Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Flatpick Question - stiffness

I’ve fallen in love with the Blue Chip TAD50 pick. It’s hard and unyielding, but has a great middle of the road sound. I’m really liking stiffer picks X-Stiff at minimum. I have been trying to use a Stiff pick for a change, and it just feels flimsy.

My question is: why would someone want a thinner pick? What is the advantage / disadvantage of a more flexible flat pick?

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For some folks when your a beginner strumming through chords, thins are more shall we say…forgiving than the thicker. More than likely a better answer than this, but this is what I was told…and observed in the beginning. :grin:

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Maybe electric guitar players? I don’t know. I don’t like thin picks at all and don’t see why people would like the feel and especially sound they provide.

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To sell to unfortunate beginners at Guitar Center?

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Phew, I thought there was something wrong with me… not being able to figure out why so many seemed to like thin picks. One of the things that @BanjoBen said in “Pick and Hand Fundamentals” is that many newbies start out with picks that are too thin. So, I went the opposite direction, and got thick heavy picks. The thinnest I have is 1mm, and it’s too flimsy for my taste. I’ve found that the thicker, stiffer picks allow me to play with a looser grip, and control the pick more than the thinner picks. Thinner picks, I feel like I have to grip the heck out them to stiffen them up.

I think I’ll go back and watch that video, and Jake’s video about picks. So much good info there.

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Thin picks are probably mainly for beginners, although everyone has their preference. They do some of the work “for you” in moving across the strings, so they can be easier to start with. In my opinion, that’s harder actually, because a thick pick gives you ALL the power, tone, and volume. I think so many thin picks exist just because so many non bluegrass guitar players exist. You’re good with your thick BlueChip! :smiley:

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There’s two terms that need to be considered. The “thickness”, and the hardness/“bendiness”. I find that thinner picks are easier for me to play with, and give better tone, but I absolutely hate picks that are the slightest bit “bendy”.

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I like a thinner pick for strumming open chords. Less chance of getting hung up in the middle of the strings.

I spent some many years playing with just my fingers, that that’s how it is.

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take a listen:

Dan Crary = light string & light pick…

It’s about what choice fits your playing the best…each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

I doesn’t hurt to experiment to find what works best for YOU. It may change as you progress as a musician…

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I totally agree. It’s just fascinating to me what we begin to notice as our experience increases. I’m totally open to pick selection broadening. It’s why I continue to try new / different picks. I’ve already found that some of my picks have a warmer sound, and others brighter. Depending on the song, I may choose one over the other.

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A thinner pick brings out the treble part of the chord better than thick picks at least that is what I have observed during my picking time . There is a difference in the sound from a thick one to a thin one. and it boils down to what works best for you, I am 77 and have played since I was 16 and that does not make me an expert . The sad part of getting old you start dropping your pick and it slips in your hand making it almost impossible to play for any length of time. Take your own advice on picks because you need to satisfy yourself before you can satisfy someone lese .

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Floppy picks are for people who only want to strum chords, because they don’t have to use good technique.

Thinner picks will sound brighter, but often have more pick noise.
Thicker picks will sound darker, and usually don’t click as loudly, but they can muffle the tone if not used carefully.
I see no legitimate advantages to picks not being completely stiff, as a completely stiff pick will give you the best control of dynamics, best potential volume, best speed, and lower pick clicks. Floppy picks are extremely clicky, but they don’t pull volume or tone at all

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I myself use a dunlop primetone triangle 1.4 mm pick. I think it is basically the dunlop version of the Chris Thile bluechip pick. I will say this though, you need to figure out what works best for you. Steve Kaufman, who in my opinion may be the best flatpicker ever, uses a .
73 mm Dunlop. I have no idea how he can do what he does with that pick, but he is as fast as they come. I think what’s important is finding what works for you.

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Ah yes, “Steve’s Yellow Picks”… I was going to bring that up as well Jared!

I’ve been to a couple of his seminars years ago at Wildwood Music in Roscoe Village (a tiny historic village outside of Coshocton, OH… sadly the store has now closed). It was very intimate, only about twenty people showed up each year which allowed a good bit of personal, up close teaching and some really good views of how he plays.

I believe he gets that tone because he plays more in the middle of the soundhole which gives a much bigger, bassier sound. Nearly every bluegrass player I see today, including myself, play toward the back of the soundhole, closer to the bridge. Playing there on any guitar with a thin pick would just sound awful, at least to my ears… just as using a 1.4mm pick in the middle of the soundhole wouldn’t sound right either.

As for speed… Steve is a well oiled machine with many, many years of repetitive practice. I have no idea how he does what he does either.

At the end of his last seminar there at Wildwood, he said “If anyone wants to play my guitar, I’ll leave it right here on this chair”. Naturally I had to give it a try and I got to play Steve’s famed 7 String Gallagher 72 Special! I could not get used to that low B string but he IS the reason I got into flatpicking and I even bought a Gallagher because of him (a normal 6 string).

Thanks for bringing back some good memories!

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This is a perennial conversation among flat pickers. I personally like heavy or extra heavy delrin picks. I find that I have the best control with thick picks. And there was a time I could not imagine any decent guitarist playing with a thin pick. Then I met a fellow who could play faster than greased lightning with a dead clean, clear tone. Amazingly, his tone was not thin. His pick of choice was a thin Fender pick! I tried to find fault in his tone and playing and there was none. It reminded me of watching George Benson up close playing with terrible left hand position getting great tone and speed. It really is more about what the player feels comfortable with than what the listener thinks is best.
I agree that it is probably easier to get good tone and control with a thicker pick, but if a great player gets great tone from a thin pick, who am I to argue. :wink:

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In the past two weeks since I posted this, I’ve tried to use a medium and thin pick as much as possible.

What I’ve found is they’re not for me. I gave all the mediums and thins to my son, who claims to want to play guitar, but just collects picks for the guitar he never plays. lol

Heavy, Extra-Heavy, Stiff, Extra-Stiff, etc, are what I’ll stick with. On the electric, I tend to use a Fender heavy most of the time, but my “go to” is still the Blue Chip. It’s just the best I’ve found for me, so far. The bevels feel nice, but not TOO slippery, and not too sharp. Just right. Something else I realized with all this pick testing is I don’t care for really round bevels. They feel too slick for my taste, and too mellow. I like a bit of an edge at the end of the bevel, but not just a sharp 90 degree angle.

It’s a fascinating study. When you first pick up a guitar, the flatpick is kind of an afterthought. After a little experience you start to realize how much you can affect your tone with just the pick. Really neat, IMHO.

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I like the slightly sharper points too. To me, the BlueChip TP60 is the most perfect pick ever. I’ve tried a lot too. I used to play with a really thin Fender, years back. The change is one of the best things I ever did for my guitar playing and tone.

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