
Medium - 0.71
Heavy - 0.96
Extra Heavy - 1.21

If you go into any guitar shop anywhere in the world and ask for a medium pick then they will show you ones that are around 0.71mm, not ones up to 1.5mm thick as shown in your Treatise.

And I think that you should have a section on the player's influence on the picks that they select.

Or you could just replace your whole Treatise with this, which covers everything: :D


dnf777 11-21-2021 11:36 AM

How about color?

Not a major concern until you drop that $45 Brown pic on the ground around the campfire. Then you wish it was neon orange.

Birdbrain 11-21-2021 08:22 PM

Just one more factor...
 
How about one more category of pick parameters?

#8 - Stickiness. Slick picks, you know who you are. For me, that's any of the celluloid picks you pluck from a pickle barrel at GC. Or the Fender mediums by buddy bought by the gross, so he'll be stuck playing them exclusively for the rest of his life. They're the ones you find lost on the oriental carpet as the stage is struck.

On the other end of the spectrum are the sticky picks. Some makers apply raised dots or drill holes in the center of their picks. That can help avoid the dreaded pick drop, which, unlike a mike drop, is a lousy way to end a performance.

My stickiest picks are my V-Picks. All varieties are made from a very hard, ultra-smooth plastic. They look slick as glass, but this helps them stick when your fingertips begin to sweat. The surface tension of water provides the extra adhesion, I believe. I never drop a V-Pick, and I've often opened my grip to find the pick stuck to my thumb, defying gravity!

Silly Moustache 11-22-2021 01:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dnf777 (Post 6861277)
How about color?

Not a major concern until you drop that $45 Brown pic on the ground around the campfire. Then you wish it was neon orange.

I'll agree that the colour of blue chip picks is not ideal for guitarists who tend to play on stages with dark brown wooden boards or outside on grass etc., however the material they use was produced for industrial bearing purposes and not intended to be seen.

I would imagine that asking Dupont to make Vespal sheets in pretty colours may not be well received.

The only answer is to NOT drop or disregard your expensive picks!

Silly Moustache 11-22-2021 01:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Birdbrain (Post 6861591)
How about one more category of pick parameters?

#8 - Stickiness. Slick picks, you know who you are. For me, that's any of the celluloid picks you pluck from a pickle barrel at GC. Or the Fender mediums by buddy bought by the gross, so he'll be stuck playing them exclusively for the rest of his life. They're the ones you find lost on the oriental carpet as the stage is struck.

On the other end of the spectrum are the sticky picks. Some makers apply raised dots or drill holes in the center of their picks. That can help avoid the dreaded pick drop, which, unlike a mike drop, is a lousy way to end a performance.

My stickiest picks are my V-Picks. All varieties are made from a very hard, ultra-smooth plastic. They look slick as glass, but this helps them stick when your fingertips begin to sweat. The surface tension of water provides the extra adhesion, I believe. I never drop a V-Pick, and I've often opened my grip to find the pick stuck to my thumb, defying gravity!

mmm, well much of this aspect is about player technique of course.

Blue Chip have a certain innate stickiness I find (I have VERY dry hands) although I cross hatch mine with a Stanley Knife (box cutter in US?)

Lesser quality picks may require similar preparation by the user as they require finishing and polishing - for instance Dunlop Tortex and Ultex.

This is not necessary with Wegen picks which are both contoured and perforated.

However a good point well made but so many brands off many different designs.

Silly Moustache 11-22-2021 03:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brent Hutto (Post 6861058)
If you're ever expanding your "treatise" one thing you might want to comment on is ease of reshaping/rebeveling for the various materials.

The Wegen material, whatever it is, seems to a perfect combination of durable when in use but easy enough to recontour using sandpaper. You can round off a point, flatten out a shoulder, etc. fairly quickly then reestablish the bevel on the edge and the modified pick will still hold it shape nicely under frequent use.

Some of the more old-school materials are easier to shape but less durable while OTOH Blue Chip's Vespel takes a lot more elbow grease and/or a file to make substantial shaping modifications.

Hi Brent, I have never found it necessary to remodel either a Blue chip or a Wegen.
However, in the "olden days" I found that tortoiseshell and celluloid wore very quickly and needed regular reshaping and polishing.

When I was ill and unable to get out much (2017/8) I bought a lot of cheap picks (all 346 style) and conducted some experiments on remodelling picks that come unfinished - such as the Dunlop Tortex and he Clayton Acetals.

The idea was to see that if I could emulate the bevels and finish of BlueChips and Wegens, to see if the finished items be as good.

The answer was ... NO, but the process, although lengthy did improve them. I've given a lot of them away, and many seem to like them.

Here is my video made some time ago :


I have discovered that "Banjo Ben Clark" has done something similar some time later with just sandpaper and card as a smoother.



However, I wouldn't add this to my pretend treatise, as we are really talking about choosing a product that suits from new, but thanks for the input.

Silly Moustache 11-22-2021 05:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Robin, Wales (Post 6861231)
Hi Andy,

That must have taken you quite a while to pull together!

I would suggest an amendment to your section on thickness:

There is a non-formal but universal agreement on the nomenclature for pick thickness - based on the D'Andrea/Fender/Gibson et al celluloid picks. This is close to these figures:

Thin - 0.46
Medium - 0.71
Heavy - 0.96
Extra Heavy - 1.21

If you go into any guitar shop anywhere in the world and ask for a medium pick then they will show you ones that are around 0.71mm, not ones up to 1.5mm thick as shown in your Treatise.

And I think that you should have a section on the player's influence on the picks that they select.

Or you could just replace your whole Treatise with this, which covers everything: :D


Hi Robin, thanks for your input.

did it take long to put together ? No, not really although I have long dwelt my thought that thickness was not the only factor i determining the best pick for any/everyone.

I would respectfully disagree with your comment : "There is a non-formal but universal agreement on the nomenclature for pick thickness"

I wrote this because I honestly do NOT see evidence of that, however I have done two things to further research this (whilst stuck at home whilst two roofers climb over my roof and whilst my car is being serviced) .

1. I looked on the "Strings Direct!" website possibly the largest string and accessories supplier in the UK, and looked at what they categorise as light, medium heavy etc.
2. I got out my old wooden tool box of guitar accessories and spares and other old "stuff" accumulated over some fifty years including a many boxes of the picks that I've had since , maybe the late '60s (yes there is a suggestion of OCD and also why I don't lose picks!!)

I won't deny that there are such things as a .46 m/m - the thinest pick I seem to have ever owned was..6 m/m, and by the looks of them never used.

I remember that at one point I used to us Martin .73 and .84 Naturaltone picks but pretty soon changed to the 1.2 versions of that ilk - both in nylon and delrin.

"If you go into any guitar shop anywhere in the world and ask for a medium pick then they will show you ones that are around 0.71mm, not ones up to 1.5mm thick as shown in your Treatise."

Now seriously Robin would any sensible , experienced guitarist do that?
At best you should expect a neanderthal grunt and a finger pointing to the large trays of picks for you to make your own choice.

In real life we buy picks as a justification for wondering into a music shop and making a purchase out of politeness - or at least I used to hence my large collection of unused picks (at least apart from the many that I would leave for my club audience to take away in the hopes that they might make a contribution. (I don't really shop in music/guitar shops any more - I think my last purchase actually made IN a dealers premises was my Waterloo in November 2016.

My last pick purchases were direct from the makers of Hawk and Gravity and only as I was requested to test them out on my Y/T channel. The fact that I haven't made a video about them says it all.

So, regardless of contrary indications (and my knowing that Molly Tuttle uses Dunlop 207s), I'll stick to my definitions of thicknesses because the more professional acoustic guitarists, are less likely to buy generic or common brand stuff, but seek out products more suited to their style and experience.
I cannot speak for electric guitarists, as I have no interest in their tastes, so I would specify acoustic in future.

Thanks for your input, and for the link.

"Treatise" is probably to profound a word... Andy's tinpot theory might be better!
Excuse me, but the cat needs feeding - work work work!

Dotneck 11-22-2021 08:16 AM

Your number 2 point on material fails to mention casein my favorite pick material. Why is that?

Robin, Wales 11-22-2021 02:44 PM

Quote:

So, regardless of contrary indications (and my knowing that Molly Tuttle uses Dunlop 207s), I'll stick to my definitions of thicknesses because the more professional acoustic guitarists, are less likely to buy generic or common brand stuff, but seek out products more suited to their style and experience.
Hi Andy,

I think that you would be surprised at how many professional acoustic guitarists use off the shelf cheap picks. I always have a look to see what folks whose tracks I'm listening to are using. The Dunlop Tortex Purple 1.14 teardrop come up a lot as does the Fender Medium, Heavy and Extra Heavy (thicknesses above) in celluloid and teardrop or large triangle. Carl Miner uses a Dunlop Tortex Flex 1.14 large triangle, and thinner for strumming. So I would say that pro players gravitate towards finding what works for them, and whether that is a cheap pick or a boutique pick is actually quite random. Price does not buy guaranteed tone and playability in a pick and an individual level, it buys difference.

I do like that video by Todd Grady. He has put a lot of time into thinking the whole right hand picking technique through and filmed and studied the top players.

Mr Bill 11-22-2021 02:51 PM

And of course, most picks are highly flammable!

Silly Moustache 11-22-2021 03:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dotneck (Post 6861744)
Your number 2 point on material fails to mention casein my favorite pick material. Why is that?

Hi, Casein is certainly worth a mention,
Why not mentioned ?
a) I forgot,
b) isn't it a form of "composite?"
c) I couldn't think of any brand that uses it.

Silly Moustache 11-22-2021 03:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Robin, Wales (Post 6862107)
Hi Andy,

I think that you would be surprised at how many professional acoustic guitarists use off the shelf cheap picks. I always have a look to see what folks whose tracks I'm listening to are using. The Dunlop Tortex Purple 1.14 teardrop come up a lot as does the Fender Medium, Heavy and Extra Heavy (thicknesses above) in celluloid and teardrop or large triangle. Carl Miner uses a Dunlop Tortex Flex 1.14 large triangle, and thinner for strumming. So I would say that pro players gravitate towards finding what works for them, and whether that is a cheap pick or a boutique pick is actually quite random. Price does not buy guaranteed tone and playability in a pick and an individual level, it buys difference.

I do like that video by Todd Grady. He has put a lot of time into thinking the whole right hand picking technique through and filmed and studied the top players.

Hi Robin, I really appreciate your input on this, but don't you think that that video focused more on electric players and playing technique than he picks themselves?
Yes I did see the bit with David Grier,

Although I haven't been to a "real" gig since 2019, all the pro American bluegrass or similar guitarists and mando players I've met used Wegen or Blue Chip - "Thinks" - Bill & The Belles, A Man about a Horse, John Reischman and the Jaybirds, Front Country, Rex Preston, Mike Marshall, Kenny Smith, Grant Gordy, The Carravick sisters (who showed me my first BC) and many others I can't remember now.

Just a thought.

birdsong 11-22-2021 06:03 PM

https://www.daddario.com/products/ac...olders/Casein/

Casein itself is a milk protein. It is combined with formaldehyde and some voodoo to make sheets of Galalith. I do not know if what D'addario or Charmed Life Picks uses is the modified version of Casein or not. And there are some others e.g. Red Bear picks calls their version Galalith.

I just purchased a few Galalith picks from a local fellow, who makes them as a hobby. Yesterday. So far, they sound great. He gave me one to give away and I will make a post when I can carve out some extra moments, take a photo etc.

Maybe I can write up some notes about sound, feel etc. In a separate post of course.

I also have a pick made from Walrus Tusk. You just never know.......

John

Dotneck 11-22-2021 06:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Silly Moustache (Post 6862128)
Hi, Casein is certainly worth a mention,
Why not mentioned ?
a) I forgot,
b) isn't it a form of "composite?"
c) I couldn't think of any brand that uses it.

Charmed Life uses casein. So does your buddy John Pearce in his Fast Turtle picks. I think Red Bear does too…

Charmed Life Picks 11-22-2021 09:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Silly Moustache (Post 6862128)
Hi, Casein is certainly worth a mention,
Why not mentioned ?
a) I forgot,
b) isn't it a form of "composite?"
c) I couldn't think of any brand that uses it.

I tend to stay out of these pick fur fights, Also, I consider Andy a good friend and one of the very best contributors on AGF, so I do my best to remove the snark when commenting.

To all reading this, including my good friend Silly Mustache, please see this merely as advancing pick knowledge for AGF members, not a CLP infomercial. A knowledgeable consumer is an empowered consumer.

Casein is without a doubt one of the finest picking materials on the planet for acoustic instruments. It's just is. Andy, respectfully, the following companies currently market casein picks, and I'm probably leaving out a few: Fender, D'Addario, Clayton, John Pearse, Apollo, and Red Bear, among others.

The D'Addarios in particular are a sign that casein has become mainstream. When one of the largest string and accessory companies in the industry creates a new category, you can bet they did their market research before jumping in. The stuff is good. And it's my belief that we'll probably see some casein picks from Dunlop in the next year or two.

Here's the D'Addario Chris Thile sig model, available just about everywhere, for around $25.00 retail:

https://i.imgur.com/uoKv3Wh.jpg

Take care, everyone.

sm

Robin, Wales 11-23-2021 02:35 AM

Yep, casein is a wonderful material for making picks. It handles and sounds like turtleshell, much more so than any other pick material that I have tried. It is easy to work with if you are making your own picks but it can't be moulded or stamped. Picks have to be individually machined, which is why they tend to be more expensive.

I gave mine away last Christmas as presents. But really need to find a bit of time to make some more.

mawmow 11-23-2021 10:54 AM

I am not using any flat picks, but I was curious to read...
and got good basic infos here. Many thanks ! :)

Sugar Bear 11-23-2021 12:56 PM

If your picks don't approximate the color of Jimi Hendrix's velour bell-bottoms, you'll never get good tone.

That's why I use purple Tortex! :D

Malcolm Kindnes 11-23-2021 01:06 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Silly Moustache (Post 6862128)
Hi, Casein is certainly worth a mention,
Why not mentioned ?
a) I forgot,
b) isn't it a form of "composite?"
c) I couldn't think of any brand that uses it.

Surely Hawk picks are casein?

Sugar Bear 11-23-2021 01:19 PM

If you wade out into the swamp and poke a Snapping Turtle in the face with a broom handle, they'll latch on and never let go.

Then you can drag them back to your pickup, toss them in the back and take them home.

You not only get a whole bunch of guitar picks, you get lots of soup, too.

You want to keep your anatomy away from their mouth, though.

birdsong 11-23-2021 02:58 PM

So is it a casein broom handle we take then? ;)

Charmed Life Picks 11-23-2021 03:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sugar Bear (Post 6862853)
If you wade out into the swamp and poke a Snapping Turtle in the face with a broom handle, they'll latch on and never let go.

Then you can drag them back to your pickup, toss them in the back and take them home.

You not only get a whole bunch of guitar picks, you get lots of soup, too.

You want to keep your anatomy away from their mouth, though.

Sugar Bear, in theory, yes. However, the problem is that genuine TS picks come from only one reptile in the world, the Hawksbill Sea Turtle. Other turtles and tortoise do not produce the same kind of shell.

The Hawksbill is severely endangered.

sm

Charmed Life Picks 11-23-2021 03:12 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Malcolm Kindnes (Post 6862845)
Surely Hawk picks are casein?

That they are, Malcolm. I think I may have left them off my list. Thanks for the correction.

sm

KESTLY 11-23-2021 03:55 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sugar Bear (Post 6862842)
If your picks don't approximate the color of Jimi Hendrix's velour bell-bottoms, you'll never get good tone.

That's why I use purple Tortex! :D

Yes, this sounds right. I've always felt that the Dunlop Tortex is the best shade of purple out there - not too dark, nor too light. That kind of purple does affect the tone of the pick in a very positive way!

bufflehead 11-23-2021 11:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sugar Bear (Post 6862853)
If you wade out into the swamp and poke a Snapping Turtle in the face with a broom handle, they'll latch on and never let go.

Then you can drag them back to your pickup, toss them in the back and take them home.

You not only get a whole bunch of guitar picks, you get lots of soup, too.

You want to keep your anatomy away from their mouth, though.

Drag them back to your pickup.

I'm guessing this is a troll?

Sugar Bear 11-24-2021 12:49 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by KESTLY (Post 6862965)
Yes, this sounds right. I've always felt that the Dunlop Tortex is the best shade of purple out there - not too dark, nor too light. That kind of purple does affect the tone of the pick in a very positive way!

Absolutely! The other colors are okay, but the purple is king! :D

Quote:

Originally Posted by bufflehead (Post 6863238)
Drag them back to your pickup.

I'm guessing this is a troll?

Well, I own a ranch.

I meant to get rid of the pickup, but one day I was going to haul my horse to the vet with my wife's AMG Mercedes and when she saw me about to make a cutout in the back air dam with the Sawz-All so I could mount the trailer hitch, she got all upset.

So I decided that it would be best to keep the pickup.

But I may have been pulling your leg a little about the snapping turtles. :D

Silly Moustache 11-24-2021 01:52 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Malcolm Kindnes (Post 6862845)
Surely Hawk picks are casein?

Are they ?

I do have one it is a blue speckled 346 in 1.4 m/m

I think I had to add he bevels. It is very stiff,so, a little dead to me. like the Dunlop Primetones.

Maybe I don't need to try/buy the D'addario Chris Thile after all!

I had always assumed that Wegens were casein, but he won't let on.


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