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Thread: Pick thickness?

  1. #1

    Default Pick thickness?

    I realize this has probably been discussed many times before, but bear with me...

    For most instruments that are picked with a flat pick, it seems like most people like thick/heavy picks. For some reason, I tend to gravitate to between a .75 and 1.0 pick for guitar and mandolin. I don't really know why. Is there a particular reason why the heavier picks seem to be favored for mandolin? I know some say that it cuts down on the brightness of the mandolin, but to my ear it tends to dull the tone a bit.

    Thoughts?
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  3. #2
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tmcmakin View Post
    I realize this has probably been discussed many times before, but bear with me...

    For most instruments that are picked with a flat pick, it seems like most people like thick/heavy picks. For some reason, I tend to gravitate to between a .75 and 1.0 pick for guitar and mandolin. I don't really know why. Is there a particular reason why the heavier picks seem to be favored for mandolin? I know some say that it cuts down on the brightness of the mandolin, but to my ear it tends to dull the tone a bit.

    Thoughts?
    I fiND thick picks do just that,cut down on brightness and tone,,I prefer picks between .75 and .88 with the .88 my usual favorite...

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    Registered User Jesse Kinman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    The thicker the pick, the harder you have to pluck it to get good tone, generally speaking. And the harder you pick, the more you need a thicker pick.
    I used 1mm on both guitar and mandolin for years, and gradually went towards 1.14mm, now I use 1.3 to 1.6 depending on the song, application, etc.
    it also matters what gauge of strings you use, an extra heavy pick like a 1.5 or so is almost useless if you are playing light gauge strings on the mandolin or extra lights on the guitar. I personally use lights on my guitar and medium on my mandolin, I canít take the tone of thinner strings than those.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    It depends on what effect you are after. For folk and fiddle tunes and old time I like a thick pick, 1.4 mm, and for classical I prefer a thin one, about 0.75 or so.

    No law that you can only use one pick.

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I like a bunch of different picks I have.

    Some are thin, others are think
    Some feel slow, others feel quick
    Some are pointy, others round
    But here's the thing that I have found...

    All of them eventually get used for making music.

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    Natural Born Tar Heel Perilous Deep's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    To my mind it's a question of the mechanics of picking a double-course instrument and getting good tone. It takes a few steps, so bear with me...

    If you hold a pick firmly when picking the mandolin, it tends to catch on the top string of a course (generally the wound strings, but the unwound as well to some extent) and then the pick doesn't drive cleanly through both strings, leading to an undesirable tone and often uneven rhythm. A loose pick grip lets it strike both strings in a course cleanly.

    If you hold a thinner pick loosely, however, you lose volume, and if you go really thin, you the pick may not drive through both strings. A thicker pick gripped loosely can get through both strings and also get enough vibration going to generate good volume.

    That's my experience, at least.
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    And it depends what sort on mandolin you play.

    All my bowlback and European style flatbacks work well with light strings and stiff pointy picks app. .73 or mm.

    The times I've played on archtops, with the long scale, heavier strings, etc. I've used picks more like my Gypsy jazz picks, 1.5-2.5 mm and still pointed.

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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I agree with David, some mandolins are brighter and benefit from a heavier pick. Those with a G string that is not so bright sounds dull with a heavier pick. I find 1mm is about the heaviest for my mandolin and sound good on both the E and the G. I do like a more rounded pick, but will use a pointy one for certain things. For a long time I played a .60 with my Gibson A2, sounded great. then I went to the rounded corner. Since getting an ff hole mandolin I have gone to a heavier pick and do like it, but no where near as heavy as others are using.
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  15. #9

    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    there's almost no rhyme or reason for pick and string selections, and that's right because ... this is all subjective stuff. use whatever works best for you in terms of pick, strings, and even playing style ... and mandolin! it's all good if yer ears and fingers approve. promise.
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

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    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I have a bunch of picks on my desk, but I tend to gravitate towards my Primetone 1.5 partly because I am working on my pick holding position and a thicker pick (plus the textured surface) help me keep it in the right spot. I have to say that when I occasionally use a thinner pick the sound is less twangy, and I can't hear the plastic hitting the strings as much. I may end up using a 1.0 when I nail holding my pick to help with sound.
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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Hey Seamus-

    Have you tried the Wegen TF100 (1mm)? It's one of my go two's. It's triangular, has holes for grips and is beveled.

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  20. #12

    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tmcmakin View Post
    I realize this has probably been discussed many times before, but bear with me...

    For most instruments that are picked with a flat pick, it seems like most people like thick/heavy picks. For some reason, I tend to gravitate to between a .75 and 1.0 pick for guitar and mandolin. I don't really know why. Is there a particular reason why the heavier picks seem to be favored for mandolin? I know some say that it cuts down on the brightness of the mandolin, but to my ear it tends to dull the tone a bit.

    Thoughts?
    The important properties of a pick are the pick's flexibility/rigidity, and how quickly the pick returns to flat if it bends.

    The more flexible a pick is, combined with the pick's ability to return and speed in returning to its original shape, the more energy is imparted to the string upon release from the pick in motion. That's why a thin, springy pick gets more higher harmonics, and why stiffer picks (including a coin) get more of the fundamental.

    A more wonky explanation is available in Fundamentals of Musical Acoustics (A. Benade 1976) in chapter eight. Basically, a flexible pick acts like hitting the string with a hammer-striker with an instant rebound. As the pick is thinner, it gives way very quickly during its motion, which is why it behaves like an instantaneous strike. The thicker the pick, the more the picking is instead a displacement and release, and the less the higher overtones are present. (The plucking motion itself is *not* a hit or a strike, in spite of the possible click of the pick hitting the string prior to the deflect-release of the pluck.)

    The sawing of a pick across the string isn't usually all that noticeable, especially since it normally happens in the same microseconds as the pick contacting the string. (I can't remember how many milliseconds apart two sound have to be to be perceived as separate sound, but I'm pretty sure these two instances are perceive as one.)

    And then there's the release, with a spectrum between flexible-to-stiff pick material on how strong/weak the overtones are. More flexible, the more overtones and brightness. The more stiff, the less overtones and brightness.

    What are interesting are the picks which are flexible (more overtones) *and* with a softer surface upon first contact. I have some picks that I think were originally meant for ukulele or autoharo, with a flexible core covered in a thin layer of felt on the outside. There's no initial click, and some good brightness (upper frequency content) on the pluck.

    I've also been part of an impromptu blind test where the favorite pick in terms of sound, the Wedgie rubber pick, was chosen even by the owners of Blue Chip, Red Bear and Wegen picks. It gave a deep fundamental without any higher harmonics, *and* without any initial click or dragging noise. I was expecting some close preferences between the high end picks and the tortoid picks (Claytone, Primetone, etc.), but not a blowout from a cheap rubber pick.

    ----

    I've noticed before that archtop and flat-top plucked instruments as families have vastly different timbres when I use them, and yet some friends have noted they don't get those audibly different results. This discussion makes me think that my use of thinner picks, in generating those higher frequencies, might lead to those audible differences, while their use of the thicker picks completely kills that high end and renders it impossible to evoke. In the case of mandolins, a mandolin which lacks high end and sustain is often considered preferable for bluegrass, while a less percussive, sweet-sounding instrument with more sustain is preferred for other genres. It's not that someone can't prefer an instrument with no high end, or to be indifferent to the high end altogether, but it can be worthwhile to know why something sounds as it does, and to be able to make knowledgeable gear choices based on an accurate understanding of one's own preferences.

    Whatever your tastes, good luck, and happy playing!
    Playing a no-point 14-fret-to-the-body oval-hole with scroll, a Flatiron 1SH mandola (original owner), a McNally Ukulele Strumstick in CGDA mandola tuning, a McNally 4-string Chromatic Strumstick in GDAE octave mandolin tuning, and rocking my six-course, unison-tuned 12-string Ovation mandophone/extended cittern in CGDAEB Full Fifths Tuning...

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  22. #13
    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Hey Zach - no I haven't. I actually like slightly raised/mottled surface on the Primetone Grip pick, but I hear great things about the Wegens. I found some on of the 1mm TF100s on Ebay and ordered. I will let you know how it goes!
    Thanks!
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  23. #14
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I actually prefer the M100 or M150 but be careful if you order them - they are not ambidextrous. I'm not sure about the TF100s but I use one of those on mandola and my GBOM.

    Picks are largely down to personal prefrence. I've started to use an ultra-light pick I've previously used on my electric guitar on my National RM-1. I do know somebody who makes his own guitar picks out of empty washing up liquid bottles - each to their own!

    If you want a reliable UK based source, try here - http://www.newstrings.co.uk/acatalog...azz_Picks.html

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    My own preferences always seem to gravitate around 1.0. Although I can use the Wegen M150. I like the sound of them, but they don't have enough treble to keep up with an accordion player. Been starting to fall back to using Wegen bluegrass models. They don't always want to stay put in my hand, but the tone is worth it.

    Strangely, Blue Chip and a few others give me too much pick noise. Not as bad when I'm at a jam, but still will have others mention it from time to time. Not as prominent when I switch to guitar. But weird that it's now a problem after 10 years of using those picks.
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    The thickness of the pick isn`t as important as the material it is made out of....I tend to try different picks and have found that each mandolin has it`s "favorite" pick that gets them all to sound as close as possible to each other...Give the testing some time and when the right one comes along you will notice it because it will make your "el cheapo", if you have one, sound great...

    Also make a note of what strings you are trying because all picks don`t work with all strings...This can get complicated depending on how particular you are about the sound of your mandolin (s)....And I am just that...

    Willie

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I think some of the popularity of thick picks is that more of your picking energy goes into pushing the strings, and less is wasted flexing the pick. So for the same pressure, you are likely to get more volume out of a thicker pick.

    I have a friend who is new to the mandolin and prefers the thin picks and the classical pick boy picks. She tried one of my 1.4mm picks and said, "I can't use that, someone might hear me!"
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I think some of the popularity of thick picks is that more of your picking energy goes into pushing the strings, and less is wasted flexing the pick. So for the same pressure, you are likely to get more volume out of a thicker pick.
    I get more useful volume with the 1.2mm I'm playing now over it's 1.4mm version. The last brand pick I was playing, that was opposite. I tend to view pick thickness and material like impedance. The value you need is determined by your stoke and the speed you are playing atm for everything to be optimal.

    I wish I had hung onto all the picks I tried. As your right hand and playing speed changes you might find the pick you disliked last year is now the one.

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  30. #19
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    When I am just jamming I use a thinner pick and it does have more volume but when playing a gig I am more interested in tone so I tend to use a little thicker pick...That might not be what every one prefers though so try all of the picks that you can and see for your self...

    Willie

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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I agree Willie. I'd probably go with a little thicker pick if tone was the priority

  32. #21
    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Thickness is not the only things to consider, as pointed out in this venerable but still relevant link:

    http://jazzmando.com/tips/archives/000718.shtml
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  34. #22
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I prefer 1.5mm. Comes handy to check action - I just slip it under e strings at 15th fret and if it is exact fit the action is what I like, on g strings I check the same at 12th.
    Adrian

  35. #23
    Eternal Beginner Seamus B's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Wilson View Post
    Hey Seamus-

    Have you tried the Wegen TF100 (1mm)? It's one of my go two's. It's triangular, has holes for grips and is beveled.
    Hey Zach - I just wanted to follow-up to say thank you for the suggestion of the Wegen TF100. I like them a lot and have started using them this week over my both my 1.5 Primetones (the flat and raised versions). The Primetone with the raised area was giving off a clack that I never could get used to. The Wegen has a nice warm sound, and is not as flexible as I thought it would be at 1mm. All in all I like it a great deal, and the holes and the brushed matt surface really helps me keep it tightly held without movement.

    I appreciate your help.
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  36. #24
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    Right on! I'm glad to hear that

    The Wegen gets used most 'round my house... even over the BC! I think it's due to the warm and smooth tone I get out of it.

    Zach

  37. #25
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness?

    I also think that if you have a tight grip a thinner pick will work better but if you hold a thicker one loosely it works fine. I generally hold mine loosely and have been lately using thicker picks on mandolin, .050in/1.3mm
    Jim

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