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Thread: Mother Maybelle's pick

  1. #1

    Default Mother Maybelle's pick

    I recently spoke with a guy who plays authentic style Mother Maybelle guitar. He is a friend of the family. He said Mother Maybelle used a "stephen's pick" - not really sure how Stephen is spelled. He didn't say where he got them though. I have looked online and can't find anything. Does anyone have any suggestions??

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Every picture I can find that I can see her picking hand it appears she is using a thumb pick. I have never heard it called anything other than a thumb pick but perhaps it had that name when it first came out or it was a brand of thumb pick. All of that is conjecture on my part. She did have her own style of playing that was at times described as scratching.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter_Family_picking

    This discussion on another forum speaks of her using a thumbpick and one metal figerpick. I can't see the video from here and I don't know if the old links still work.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Every picture I can find that I can see her picking hand it appears she is using a thumb pick. I have never heard it called anything other than a thumb pick but perhaps it had that name when it first came out or it was a brand of thumb pick. All of that is conjecture on my part. She did have her own style of playing that was at times described as scratching.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carter_Family_picking

    This discussion on another forum speaks of her using a thumbpick and one metal figerpick. I can't see the video from here and I don't know if the old links still work.
    I did find mention of the "steven's pick" in the link that you posted. The one the guy had is a metal finger pick but longer than a banjo finger pick. And it does stroke up and down which Mother Maybelle did. In that same thread - doing speed reading since it was mostly about *how* do do the style it did mention current similar pics which I'll go looking for

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Very cool.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by Tina MBee View Post
    He said Mother Maybelle used a "stephen's pick" - not really sure how Stephen is spelled. He didn't say where he got them though. I have looked online and can't find anything. Does anyone have any suggestions??
    The Stevens bar is still the default slide/bar for dobro, maybe at one time they made picks?

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    Registered User Chunky But Funky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Here are some for sale on Reverb... Stevens picks

    and eBay Stevens picks

    They don't look significantly different than these ProPik's

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    The Stevens bar is still the default slide/bar for dobro, maybe at one time they made picks?
    I bet your're right since you use finger picks for the dobro!

  9. #8

    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by Chunky But Funky View Post
    Here are some for sale on Reverb... Stevens picks

    and eBay Stevens picks

    They don't look significantly different than these ProPik's

    Doug
    too bad that listing has ended but don't think I'd pay $40 for a pick - it's a birthday present. The Stevens pick seems much longer than the ProPik.

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by Chunky But Funky View Post
    Here are some for sale on Reverb... Stevens picks
    Those look quite a bit like the John Pearse Hi-Rider style

    http://www.thepickshoppe.com/store/f...er-fingerpicks

    The JP's are a lot cheaper. But neither they nor the Stevens picks look as if they'd be good for Carter-style.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by jesserules View Post
    Those look quite a bit like the John Pearse Hi-Rider style

    http://www.thepickshoppe.com/store/f...er-fingerpicks

    The JP's are a lot cheaper. But neither they nor the Stevens picks look as if they'd be good for Carter-style.
    for that price I can get one for my friend to try out

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    Registered User Chunky But Funky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Well, this thread got me curious, and I continued to search. I am interested both from the perspective of clawhammer banjo, two finger and folk techniques as well as potentially exploring clawhammer guitar / uke. Here is what I found:

    Clawjam finger and thumb pics

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Clawjam Pick.jpg 
Views:	29 
Size:	46.0 KB 
ID:	167324

    It seems to fit the bill, even if it wasn't available to Mother Maybelle!

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  13. #12

    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Quote Originally Posted by Chunky But Funky View Post
    Well, this thread got me curious, and I continued to search. I am interested both from the perspective of clawhammer banjo, two finger and folk techniques as well as potentially exploring clawhammer guitar / uke. Here is what I found:

    Clawjam finger and thumb pics

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Clawjam Pick.jpg 
Views:	29 
Size:	46.0 KB 
ID:	167324

    It seems to fit the bill, even if it wasn't available to Mother Maybelle!

    Doug
    the thing about the Steven's pick is that the actual pick part seemed really long. the picture of yours seems shorter. $25 is kind of steep to try and not like it. Thanks for the link though!

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    Registered User Chunky But Funky's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    I'm not sure how Mother Maybelle utilized the Stevens pick. The Clawjam pick is how I envisioned utilizing a longer "pick" part. Folding it over the end of the finger allows for the alternating down and up strokes without ripping the pick off of your finger. Maybe someone who knows what they are talking about specifically related to Mother Maybelle's technique will chime in. That is obviously not me!

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    From what I've been able to discern, Maybelle Carter played the lead notes with a thumb pick, mainly on the lower strings of her L-5, and brushed back and forth across the strings with her index finger, in her so-called "Carter scratch" style, with a rhythm that's not too far from a clawhammer or up-picked banjo's "bump-ditty."

    This vid of Wildwood Flower from 1961 shows it fairly plainly:



    There's an hour-long documentary, Maybelle's Carter Scratch, about the Carters, Maybelle and daughters mainly, that goes into much greater detail. I won't imbed it, but it's worth viewing. Helen Carter demonstrates the "scratch," saying Maybelle "picked the bass melody with her thumb, and 'stirred' the strings with her fingers." Helen also demonstrates a finger-picking style, learned from Leslie Riddle (later of Rochester NY), which utilizes thumb and three finger picks. Helen also says that Maybelle sometimes flat-picked, demonstrating Red Wing and Coal Miner's Blues.

    Not sure if I can detect a finger pick on Maybelle's "brushing" finger, but she may have used one, by Stevens or whatever maker. It would have had to be double-sided, to handle the up-and-down contact with the strings.
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    the guy who showed my friend the Stevens pick knew Mother Maybelle and knew what kind of pick she used and it was the Stevens pick. And it wasn't double sided which makes it even more amazing what she could do with it. Thanks for the link for the documentary!

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    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Great thread! Thanks to Allen for the documentary, and thanks to Doug for finding that ClawJam pick, new stuff to me.

    I've studied the video of Wildwood Flower many times at YouTube; I can see the finger pick pretty well there.

    From Tina MBee:
    And it wasn't double sided which makes it even more amazing what she could do with it. Thanks for the link for the documentary!
    Agreed, I think the way Mother Maybelle used the fingerpick is a difficult technique to get down.

    All I have to add to this thread is to say that Mike Seeger's Homespun video, The Guitar Styles of the Carter Family, is probably a really great resource for studying Mother Maybelle's style. I don't own that one as yet, but the demonstrations on his sample video are impressive.

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    I think a more interesting question is where is Maybelle's guitar that she developed her style on and recorded most of their early sessions with. I watched the documentary mentioned above and read up on the famous L-5 and it seems the serial number places it as a late 1928 guitar shipped early 1930. Curious I looked at the Carter Family recording dates and the famous famous sessions - in Bristol and Camden, NJ were before she obtained the L-5. The last sessions of 1929 were in Atlanta, in November. The first after that were in May 1930 in Memphis.

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Slightly off topic -

    Last night I was watching an old Marx Brothers movie. In the scene below Groucho is playing an (out-of-tune) Gibson L-5, while riding in a canoe. At the end of the scene, he throws the guitar in the water. Needless to say, I was horrified until I hit rewind and saw that they had switched guitars before sending it airborne.

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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    “Horse Feathers”! I love that scene, they pull back and you see the woman paddling him in the canoe while he lounges under the parasol playing. It’s maybe my favorite of the Marx brothers movies. But, then there’s the whole “Why a Duck?’ Thing and all I can ever think of is “Beacuse Duffey played one!” But, now, I’m mixing cocktails with pool water, not that’s not right, apples and bananas, no that’s not right either but, if I hold you any closer I’ll be behind you....

    But, back to the reason for this thread, I think way back when I worked at the music store, we went to an open house at C. Bruno in Chicago. While we were there I saw rack after rack of picks and sundries, something is tickling my memory that I saw a set of picks with a Stevens steel (old boxed set) and thought, that was kind of cool. Never gave it much thought until now.
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Here's the scene:



    Looks like Groucho was playing the Gibson (seems to be actually making the chords, too), but threw a nondescript flat-top guitar into the drink.
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    I assume Groucho is actually playing. All the other brothers were musically talented why not Groucho?
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    In this one looks like a very short fingerpick on index finger https://www.pinterest.com/pin/394839...73145/?lp=true

    https://www.pinterest.com/pin/130604457923353673/

    To do that, the pick blade has to be shortened and contoured so that it doesnt catch on the uppick or down-pick. I spend a few hours each week cutting/filing/crimping a lot of Nationals and Dunlops and others to do that, tho they don't sound that good compared to good spoon shaped picks (Yates or Wyatts). So you just need to get a tube of DUnlop .020s, some tin snips, files and needle nose pliers wrapped in duct tape so they don't gouge up the pick blades.

    Also Pete Seeger also uppicked and downpicked, with fingerpicks turned both ways: http://owtk.com/wp-content/uploads/2...est-2011-8.jpg

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    other threads asking same quesiton: https://www.banjohangout.org/topic/340609

    https://www.banjohangout.org/archive/327219
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    Default Re: Mother Maybelle's pick

    Most interesting to me was to see that Groucho had the parasol stuck down his neck in the back of his shirt collar
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