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Thread: Again with the picks

  1. #1

    Default Again with the picks

    Long-time watcher, first time poster. Guitar player, but always wanted to play mandolin. Since I just bought one (used Eastman 505), I guess it's time to learn to play it. Since I've never even held one until this week, I know there is much to learn.

    Picks. I need some but have no idea what kind, thickness, etc. 5 YouTube videos will all tell a different story. I learned last night that playing with my guitar picks isn't going to cut it.
    I could use some help on which pick to start with.

    Looking forward to my new adventure.

    Tony

  2. #2

    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Tony, there are a billion people with a billion different opinions here. But--having just switched over from fingerstyle guitar to playing Mandolin primarily, I can chime in.

    Thin picks won't do it.

    Most thick guitar picks won't do it either.

    Dunlop makes a series of jazz picks that are pretty thick, and I think pretty good for getting proficient on the Mandolin.

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    Many people who have been playing longer have strong preferences based on their style, but I think the JazzTone 207's have a pretty good tone, have enough of a rounded bevel to be able to get a tremolo to work, and generally feel pretty smooth.


    You can also skip all discussion and go order a Blue Chip CT55 for $35 plus $7 shipping here:

    http://shop.bluechippick.net/products/CT55.html

    These are the Cadillac picks that you will be hearing everybody talk about if you hang around here long enough. (Not an endorsement, just an observation--I like them fine, but I like my JazzTones and others just as much)


    But, for half that money you can have a 36 pack of JazzTones

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

    --

    As an aside, do yourself a favor and join the Newbies social group here on the cafe:

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/group.php?groupid=76

    Everybody there is super friendly and you can start working on some of their monthly tune projects in good company!


    Welcome to the Cafe!
    Last edited by Scott R; Aug-10-2018 at 9:46am. Reason: Typos galore.

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  4. #3
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    As a player out of the Neapolitan mandolin school, I play professionally with a Ultex or Ultem sharp pointed pick, app. .73mm, but it is stiff - and I play bowlback and other non-Gibson style instruments.

    The other extreme is the round poker chip sort of pick. What both picks have in common is that they are quite stiff. I could not use a .73mm pick that was not as stiff as a certain natural material pick that is no longer legal.

    Top players have used all sorts of picks, but if you were using a thin or medium flexible guitar pick, that will not work on any mandolin.



    This works on regular guitar, mandolin, Greek bouzouki, etc.

    I do use a thicker pick for Gypsy jazz, a Dunlop 3mm nylon Big Stubby:



    Both are very reasonably priced compared to some brands of picks, which have not proved to be any better to me - you can get bags of these for 35 bucks.
    Last edited by DavidKOS; Aug-10-2018 at 10:54am.

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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    All of the mentions above are good advice. Every player has a preference and the best way to find that preference is to play using a lot of different picks. Shape, thickness and material of the pick factors into the equation. If you haven't already, check out the thread and get on the list for the Travelling Pick Sampler. It's an inexpensive way of trying out a load of picks back-to-back to find out what suits your taste. Happy picking!
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  7. #5

    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by FredK View Post
    All of the mentions above are good advice. Every player has a preference and the best way to find that preference is to play using a lot of different picks. Shape, thickness and material of the pick factors into the equation. If you haven't already, check out the thread and get on the list for the Travelling Pick Sampler. It's an inexpensive way of trying out a load of picks back-to-back to find out what suits your taste. Happy picking!
    I second the Taveling Pick Sampler. Was in the same spot you were a year ago. Got the sampler and then got a CT55. Before that I thought $35 for a pick was insane but once I tried one I was a convert. Also look at JTís picks (also in the sampler). Happy picking

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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Well … yeah you really do need a thicker pick to drive the dual courses of short strings a mandolin uses. The thicker / heavier those strings are the thicker the pick needed. And the looser the wrist and grip on that pick. As stated above a pick is a personal preference and they cost from a few cents to a goodly chunk of money for a piece of material easily lost. I prefer a large rounded triangle shape. Wegan, Primetone, Tortex, Blue Chip are some brands worth experimenting with. Enjoy the search. R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

  9. #7
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by UsuallyPickin View Post
    The thicker / heavier those strings are the thicker the pick needed.
    Correct.

    Which is why the short scale/lightly strung European style instruments I favor work well with a stiff .73mm pick. (pointed of course!)

    The Gibson scaled and heavier strung instruments need another approach. The bigger thicker picks work better for those mandolins.

    I find it interesting that the longer scale instruments typically use thicker strings, making a lot higher string tension than Italian mandolins.

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  11. #8
    Registered User CWRoyds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    I came to mandolin from guitar too.
    I find guitar picks to not be optimal for mandolin.
    I play very heavy guitar picks (3mm big stubby)

    I find the best mandolin picks to be the larger triangle shape, with a speed bevel.
    1.5mm seems to work best for thickness on my mandolin.
    That is a good thickness to get a nice string tone from a Mando.

    As for brands, I currently use a Blue Chip CT55, but I also like Wegen TR150 picks.
    I had to try a bunch before i got to what I like.
    I suggest buying a Blue Chip CT55 as a starting point, and then try whatever picks you come across.
    A pack of Wegens are not that expensive, so grab a pack of those too.
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    When I started mandolin, I went through 25 years worth of collected guitar picks and hated them all. After spending a few years with the picks described above (Wegen, BC, Primetone, etc...), I can use anything. Even the thin single point guitar picks, like a yellow .73mm Tortex is fine if I flip it and use one of the rounded corners.

    The only thing I really dislike is a thick pick without a right-hand bevel.

  14. #10
    Mediocre but OK with that Paul Busman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Picks can be pretty cheap. It might be worth finding a music store that sells individual picks and buy a handful to see what you like.

    I like the Dunlop Primetone picks with the molded grip. They let you hold the pick without a very tight grip. This makes for more flowing,relaxed playing. Mine are 1.4mm
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  16. #11
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    It also depends on your style of playing what kind of pick suits you. I prefer a thinner pointed pick, and can't stand Golden Gate picks, but some people love Golden Gates. Due to the difference in how people play, and the sound they prefer from their mandolins, I would agree with the posters who recommend the traveling pick sampler, you can give lots of picks a try, then sent it on. The thread is under General Mandolin Discussions.

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  18. #12
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by LadysSolo View Post
    It also depends on your style of playing what kind of pick suits you. I prefer a thinner pointed pick, and can't stand Golden Gate picks, but some people love Golden Gates. Due to the difference in how people play, and the sound they prefer from their mandolins, I would agree with the posters who recommend the traveling pick sampler, you can give lots of picks a try, then sent it on. The thread is under General Mandolin Discussions.
    Well put...it really depends on style, personal technical ability, and what you think is a good tone.

    " I prefer a thinner pointed pick" - well, as long as the material is very stiff, I'm with you, but as I say, I am a remnant of the Neapolitan mandolin tradition, where all the pick options were pointed, app. .75 to 1-ish mm and made of the now rightfully banned material.

    but can we say tortex...very good...ultex...better!

    Remember the click test?

  19. #13
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post


    I like the Dunlop Primetone picks with the molded grip. They let you hold the pick without a very tight grip. This makes for more flowing,relaxed playing. Mine are 1.4mm
    Sorry I forgot, thanks for making the point. Primetones are very fine picks at reasonable prices. Dunlop seems to have a good R and D dept.

  20. #14
    Registered User Blues Healer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Tony,
    the best pick depends a lot on your instrument and style of playing

    I think the Dunlop variety pack is a good place to start looking at different materials and thicknesses:

    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/acce...#productDetail

    you didn't really explain why your guitar pick doesn't cut for you ...
    someone recently posted about JT Pix, and I ended up getting a couple 'multi-packs' of their style 3, which is a beveled mandolin shape pick:
    http://jtspix.com/buy.html
    for the price, I think this is a good way to see if you like this syle

    after years of playing guitar, I've experimented a lot lately with mandolin ... one benefit is that the time spent searching has improved my picking technique. Although I should be able to make do with a regular Dunlop Tortex, I do enjoy finding just a little bit more, so I'll mention a few of my favorite picks:

    • Wegan M100, or the same in a custom 1.2 thickness
    • Dunlop classic celluloid , Heavy
    • Dunlop Tortex Flex, Blue - the tone is a little softer compared to regular tortex


    I also like several Pickboy picks, such as their classic celluloid. Their picks are very well-crafted.

    For the record, I play mostly jazz, Celtic, or Classical. For Classical, I sometimes like lighter strings and a lighter pick (0.7).

    Enjoy your search!

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  22. #15
    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by DavidKOS View Post
    Sorry I forgot, thanks for making the point. Primetones are very fine picks at reasonable prices. Dunlop seems to have a good R and D dept.
    You know, with all of the boutique picks made from exotic and secret material you really have to respect Dunlop. They have made some darn decent picks over the years for a MORE than fair price.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Another preference for stiffer picks, but also for thinner. Usually .80 to 1.0 thickness seems to work for me. I can go a bit thicker depending on the material.

    But, and this is the big thing - I don't play bluegrass. Or anything close to it. Mostly Scandinavian folk music and Midwest fiddle tunes. Not infrequently with accordions. So my needs are different than the vast majority of folks.
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    It's all in the touch of the fingers and the ears of the beholding !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

  27. #18

    Default Re: Again with the picks

    music and its instruments are overloaded with copious amounts of personal subjectivity. just use whatever feels best to You - not me or whomever - and avoid drinking the inter-web-net koolaid rhetoric and be happy. mando's are arguably the easiest, or amongst the easiest, of stringed instruments to play. particularly so if yer coming from a guitar background, and in that case you have a huge jump on a rank newbie. you will find that whatever initial diddling around you do with yer mando will sound just nice, if not wonderful.

    yankees1 said it best - "It's all in the touch of the fingers and the ears of the beholding !" - amen to that, brutha.
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

  28. #19

    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Actually, I've found that a Star pick in a 1.0 seems to do just fine. I really like that hole in the middle.

  29. #20

    Default Re: Again with the picks

    starving dog picks work great with mando's too!
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

  30. #21
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    I am going to have to respectfully disagree with rfd a bit. I find the mandolin to be a major up hill challenge. Always was. Every gain I have made has been with much effort.

    I would conjecture (because i don't play guitar) that having a guitar background gives some advantage, in the basics of music, listening to others, jam etiquette, etc., but really, so many things are different, like how you hold the instrument, how you hold the pick, how you do the left hand, the sounds you go after, the sounds you make, that i would think unlearning the guitar is a real task.

    One can hear a mandolinner that is really just playing guitar on the mandolin. Nothing wrong with that in absolute terms, do what pleases you, but there is so much to a mandolin that would be a shame to miss.

    One big difference between guitar and mandolin I have found, is that the type of pick makes a bigger difference on mandolin. You can hear it. You can feel it.

    Not that one is right or one is wrong, or that you have to pick just one. Try lots of stuff, even the high end stuff, and see what you like, what does the job you are trying to get done, and then stick with it. Change things up every once in a while to either discover something new, or to confirm you choices are correct.
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  31. #22
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by rfd View Post
    music and its instruments are overloaded with copious amounts of personal subjectivity. just use whatever feels best to You - not me or whomever - and avoid drinking the inter-web-net koolaid rhetoric and be happy. mando's are arguably the easiest, or amongst the easiest, of stringed instruments to play. .
    Personal subjectivity? Sure...but there is also a great deal of well worked out musical material, history and facts behind traditional mandolin technique and repertoire.

    As for being "amongst the easiest of stringed instruments to play", well if you consider just strumming a couple 2 finger chords
    playing", then I agree.

    But really I do not agree.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    I am going to have to respectfully disagree with rfd a bit. I find the mandolin to be a major up hill challenge. Always was. Every gain I have made has been with much effort.
    ......

    One can hear a mandolinner that is really just playing guitar on the mandolin. Nothing wrong with that in absolute terms, do what pleases you, but there is so much to a mandolin that would be a shame to miss.
    rfd, I find your "anything goes, it's all cool if it's yours" approach to be a way to a lowest-common denominator of mandolin playing.

    Yes it easy to play a little mandolin - it is NOT easy to play up to the potential of the instrument. Playing really good mandolin, using the full capabilities of the instrument - as in knowing the whole fingerboard, all your open and closed fingering scales, chords in all positions, a good tremolo, use of dynamics and tonal shadings, and so on - is by no means easy.

    Set the bar low, and yes mandolin, ukulele, guitar, etc. are "easy".

    But raise the bar of musical standards and no instrument is "easy" - they all take practice, and most of us learn best by using the methods developed by others that have proved to work, not re-invent the wheel on our own.

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  33. #23

    Default Re: Again with the picks

    too many po' fretted folks done drunk da interweb koolaid. dat's jus' da trooth. it is what it is.

    the bottom line will always be to see what works "best" fer you, not me, nor anyone else. the sad part is that too many folks are influenced by outside pressures and keyboard gurus. opinions of others are just that, most particularly when it comes to fretted instrument accoutrements.

    however, it's good to see what others are doing and using, then form yer own opinions based on the genre of music you like playing best, and experiment. there is no substitute. else you'll be on a don quixote guest for the "best" pick, or strings, or mando, or pickup/transducer, preamp, amp, whatever.

    all of this stuff will be tempered by yer musical chops, no matter what the instrument. if you think that one of them thar expensive blue chop picks iz gonna make ya play better, it just might ... via the power of suggestion. a seasoned pro may certainly have certain accoutrement talismans that are relied on, but losing a blue chop pick won't hold them back from making really good music. i see this in the studio fairly often. with really good musicians.

    as always, food for thought, ymmv, life is good.
    Mandolins are truly *magic*!

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  35. #24
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    I'd recommend you do this - TRY A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT PICKS. Over a good long spell.
    If you're just starting out on mando and you've found on a pick you like, chances are very good you won't be playing it in a year if you experiment a bunch - especially with the more popular types/brands mentioned by seasoned players around here. And feel free to avoid buying into the premium pick world until you've got some solid opinions on picks that are easier on the wallet/psyche.

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  37. #25
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Again with the picks

    Quote Originally Posted by Blues Healer View Post
    Tony,
    the best pick depends a lot on your instrument and style of playing

    I think the Dunlop variety pack is a good place to start looking at different materials and thicknesses:

    https://www.musiciansfriend.com/acce...#productDetail

    you didn't really explain why your guitar pick doesn't cut for you ...
    someone recently posted about JT Pix, and I ended up getting a couple 'multi-packs' of their style 3, which is a beveled mandolin shape pick:
    http://jtspix.com/buy.html
    for the price, I think this is a good way to see if you like this syle
    Two comments. First-The only thing about the Dunlop variety pack is that most of the variety is in the material, They're all almost the same shape. Lots of mandolin players out there prefer the larger triangular shape (346). They don't offer any of those.

    Second, and this is just my opinion, I tried the variety pack of JT's picks and found them to be, by far, the worst sounding picks I have ever used. Four different materials and all of them had a terrible scratchy and bright sound. I sold them two days after I received them.

    I would think a good thing to do is go to a music jam somewhere and ask to try some of the picks that people are using. Different thicknesses, different shapes and sizes. Then you can narrow it down and buy a few that might be appealing.
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