Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Discuss the Guitar lesson: Plectrology– The Study of Flatpicks!

https://banjobenclark.com/lessons/plectrology-the-study-of-flatpicks-guitar-beginner

This lesson is free if you create a free Silver Pick membership! One thing about Jake…when he does something, he does it thoroughly! Let’s learn all about plectrums, from the materials, thicknesses, shapes, tones, and more!

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Good stuff!

Makes me want to get the picks out that I don’t like and see if I can make them sound better.

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I never thought that much about picks and always used thin pointy picks ( free /cheap picks) thinking they would bend and move on to the next string with minimum restriction. Played mostly on electric guitars initially. Now with my new mandolin I got a Wegen pick and am having to get used to a different feel! Very interesting lesson. Thanks Jake.

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I never seem to find perfect satisfaction with any pick. The closest I’ve come to that is my Blue Chip (STP-50 no speed bevel… I hate speed bevels). I think it’s a mood thing. One pick sounds great but doesn’t feel right, the next feels fine but sounds lousy, another one sounds terrible AND feels uncomfortable. Then, a week later, that same lousy pick will sound and feel great. Yep, I think it’s a mood thing! I guess that’s why I keep several different picks around as I’m sure many of you all do!

I suppose if I did ever find the perfect pick, all the fun would be gone. Cuz half the fun is trying different gear! After all, It’s okay for picky people to be picky about their picks!

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Well done intro showing some of what is available on the current market. I’ve fingerpicked most my life and just in the past couple of years learning to flatpick. Many years ago, a guy at a jam had a larger size tortoise pick and let me use it for a good while. Man! So that’s how it is DONE! Offered him half a week’s wages; no go. Worked an antique store a few years and in the {locked file} drawers of buttons, I found a small round tortoise example with the two holes; a polished side and a rough side. {When I find it on my brown carpet, I’m going to put a small piece of pink duct tape on it to find it next time!} As Jake said, when playing in the shed or couple of folks, the sound is unmistakable. A search of local antique stores [suggest in person} may have antique buttons of tortoise and all kinds of materials like vegetable ivory or fossilized bone etc. Before I go too crazy, I’m ordering some of the Dunlop picks that sounded great and not too much grief if misplaced, dissolved etc…

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Great videos!

Jake already said I am blowing smoke, but I’ll still say it. BC just don’t seem to wear. Is it wearing? I guess so, but I have yet to have to reshape one and I am probably around 10 years of use. That said, I have a few of them that stay with particular instruments, so the use is divided. Anyway, my point is… a BC is a significant investment, but it is a lifetime investment. Tortoise wears pretty quick. The primetones wear quite well, but not as good as BC. Wegen do wear about “normal” (quicker than ultex). I have some Wegens that have been reshaped so much they are tiny.

One tip… when someone hands you their tortoise shell pick to try, don’t flex it to see how it feels. They can break surprisingly easy.

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Sooooo… How much ya want for the turtle shell pick?

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If someone wants a fine antique tortoise shell pick fashioned for them (completely legally and ethically), reach out to Jonah Horton. I just messaged him to find the best contact info for him and will post again soon.

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If you want a custom made turtle shell pick by one of the best (in my opinion), contact Jonah Horton at mandoman_1@charter.net

You can tell him a certain pick and he’ll replicate it with tortoise. For instance, I love the BlueChip TP40-1R and he made me the exact same pick out of tortoise. It’s all legal and ethical as it’s made from antique reclaimed tortoise.

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Hey Jake, I liked the presentation but i kept waiting for what I think is the most important and that is, how hard are they to hold onto
Personally, I prefer “ Brain” picks. They have a bumpy surface on the top and are easy to hold without slipping

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Outstanding presentation on flatpicks! One area I thought could be touched on at some point, is a discussion on bare fingerstyle guitar. To my knowledge, there are at least two different approaches:

• Bare fingers only
• Combination bare finger and nail

I credit B.Ben for getting me hooked on fingerstyle and now have well-developed calluses on my picking fingers. Initially, I was not completely satisfied with my sound with bare finger only and struggled with sound projection to achieve a clean string release. I guess I’ve been spoiled being a banjo-picker with the ‘bell-tone’ release of banjo fingerpicks. Over the next few weeks I studied different fingerstyle techniques and became a little fascinated at players that could fingerstyle with an outstanding tone such as Chet Atkins, etc. Those folks invariably use a finger-stroke with a combination of flesh & nail. This style (flesh & nail) I began to try to copy on my own by growing my picking-hand nails out a bit. I initially met with disastrous results as my nails wore quickly in one spot and lacked the tone I desired. My nails would often ‘crash’ on the string or stick and not swing through the stroke. I quickly became discouraged from ever achieving that clean ‘bell-tone’ fingerstyle release. I went back to the web to research and analyze further what I was doing wrong and what I found out, changed my life in fingerstyle picking for the better!

Long story short, I found that it is necessary to view your individual fingers & nails as virtual guitar-picks. Each finger passes through an orbit as it strikes and releases the string. What I was primarily doing wrong, was that I disregarded the shape of my nails not understanding that each nail has an initial contact-point followed by string travel on the nail followed by a release point. Just as flat-pickers use a pick-shape and angle against the string, so too must the finger-picker shape his/her nails to allow the proper angle of incidence with the guitar string during the finger-stroke. To remedy my problems, I quickly found examples of how a finger-stylist must shape their nails. It’s the shape of your nails, (as opposed to length) that make or break your sound. After I properly shaped my nails almost immediately I began to achieve a guitar-sound that just makes my guitar ring. What a delightful sound!

Attached is a photo of properly shaped fingernails. One general key, is that typically ones’ nails are trimmed with a slant towards the thumb. After doing so and holding your fingers in position on your guitar strings, you’ll see why. This geometric shape angles the nail to achieve a contact & release point as the string contacts the flesh of your fingertip, ramps up the nail and releases with a clean ‘bell-tone’. Since everyone has different shaped fingers, your nails will not doubt need to be customized for your own playing. Once the best nail-profile is achieved however, it must be retained while your nail grows (a necessary downside). After achieving the correct profile, I use fine-grit sandpaper (2,000-grit) to polish the contact points to allow the string to glide smoothly across the nail during the stroke. My fingers & nails have essentially become my picks. I can’t put my guitar down!

Happy Picking!

PS: So what if you have short, thin or lousy nails? All is not lost read on……….(don’t laugh) :wink: but it’s fairly well-known that Chet Atkins (and others) used Ping-Pong balls on occasion to back-up his nails to provide an ablative surface and to restore correct shape to a damaged nail. Ping-Pong balls are made of a plastic that ironically mimics the thickness and sound of natural nails. Initially, I tried his method to achieve the correct nail geometry for fingerstyle. In short, the key is to cut the Ping-Pong ball to fit UNDER your nail-tip in the curved shape of the quick of your nail. Get a good fit against the quick and super-glue it in place to the underside of your nail. Let dry a min or two, then file your nail to the correct shape. In addition to obtaining the correct nail shape for fingerstyle, it provides an ablative-surface to protect against wear and since it’s under the fingernail, it’s not too noticeable. I was skeptical, but it works splendidly. Good ol’ Chet Atkins. Who knew?

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Three picks that I think excel at this are the Primetone textured (bumpy), the Wegens (drilled) and the BlueChip (tacky).

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I think this depends on your hands and fingers: I have really dry calloused hands (especially in the winter due to working outside) and the picks with grips and holes are actually harder to grip because of… well, their grips. I find that highly polished picks stick better to dry hands (or fingers) such as a Blue Chip. Like Mike said, they are tacky. The absolute best , stickiest, cling to your fingers picks I’ve ever used are V- Picks made in Tennessee as are Blue Chip. There are lots of variations, shapes, thicknesses and sizes to choose from and they really do stick. The problem is, I’ve personally never been able to get great tone out of them like I can with Blue Chip or Dunlop Primetones (smooth ones though without the rough texture).

We’re all different and there’s no right or wrong, just “pick” what works best for you. It’s always fun trying different picks. Oh, and I find that real turtle that’s polished is also very clingy or tacky.

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For Ben and others can certainly comment.

Playing guitar now for fourteen (14) years; use a light pick for strum/sing and firmer pick sometimes for basic flat picking but don’t do much cross picking. A buddy loaned me a cheap mandolin so giving it a try on this website. In saying that, one of the mandolin videos you stated that you have “morphed” into a triangle pick. I have started by turning a guitar heavy pick “sideways” as recommended on one of the videos. Two questions concerning mandolin:

  1. Any particular reason you now use triangle pick? Easier? Improvement over tear shaped/etc?

  2. Cross picking: Would you say that mandolin is easier to cross pick than guitar? I’ve only done one video “drill” and seems like it may be easier or my imagination or too early to tell just yet.

Thanks,
Odie

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HI @redmondod and welcome ot the forum!

a little on pick choice…

one advantage ot a triangle is that all three sides are the same, if you have troble with a pick turning in your hand.

For some folks, it’s just how the pick feels in their hand, or the amount of control/accuracy they feel they get with it.

For others it might be the tone produced. Different picks can help you get the current instrument you’re playing closer to producing the tone you think you want to hear. Thicker and rounder picks can bring out a mellower/darker tone, where thinner and pointier picks can produce a brighter/thinner sound.
Different materials can also produce different tones.

It really all comes down to personal preferance.

Myself I find guitar easier to crospick on, but I’m more familiar with the string spacing, and the strings are not in pairs…but that’s just me…

Dave

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I’ve just gotten to where I prefer the bigger pick in my hand, but I have no objective reason for why it’s better. I personally think crosspicking is easier on guitar, the wider string spacing actually helps me.

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Thanks

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I’'m late to this party but I like V Picks when it comes to a higher end pick. I use Mummy.

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I’m a tele player and pick hybrid with fake nylon nails. I’m trying to work on my flat picking on acoustic and recently went through a dozen different picks trying to find one I like. My favorite so far for flat picking bluegrass is the Pro Plec 1.5mm I found on Amazon. Pretty affordable. I put a little bevel on them with some sandpaper and they are ready to go. They do warp slightly after a while but I kind of like it and just flip them over if it gets too bad. I like the attack and tone. Not real glassy on the drop test. Not sure what they are made of. I score them a little with a razor knife so they have a bit of ‘diamond plate’ to hang on to. Maybe I’ll take my change jar into the bank and try a Blue Chip one day. Thanks for the vid for the pick geeks.

Funny story… while back I was at the gas station in Telluride and I needed a penny so I reached in the penny tray and there was one of my picks in there that someone had probably found on the floor. I hadn’t been to that station in months… made my day!

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No way, wow!

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