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Thread: Why do you like the picks you like?

  1. #1

    Default Why do you like the picks you like?

    Lots of folks are asking for recommendations for picks. I'm on a bit of a quest myself. It seems the general consensus is a thick, big triangular pick. But I'm curious why!
    Like a lot of casual mando players, I come from a guitar/bass background. As a guitarist I used the standard Dunlop or Herco grey nylon picks for years. They worked alright for mando, but I figured "new instrument, new pick!" And have been trying different things.
    I've found that I'm really digging the tiny Dunlop jazz iii type picks. The black gator grip one's feel and sound best, but I prefer the red nylon one's since they're easier to find laying around.
    From what I've read, this seems like an atypical pick choice for mandolin and it's got me curious why. A larger pick just feels clumsy and imprecise to me. Why are larger picks more popular, and what made you choose the picks you use?

  2. #2
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Not everyone uses thick picks - I use a Blue Chip Kenny Smith 35, which is about .89mm thick and quite small. I've also used larger Blue Chip TPR35 picks but always go back to the smaller Kenny Smith one. I play Irish trad tunes exclusively and find that really thick picks are less than ideal (for me) when it comes to playing triplets and trebles in tunes.
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    🎼 Play Pretty 🎶 Greg Connor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I just bought a few Dunlop Primetone picks based on the recommendation of the local music store. He said it was the most popular among the Bluegrass community. I’ll admit, I like the tone. The Primetones recommended were the big triangles which is something I’d never used before.

    That got me digging through all the odd picks I’ve collected over the years and found the thicker picks sounded better but I also found that there was not one pick that sounded the best among my 5 mandolins.
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Yeah, the pick thing is a movable target. I've gone to thinner/more of a point lately. I had been on Kenny Smith 55 fairly exclusively, now on a TAD50 or a Gravity Striker or Classic 1.5. I go back and forth; tomorrow, who knows...it's all good.

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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I play BC CT 55 or Wegen TF140 on mandolin, BC TAD 40 or Wegen TF120 on guitar, and BC TAD 50 on OM. Why? Tone, how they feel on/glide off the strings, and grip. Works for me, but may not work for you. I started on fairly thin picks, pretty quickly moved to a Fender Heavy, which I played for years, then got some Wegens for Christmas one year, and haven’t looked back. All that said, play what you like and don’t fret over it
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    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Clayton Ultem 0.56 because of their grainy raspiness and bright overtones. If the galaxy has a dry, woody center, I am in the outer rim...
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  8. #7

    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Captcardboard View Post
    ... what made you choose the picks you use?
    Well... since you asked... this is why I choose the picks I do:

    • Tone. Prefer mellow, not tinkly.

    • Smooth edges that don't require me to take sandpaper to them to keep them from scritching on the wound strings. (I seldom angle the pick anyway, but on occasions when I do, a smooth edge is beneficial.)

    • 'Regular' shape and size. Never noticed any advantage to odd shapes, or jumbo or tiny sizes. I don't need 'grips' or textures, in fact those seem more of a hindrance.

    • Cheapness. As it turns out, I've always actually preferred the cheapie picks for all of the categories in this list.

    • Color. A plain solid color please, preferably something I can find when I drop it. Not a fan of the imitation tortoise-shell look, or glittery shimmery materials. I'm fine with the cheap plastic look, prefer it, actually.


    A few years ago when I switched all my instrument strings from heavy gauge to extra-light gauge (due to increasing arthritis which was becoming more troublesome), I found it advantageous to also switch from heavy picks to medium picks - but all the criteria in the list above still applies as to *why* I chose the picks.

    (You didn't ask which picks we use, only why we use them, but for sake of full disclosure, the last 10 years or so with the extra-light strings I'm using regular plain ol' cheap white celluloid Fender medium guitar picks (or equivalent, I still have some old store-branded picks that seem identical), playing with the pointy end. Whereas *before* that, when using heavy gauge strings, I used extra-heavy celluloid picks and played with the rounded end, just seemed easier that way, at the time.)

  9. #8
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    BC Jazz LG 35..for tone,speed,articulation..

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    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Captcardboard View Post
    It seems the general consensus is a thick, big triangular pick.
    I wasn't aware of any consensus

    I agree with Alan, it's a movable target. These days I'm usually reaching for nothing thicker than a 1.4 Wegen and most often it's a 1.2 JT's Pick or similar. I switched to large triangles about 4 years ago after using teardrops for nearly 50 years (also changed my grip at that time and went from floppy gray nylon mediums to stiff picks). I like what I get from the ones I mentioned. No better reason than I like the tone and control of the large triangles in 1.0 to 1.4 mm, no rounder than a Wegen, and usually a little pointier than that.
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    Dave Sheets
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I like big triangular picks for tone, I just like that sound. I like BlueChip because I find them easier to hang onto, they don't seem to slide around on me. That means my grip is looser, reducing fatigue and making it easier to play fast. I keep a BlueChip with each "good" mandolin, and use PrimeTones on everything else.
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    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I use standard guitar shape (Fender 351) from Dunlop, in their Ultex material, 1.00mm. Ultex is tough, lasts a really long time, strong, clear tone. Dunlops come with beveled edges.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    The only consensus around here is that there is no consensus. Everyone goes through their own journey, pick-wise, mandolin-wise, string-wise, etc.

    I used to use small jazz picks on all mandolins, for awhile liked a heavy (not so thick as some use) Gibson pick with a nice point. Then more recently experimented with the rounder picks like a BC TAD-3R and some Wegens and ended with my current favorite TP50. I started with a lighter pick and ended with BC 50 which is about right. It does what I want when I want it. I do have a very nice collection of picks including way too many BCs. Fun stuff and I haven't really hurt anyone except my wallet.
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  14. #13

    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I agree with what Jim Garber says. It's a personal journey(mine has been ongoing for about 30 years). Quite subjective. So many variables.

    Over time,one's grip may evolve into a very different form than originally. That in itself can justify a change in pick-preference.

    Early on I liked thick(2.0) rounded picks(Wegen). In the last few years my grip has changed and I tend to prefer thinner, larger,triangular,and definitely speed-beveled variety like Primetone large triangles 1.5 or 1.4. They tend to give me more power/volume and have better handling qualities for the music I like to play. They do seem to look clumsy and too big,but I don't have to put much grip on them to get what I want from them.

    I have a D'Addario Thile 1.4,casein pick on order. It's been a couple of weeks. Not sure when it will be delivered.

  15. #14
    Registered User Doug Brock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Comfort, volume, and tone are the big criteria for me. Long life is another aspect of tone - I donít want to suffer from a raspy tone as picks get worn out. I also donít want to have to worry about continually polishing picks.

    Iíve bought a lot of different kinds of mandolin picks just to see what they do for any particular instrument. I moved to thick picks pretty quickly in my mandolin life because the thin picks sounded too shrill on already bright instruments. I like a bit of a point, though, because the more rounded Dawg style pick sound TOO muted to me. I moved to large triangle because my skin on other fingers was brushing across the mandolin strings too much and that hurt, lol.

    Iím currently using Blue Chip CT55 (expensive but long life and seem to stay smooth) and Dunlop Primetone large triangle 1.5mm (wear out faster than Blue Chip, but mucho cheaper and to me the tone and performance is close enough. I just bought a bag of 12 for $26, and that will last me for a while!).

    The nice thing is that compared to the price of the instruments, picks are cheap and itís easy to build up a good variety to test for yourself.
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    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Captcardboard View Post
    Lots of folks are asking for recommendations for picks. I'm on a bit of a quest myself. It seems the general consensus is a thick, big triangular pick. But I'm curious why!
    Like a lot of casual mando players, I come from a guitar/bass background. As a guitarist I used the standard Dunlop or Herco grey nylon picks for years. They worked alright for mando, but I figured "new instrument, new pick!" And have been trying different things.
    I've found that I'm really digging the tiny Dunlop jazz iii type picks. The black gator grip one's feel and sound best, but I prefer the red nylon one's since they're easier to find laying around.
    From what I've read, this seems like an atypical pick choice for mandolin and it's got me curious why. A larger pick just feels clumsy and imprecise to me. Why are larger picks more popular, and what made you choose the picks you use?
    I use Dunlop Ultex (Rhino) or Tortex 1.14 mm because they are cheap, available, and sound good. I sand or otherwise scuff them up for better grip.

  17. #16
    Registered User Mandobart's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I dislike any pick noise or click. Any pick flex can lead to a flapping sound. I find on mando family instruments around 2 mm gives me good stiffness and is comfortable to hold.

    Tone is the most important thing in a pick. I want clear unmuffled tone, not overly bright but more on the bright than muted end of the spectrum.

    I find beveled picks sound better with less muting and clearer sound, less pick noise.

    I've tried almost every material and brand of picks out there, except metal picks. I have never liked the sound of wood, horn, nylon, shell, felt or rubber picks. I generally like casein, bone, delrin, tortex, ultex, vespel, resin and PEEK.

    Brands - I'm the only one I know who isn't thrilled with Bluechip. Great company, great people, but the tone is always too dark and muffled sounding for me. I also bought a few resin and casein picks from EML. Tone was similar to Bluechip - too dark, not much sustain.

    Wegen's have consistently delivered the tone I like on all my instruments. I also like Gravity acrylic picks a lot. About as bright a sounding pick as I like.

    My new favorite is the Gravity Gold which is made of PEEK and has a bevel. About the same price as a Bluechip. The tone sounds fuller, notes sustain longer, no pick noise.

  18. #17
    Oval holes are cool David Lewis's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I use v-picks. I prefer the thinner ones - 2.5 mm. I get a fuller rounder tone. In a pinch any thicker pick will work but I like the round edge.

    I dislike the tone thin picks give me. I also like the control a thick pick has.

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I prefer thinner picks - I started on guitar before I came to mandolin, and used thinner picks on guitar, and it seems to have stuck. I can't stand "pick noise," so I prefer a Blue Chip TD 35 or TD 40, but I recently have tried casein picks and like those also. The thickest pick I use is a 1mm. I have a wide assortment of picks I have tried, I went through and bought a bunch of picks at one point to try. I term it "pick acquisition syndrome," much cheaper than GAS or MAS.

  20. #19
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    TPR-45 For it's smoothness across the strings,tone,and durabilty. Oh, and reliability. Just don't loose it, I never have.

  21. #20
    Peace. Love. Mandolin. Gelsenbury's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I'm on the same quest, and the video below is part of it. I've linked it in a couple of other pick threads recently, but it fits in here too.



    The information out there is so confusing that trying things out seems to be the way most people end up going. Some say that thinner picks are better for speed, some say that thicker picks move faster. Some like the grip of a big triangle, others find it too clumsy. Some like a pointy pick to move the strings better, others want a rounder pick for better glide. Some prefer a round bevel, some like an oblique one to suit their picking hand. I'm sure preferences differ according to anatomy, playing technique, musical taste, musical projects and characteristics of the instrument and strings. The solutions are probably found in the right balance rather than the extremes.

    To answer your question more directly: What I'm looking for is a pick that doesn't spin in my hand, sounds bright but smooth, glides across the strings well and picks crunchy triplets. But I don't think I've found the perfect one for me yet. I liked most of the 31 picks I used in that video. The thick round ones are the only ones I don't get along with. The Blue Chip picks that everyone seems to be raving about are very good, but not head and shoulders above the others as far as I can see. I like the Gravity Gold Series, which sounds a bit brighter but probably has slightly more pick click. The Hawk picks are the loudest, I think. And there's nothing at all wrong with the cheaper Dunlop picks.

    The search continues. And I'm well aware that the player makes more difference than the pick!

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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I have owned numerous brand picks but the pick that produces the clearest notes to my ears are Bluechip picks !
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  24. #22
    Timothy Tim Logan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    As many have said there are many constantly changing variables, but knowing what is out there helps. To that end I have continually returned to EML casein picks at:

    https://www.emlpicks.com/

    I have Bluechips and Wegens, but pretty much favor my EMLs. Eric, the owner, is very helpful and offers excellent service.

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  25. #23

    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    I like mine thickíerí, rounded triangle... but not to rounded and with a beveled edge.

    I have not tried a blue chip yet... mostly because Iíve never seen one in a store and I like to see/feel it first.

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  27. #24
    but that's just me Bertram Henze's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    Everyone goes through their own journey, pick-wise, mandolin-wise, string-wise, etc.
    Yes, since a pick is really supposed to integrate with arm, hand and fingers to make a complete sensory perception, thus integrating with procedural memory as well, we are all in different places in a big empty multidimensional space; all we can do is wave at each other from a distance.
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  29. #25
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why do you like the picks you like?

    Yup. My preferences change as my playing does. Right now, am very satisfied with Dunlop Primetone .96 or 1.0 standard shape. In fact, these have replaced the BC 35 I had been using. That said, every once in a while I still grab a different pick just to enjoy the change in sound.

    Plus, my preference depends on the instrument and if it's practicing alone at home, playing on Zoom, or (as I hope the future holds again) practicing with a band.
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