Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Plastic thumb pick?

I currently use nickel thumb and finger picks as I didn’t like the plastic ones I started with. I never really considered using a plastic thumb pick with metal finger picks until I started working on duelling banjos where I struggled on the upward strum with the metal thumb pick.

I tried the combination of metal and plastic which improved the strum but made the notes played with my thumb sound flat compared to the sound of the metal finger picks. From what I read on the web it seems people prefer a plastic thumb pick but I’m not sure why, would a better quality one (if there is such a thing) give me a better tone?

I use National NP2 fingerpicks with a Dunlop tortoise plastic thumbpick. I really don’t hear much difference in tone between the plastic and nickel picks except that I can play louder with my thumb.

Dunlop’s are not expensive. I have Saga thumbpicks which are also cheap picks and sound about the same. I’ve never used a metal thumbpick so maybe it’s just that I’m used to the sound I get from plastic.

metal give a harsh/bright “twangy” sound

in general, thicker plastic gives mellower tone and quicker/more correct response. thinner picks give thinner sound.

I use a Blue chip thumb pick, which is rock solid ( part that hits the string won’t bend) and has tremendous response form the strings. i like the sound of some plastic picks picks too (clown barf in particular), but I prefer the part that wraps around my thumb to be metal as I seem to be able to shape it for comfort better, and it stays there and doesn’t break like plastic can.

It really comes down to personal taste. Experiment with a few and see what YOU like best.

I bet the BlueChip is sweet. They look well made. I have primarily played them with guitar, so my experience may not apply. With that said, in my opinion, one worth trying for the money is the Fred Kelly Bumblebee. It’s the most natural feeling thumbpick I have used.