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Thread: Pick Choice and Dynamics

  1. #1
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Pick Choice and Dynamics

    Sorry for one more pick thread - but I have a question.

    I recently attended the CMSA convention and one issue that struck me while watching the many fine classical mandolin players was their use of a range of dynamics, from quite loud to very soft.

    What registered with me was the use of soft volume levels!

    I'd been playing with accordions, violins, drums, guitars, in more folksy settings like noisy restaurants, and pretty much was playing at 2 dynamic levels - loud and louder.

    So I ask all other mandolinists that work mostly in non-classical situations about your choice of a pick's size, shape, thickness, material, etc.

    How much does the music you play matter, that is, what dynamic levels do you play at most of the time and how does that affect pick choice?

    Thanks

  2. #2
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    O my, David, hopefully some pros or regular performers will chime in. It can be an interesting question. I don't actually perform that often, especially with mandolin. I have noticed in my practicing and playing, though, that I like a softer attack on a lot of things. I suppose if I were performing a lot, I'd figure out the best way of amplifying my instrument so that I can be heard on some things without whipping the mule so hard.

    As for picks, I find that on mandolin in general (with some leeway for different mandolins) I prefer what I would call "darker" sounding picks, like a Wegen 1.2, for banging out rhythms. I prefer a thinner, pointier pick of a stiffer material for playing more delicate and nuanced melodies. That would be the generalization for me right now, so two basic categories 1. Dark, softer plectrum, a bit rounder corner for hard driving chordal rhythms, and 2. Bright, harder plectrum, pointier, for delicate melodys and nuance.

    Wegen 1.2, Wegen 1.4, an ancient TS, and a customized Primetone currently fit the bill for my category 1, and JT Pix, Cool Picks, and a 1.5 red Dunlop Stubby are all currently used for my category 2.

    As far as shape goes ... I have developed a definite preference for large triangles. This happened only a few years ago, within the first year of determining to learn mandolin. It took a while for me to convert, as I had used floppy, medium nylon teardrops on guitar for 50 years prior to that. But now, I play only large triangles and that's what I'm discussing in above paragraphs. I find that since putting in the time to acclimate to them, the advantages are that I can use a much looser grip with less worry about the pick turning in my fingers. I can say that I've never tried any of the "elongated" looking classical picks that I've seen you post photos of. I can imagine advantages to those, though, and may come across one to try some day.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
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  4. #3
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gunter View Post
    I find that since putting in the time to acclimate to them, the advantages are that I can use a much looser grip with less worry about the pick turning in my fingers. I can say that I've never tried any of the "elongated" looking classical picks that I've seen you post photos of. I can imagine advantages to those, though, and may come across one to try some day.
    A lot of the classical players liked the longer teardrop-with-a-point, but there were variations in that, from softer materials to very stiff ones, and not everyone used the same shapes.

    "It can be an interesting question. I don't actually perform that often, especially with mandolin. I have noticed in my practicing and playing, though, that I like a softer attack on a lot of things. I suppose if I were performing a lot, I'd figure out the best way of amplifying my instrument so that I can be heard on some things without whipping the mule so hard."

    That plus your discussion of other factors in your choice of picks really gets to the essence of my questions!

    I neglected to say I was referring to functionally non-amplified situations. That is, if there is any amplification, it is very old-school and simple, as in a mic in front of the band at best. I'm not including instruments with a pickup - that's another subject!

    BTW, the Japanese soloist/teacher Takumi Mamiya gave a workshop that included the issue of tight and loose grip. He used the difference to make louds and softs, so that's good that you picked up on that point.



    a video of one of his performances. Mandolin begins a little after 2 minutes in.

    Thanks for responding.

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  6. #4
    Mandolin Friendly Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    Wow, what a fine performance! I only watched the first movement, but looking forward to hearing the rest of that recital. Great technique and tone.
    Technique, theory and fun, fun, fun. I love playing, studying and sharing MUSIC.
    "Life is short. Play hard." - AlanN
    ------------------------
    HEY! The Cafe has Social Groups, check 'em out. I'm in these groups:
    Newbies Social Group | The Song-A-Week Social
    The Woodshed Study Group | Collings Mandolins | MandoCymru
    - Advice For Mandolin Beginners
    - YouTube Stuff

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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    I was in the same workshop with Takumi! He is an amazing player. First time in the US. To go a bit off the pick topic, he covered six different tremolo techniques.

    1. Grip - hard or soft
    2. Position - ranging from picking near the bridge to the 12th fret and everywhere in between
    3. Pick angle - from perpendicular to a diagonal attack
    4. Depth - from barely touching the tip of the pick to the string, to a deeper bite
    5. Speed - slow tremolo to fast tremolo
    6. Flexibility of wrist - hard or soft
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  10. #6
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    I use large triangles, mainly because I don’t enjoy accidentally picking on the round shoulders and not discovering my mistake until after the song has started! I have used small triangles, but find I grip tighter, and tight grip reduces my control. I do play professionally, 1-3 gigs per week, year round. We do plug in, but use a hybrid system that has a central mic stand with high and low condensers for vocals and solo instrumental boost (we do the one mic dance, but can get as loud as needed for noisy shows).
    As for material and thickness, I used to be addicted to the bluechip, stp and tad 50-60 mil. For the last year I’ve been stuck on Casin. Hense, RedBear, EML, and the strangely shaped John Pearce, all 40-60 mil. All my picks have rh bevels except the jpearce.
    My band plays bg/newgrass, but we do add many down tempo songs to the sets. I really enjoy sparsely attended shows that have almost no crowd noise, as the nuance of our sound really shines when we can hear ourselves in full detail. We use an in ear monitor system, so it sounds like recording tracking, and the condensers hear the room, so loud rooms (talking people not really listening)mean bleed through into our mix. We generally play shows where alcohol is served (it fuels the music economy in this part of the world), so talking is to be expected at most shows. About ten shows a year are critical listening environments.

    As for how I choose my picks for a particular show, I select the one that provides enough cut in the mix...too smooth an attack gets lost in the noise of a loud environment and slows down the high speed Bluegrass, but too pointy a pick sounds too crisp in a quiet room. I choose my weapon show by show, and generally have an option or two in my pocket so I can switch around if I’m not happy with how I’m sitting in the mix.

    When I’m at jams or band practice, I usually pick a pick with a softer attack...I’m blessed in having very loud mandolins that don’t get lost at the jam.

    Mandolins are F5 styles, strings are med-heavy.
    My pickup is a radius with the tonedexter, so my pickup sound is very close mic (ish) and behaves very linearly to the power of my playing.
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  12. #7
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    Off thread...It appears Takumi is wearing something on his left hand...on the thumb.
    Did he wear it at the workshop?
    I have a thumb calluse that goes nuts if I play a mando without a speedneck treatment. I suppose he picks way more per week than I, with his fantastic level of playing!
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
    Deering Classic Open Back
    Too many microphones

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  14. #8
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    Quote Originally Posted by MontanaMatt View Post
    Off thread...It appears Takumi is wearing something on his left hand...on the thumb.
    Did he wear it at the workshop?
    I have a thumb calluse that goes nuts if I play a mando without a speedneck treatment. I suppose he picks way more per week than I, with his fantastic level of playing!
    I did not see him wear one at the convention, but in the video he appears to be using a yubikake, a shamisen accessory.

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

    "players often wear a little band of cloth on their left hand to facilitate sliding up and down the neck, known as a yubikake. "

    http://www.e-kameya.com/english/accessory.html


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  16. #9
    Mandolin user MontanaMatt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Choice and Dynamics

    He does shift positions a lot! I don’t recall seeing this device in euro/America players, of any of the strings. I think I want to try it out.
    2007 Weber Custom Elite "old wood"
    2017 Ratliff R5 Custom #1148
    Several nice old Fiddles
    2007 Martin 000-15S 12 fret Auditorium-slot head
    Deering Classic Open Back
    Too many microphones

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