The guitar pick might seem like the lowliest piece of gear in a six-stringer’s ensemble, but the truth is it’s a mighty device that needs to be reckoned with. Any player who’s never explored the sizes, materials, sound-producing qualities and other subtleties of the plectrum should consider becoming pickier about picks.
The history of the pick dates back at least to the Egyptian empire. Drawings of instruments being played with quills and other early picks appear on walls of the pyramids. Turtle shell, bone, ivory and stone were all used for pick construction early in the plectrum’s development.
Today the materials employed for pick making are much more varied – and far less dangerous for reptiles, elephants and whales. And they all have an impact on sound and playability.
Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when picking the right pick.
1. Size Matters
The typical guitar pick is slightly more than an inch-and-a-quarter long and an inch-and-a-quarter wide, but they run as small as the size of a fingertip and as large as more than two inches across. Les Paul used the latter, in a triangle shape, for the last decades of his career. The big picks were easier for his arthritic fingers to grasp. Jazz players often prefer smaller picks, which promote string contact with the fingers. That creates a warmer more muted tone. Most rock, country and blues players go for the standard-sized pick, which is large enough to grip solidly and avoid accidental finger contact with the strings, and can be turned or palmed easily to grind the strings or to allow a quick switch to finger-picking.
2. Material Issues
Today, picks are typically made of plastic: nylon, polyethylene, celluloid and other varieties. Derek Bailey, the late great British improviser, made his own picks out of dental material used for making crowns and caps. Picks are also made in bronze and steel. In general, the harder the pick material, the brighter and more biting the tone produced. A problem with metal picks, with the exception of fingerpicks, is that they tend to chew up the surface of pick guards, guitar tops and fretboards.
3. Skinny or Wide
Generally speaking, thin picks are great for strumming acoustic guitars while thicker picks, usually identified as medium gauge and heavy or extra heavy, are appropriate for electric instruments. Using a thin pick to play with a super distorted sound can turn tone to mud, but thin picks can accent the ringing individual notes of chords on acoustic guitars.
Thinner picks tend to rip and tear more often, and wear out faster. A bout of power strumming can wear the tip off a thin pick mid-song, which subsequently interferes with picking accuracy, tone and attack. So be sure to get a gauge that’s going to be right for your playing style.
The kind of music you play is also a factor. Heavy sound? Heavy pick. Black-metal guitarists are more likely to have super thick picks of 1.5 millimeters or greater between their thumbs and forefingers. Those are perfect, also, for digging into the kind of heavy-gauge strings that respond best to low tuning. Jazz players who play flatwound strings often prefer heavy picks, too.
Often, music stores have a display that offers picks according to size. Here’s a list of standard measurements for different gauges: thin picks typically are .44 millimeters or thinner; mediums range from .45 to .69 millimeters; heavy picks go from .85 to 1.20 or bigger; and extra heavies tag in at 1.5 millimeters or greater.
Here’s something most working players don’t consider when selecting picks – they offer a cheap way of self-promotion. Plenty of pick makers will put your own or your band’s logo, name, contact info, website, etc. on their products and most often for less than you’d pay for picks at the local guitar shop. Fans seek them as collectibles and they’re a cool visual calling card.
8. Oddball Shapes
Manufacturers have tried all kinds of frills in pick design, from shark-tooth-like cutaways to tips of different materials to holes for supposedly easier grip. Don’t be distracted by these oddballs. Ultimately, they offer no advantage over the conventional V-shape.
It may seem obvious, but harder, less flexible picks are typically difficult to grasp and keep in place. Hard nylon has a tendency to slip more often than softer plastics, and thicker picks are more difficult to control than medium models. The trade-off is finding the pick that stays between your fingers best and gets to the core of the tone you’re looking to crank out of your amp. Some picks have a special high-friction coating to aid grip. Others offer a flexible middle that allows improved grip plus a means to vary attack by applying different degrees of finger pressure.
How you use a pick also affects your choice of plectrum. Downstrokes employed by the likes of Metallica are best done with thick picks. Circular picking requires a more flexible pick. Ditto with alternate picking and sweep arpeggios.
David Gilmour 2015 Tour and Album Officially Announced
It is with great pleasure we announce that David Gilmour’s 2015 European tour dates have been officially announced!
The new David Gilmour solo album 2015 will also be released in September, so plenty to look forward to. It is yet untitled.
Although we have to wait all the way until September 2015, he will be performing at 6 venues across Croatia, Italy, France, Germany and the UK.
It is not known at this stage whether or not there will be any further dates announced – it says on David Gilmour’s blog that there are no other planned concerts, the site is currently down though.
Tickets go on sale at 10am on 6th March 2015 – David Gilmour’s birthday of course! See more about ordering tickets below and look at UK tickets here.
David Gilmour Album 2015!
David Gilmour’s yet untitled 2015 album will be released in September 2015 to coincide with his tour which will be much to the pleasure of fans the world over. Don’t miss out on news regarding David Gilmour’s new album 2015 and tour in 2015. Make sure you get our free email newsletter, or follow us on Social Media via Facebook or Twitter.
David Gilmour has said in interviews that he does not want the inconvenience of a massive stadium tour and the thought of anything on the scale of the old Pink Floyd sends him in to a cold shiver. It sure must be stressful putting on such huge concerts and could potentially take some of the enjoyment away – tell that to Roger Waters though with his massive Wall tour!
David will be playing at 6 separate venues across Europe – for the dates announced so far on the European Leg – and are all smaller intimate venues compared to some of the massive places out there. The venues for the David Gilmour 2015 tour are absolutely beautiful except for two! This makes for a much more intimate concert and can greatly increase the pleasure of the audience because you are not sat half a mile away up in the top of the stands! Saying that, there will be a lot of demand for tickets so get in there quick on March 6th which is, of course, David Gilmour’s birthday!
Concert Database Exploration…
Here are the links to the concerts, click on them to explore where else he has played in those cities/countries and whether he has played that venue before. For example, David Gilmour has only ever played concert dates at the Royal Albert Hall (three times in May 2006 on his On An Island Tour) and has never played at any of the other venues announced so far!
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