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Thread: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

  1. #1
    Registered User jerrymartin's Avatar
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    Mar 2005
    Richfield, Minnesota

    Default Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    I have a friend who took guitar lessons from Albert Bellson many years ago. In a recent email exchange, my friend sent me the following information - I assume the 'narrow bar' he mentions is the nut:

    "I just now remembered a tip from Mr. Bellson and immediately thought of you. I never learned the terms for the different parts of the construction of the guitar, however, there is the narrow bar near the tuning pegs end of the guitar that holds the strings in place on their way to the tuning pegs. Mr. Bellson put a large felt ukulele plectrum under the strings immediately after they passed over the bar, to hold the felt plectrum in place. He then saturated the felt with a light grade oil, like sewing machine oil. Before playing the instrument he wiped the rigid guitar pick back and forth over the felt to oil the tip of the pick. I imagine he must have done exactly the same with his mandolin-- his primary instrument. I imagine he would have learned this from his teacher the great Giuseppi Pettine."

    "I presume the oiling of the pick is to enable it to glide more smoothly back and forth across the strings. He was so rapid with the plectrum that I'm guessing it would have generated heat. Also, as finger-sweat hastens the deterioration of the strings, I'd guess that the oil would extend the life of the strings, albeit at a different section of the strings."

    I've never heard of this practice before. Is this known to any of you?

    Jerry Martin

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  3. #2
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Jun 2005
    0.8 mpc from NGC224, upstairs

    Default Re: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    I don't know. Oiling the tip means the oil can creep across the pick and aggravate pick slippage under your fingers. I'd rather not do that, apart from the fact that I like the characteristic raspy pick noise.
    the world is better off without bad ideas, good ideas are better off without the world

  4. #3

    Default Re: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    I know some people have particularly corrosive sweat. I could see that type benefitting from some oil on the strings. I think Adam Steffey used to dress his mandolin strings and fretboard with WD-40. I can't imagine oiling a pick tip does much of anything though.

  5. #4
    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Redwood City, CA

    Default Re: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    Well, some oldtimers used to wipe the business end of the pick against their nose, briefly, to pick up facial oils! Also, Earl Scruggs once wrote that before playing onstage, he'd run his fingerpicks through his hair to pick up a bit of the hair tonic they used back then. It was probably pretty greasy.

    These days, with a pick like a BlueChip, the space-age polyimide plastic used contains graphite embedded in it, so the pick is self-lubricating -- but without being the least bit greasy. We call this progress.
    Last edited by sblock; Aug-23-2019 at 1:21pm.

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  7. #5
    Registered User Benski's Avatar
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    Feb 2009
    New Jersey

    Default Re: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    Lol..I guess I'm a bonafide old timer, then, as I always quickly rub both sides of the business end of the pick (typically a TAD60) across the sides of my nose before I play. At this point, it's a totally habitual unconscious maneuver that I've been doing since forever.
    2009 Bush Fern '34
    2005 DMM

  8. #6
    Registered User archerscreek's Avatar
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    Jul 2019

    Default Re: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    That certainly gives new meaning to the phrase "picking your nose."

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  10. #7
    Registered User gfury's Avatar
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    Dec 2014

    Default Re: Oiling your pick: a tip from Albert Bellson

    I often polish my picks with automotive polishing compound. It makes them very smooth and helps them glide effortlessly over the strings.

    Lately my pick of choice has been the large triangle Dunlop Ultex 1.14
    Greg Fury

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