Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

What matters most in a pick?

I find I kind of drift around on my pick preferences. Even what I look for in a pick seems to drift a bit. I thought I’d check with you all to see what matters most. At the current time, this is what seems to matter to me most:

  1. Pick stiffness: It needs to be stiff enough to get through the strings crisply. Thinner picks feel floppy and don’t note at the right time for me. This seems consistent with me.
  2. Tone: I like a tone that is punchy and doesn’t have a bunch of “pick noise.” I prefer the bright side of medium on the brightness/darkness scale.
  3. Feel through the strings: Sometimes this is a huge deal, sometimes I am easy to please on this. At the moment my preference is for a moderately pointy shape and a bevel. A other times in the past I have wanted more rounded tips, and I sometimes prefer the tone I get without much of a bevel.
  4. Grippiness of the pick: I suspect this is lower on my list as most of my picks are reasonably grippy
  5. Size of the pick: I am pretty easy to please on this, but I generally have bigger picks

I was curious what you all look for in a pick and how “picky” you are. Did I miss any attributes?

Nice topic Mike!

My wife thinks I’m a nut about picks. Frequently I’ll get in a “Pick Testing Mood” and I’ll have all my good ones laying all over the couch or coffee table testing back and forth between each one. She’s patient as she rolls her eyes when I ask “Which one sounds the best” or “How’d that one sound”. Eventually she says they all sound good. You don’t suppose she’s trying to get me to quit asking her how they sound do you? Naaaahhhh, can’t be!

“What matters most in a pick” was the original question. To me, definitely tone. But that seems to change. Sometimes a Red bear sounds better than a Blue Chip (but usually it’s the other way around). Some days my Dunlop Primetones sound better than both. If you all haven’t tried these yet, do so tonight! Order one or go to a store that sells them and “pick” one up. They are the closest in tone and feel to a Blue Chip that I’ve found yet and they’re cheap. I use the 1.4mm teardrop without the grip. I get a better grip without the grips.

Here’s how I feel in the same order:

  1. Pick stiffness: Totally agree with you. Can’t bend or be floppy.
  2. Tone: I like slightly bright and slightly dark at the same time and still be able to clearly bring out the bass. I find that any pick between 1.2mm and 1.5mm will accomplish this. I never ever go under 1.0mm. I don’t know how Steve Kauffman gets such good tone with his cheap yellow .73 picks but he surely does.
  3. Feel through the strings: I like slightly pointy with no bevel (except for a Wegen) It’s the only beveled pick I like. My Blue Chips and Red Bears are straight, no bevel.
  4. Grippiness of the pick: Super important!! I have rough dry hands and It’s hard for me to find a pick that I can grip well. My real turtle pick gives me the best grip of any, but it’s also noisy (clicky) and provides bad tone and low volume. Don’t know what the big deal is about real turtle, maybe I have a dud. Sure is a nice pick though.
  5. Size of the pick: I’m just the opposite Mike. I like smaller picks. My Blue Chips are all STP’s (smaller version of the TP).
  6. Volume: This would be the only attribute I’d say you may have missed. Very important in jam sessions, not so important at home alone.

I always seem to end up with a Blue Chip in my fingers in the end. Yes they’re way overpriced but they bring even more joy to something I (we all) truly enjoy, so I guess they’re worth it. Just don’t lose one! That possibly brings up another attribute - Price.

Thanks Mike

Yeah, I forgot cost, that certainly is important. I guess I don’t think about it much as once I have a pick, the money is already gone. If you factor in price, then the Ultex Primetone and Wegens become all the more impressive.

As far as you turtle pick being a potential dud, I suspect it may be. I was given one that is stellar. The only negatives I can find with it are that 1) It came from a cool sea turtle and I’d rather not have to kill one to play guitar and 2) Tortoise wears quicker than the new super pick materials. This particular one has a bevel that requires a relatively flat attack angle or it does get a bit scratchy sounding. This is more critical than the bevel that comes on the Primetone, but for me, it matches my attack fine. With all that said, I still like other picks as well or better at various times.

I used a .73 for many years until I got in to blue grass and found you can not get the right sound with out going with at least 1.0 . I posted on here once about felt like playing with a brick but I was having trouble with my fingers working right. Seems like the problem has gone away for the most part so I am back to plying with bricks again . a 1.0

keep em air picks handy ats the way we likem . I remember Earnest saying the same thing about snakes.

I’m enough of an amateur at this point that my only criteria is whether or not it’s in my pocket :sunglasses: