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Thread: Pick thickness - how to choose?

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    Default Pick thickness - how to choose?

    Beginner Q: I emptied out my pick tin the other day and tried everything in there on my Eastman 305. I had one Dunlop Ultrex Sharp, a 1.0, and liked the feel and sound of that material and shape best. Next, I got 6 of these picks in varied thickness from 0.73 to 2.0. The 0.73 sounds a bit brittle to me (playing it, not listening to someone else playing it), and the 2.0 a little dull on chords. That leaves me with .90, 1.0, 1.14 and 1.40. All sound and feel pretty good to me, which didn't happen with most other materials I tried - usually, if a 1.14 was OK, a .90 would be bright and a 1.4 a bit dull. Assuming there's a 'best all round average choice' for me in this material, how do I find it, and what qualities would I be looking for please? Initially, I want to learn faster cleaner picking of Celtic and bluegrass tunes, Bluegrass chopping, general comping, tremelo, and I'd like a good basic sound. Not much to ask, eh?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    I think thickness, pointedness, and bevel all interplay together. So you might like one thickness when there is a bevel or a point - and not like it when the point and/or bevel is different. So you might want to expand experimentation to all three???? There is no "right" answer as it is very subjective (and overtime your preference may change as well).

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    Registered User sblock's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    As Tim Logan pointed out ( get it? "pointed"!), the shape of the pick's point and bevel play big roles in the pick's sound, and not just its thickness. The thickness itself mainly determines the pick's rigidity (flexibility) for a given type of material (ultex/polyetherimide, casein, meldin/polyimide, nylon, etc.), as well as the "slipperiness" off the string. Not all materials have the same elastic modulus, so to get the same rigidity, you require different thicknesses for different pick materials. Therefore, a pick that's 1.4 mm (0.055") in polyimide (like a BlueChip CT55) will flex quite differently from a 1.4 mm pick in nylon.

    Most bluegrassers (not all) tend to prefer fairly rigid picks, ranging from 0.035" (0.9 mm) up to 0.080" (2 mm), with the most popular choices being somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.050"-0.060" (1.4-1.5 mm), and depending upon the pick material, shape, and bevel. But this is a very individual choice. Some folks like a bit of a rounder point for tremolo (e.g., Grisman).

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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    All great information above !! No ONE right answer ! You have a wide variety of picks ! Where are the Apollo and BC ? 😱 Anyone asking for your opinion is normally looking for an accomplice ! What are you wanting us to tell you ? 😉

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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    To confuse things even further, I like the BlueChip CT-55 but I like the feel of a Weber TF-140, mostly because of the tactile feel from the holes. So, I drilled holes in the CT-55 using the Tf-140 as a template.

    Other folks have rounded a pointy pick or changed the bevel to suit their tastes.

    So, have fun experimenting.

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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    To be quiet honest I dont think it will be the pick that will help you 'learn faster cleaner picking of Celtic and bluegrass tunes, Bluegrass chopping, general comping, tremelo'. Its a bunch of practice.

    However, picks are fun and fairly inexpensive. Buy a bunch of different shapes, thicknesses and materials and you'll find a fave or two. Either give the others away or keep them, cause if you're like me your tastes might change from time to time.

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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    How to choose comes down to what feels comfortable to play with - when I started trying to narrow down what was the best pick for my playing purposes (I only play irish trad tunes) I found that anything over 1.0mm didn't work for me as for my playing if the pick got thicker than that it affected how clean my triplets and trebles sounded. Similarly anything lighter than .89mm sounded to thin, not enough volume and the flex of the pick made my playing drag.

    Material, as mentioned already in other posts, also plays a role - I like picks with a slick surface such as Blue Chips, or my favourite budget picks Dunlop Delrin 500 .96mm picks. I find Ultex and Wegens too raspy sounding for my liking - a 1.0mm Wegen or Ultex feels very different to me than a 1.0mm Blue Chip or Delrin 500.

    Pick shape also affects things - I use Blue Chip TPR35's or their KS35 - these have rounded corners. When I use a Delrin 500 I play with the shoulder end, rather than the pointy end - I find I can use a heavier pick if the corners are rounded vs. if I'm using the pointed end of the pick to play.

    The 1.0mm pick you like is probably a good starting point for the types of playing you're planning on, and if you feel like getting trainspotter-ish about picks they're pretty cheap and cheerful to experiment with until you start moving into Wegen/Blue Chip/Apollo/Charmed Life/Red Bear etc. territory. I've always been in the habit of checking out the pick display when I would be in a music shop and buying anything in the .89mm-1.0mm range to try out - while I'm pretty committed to Blue Chip picks I do like to have some cheap "won't cry salty tears if they're lost" picks in my pocket in the event I'm in a shop or somewhere where there's a mandolin I want to try out (well, back in the "Before Times" when we could actually travel around and do stuff like that easily...)
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  14. #8

    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    The Golden Gate, Dawg shaped picks are I think 2.0mm.

    I have been using the VPicks for mandolin and guitar for years now.

    https://v-picks.com/shop/ols/product...d-pearly-gates

    I know a lot of guy that swear by the Wegens, but they never did it for me for the cost.

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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    Another vote for trying anything around 1.0 and seeing what works best for you. Most of mine end up being around .96 to 1.4. Have a lot of picks so the choices are there. I like more of a point, so it's often a triangle or regular teardrop for my tastes. But which pick changes with my mood and instrument. While a lot of folks get great tone from a Dawg or similar Wegen, I never have been able to get them to sound good.

    FWIW, one friend plays old time and Irish with some Wegen M150 I gave him years ago. He gets great speed and tone with them. So what works for some doesn't necessarily work for others. Also know a good Irish and Scandinavian player who uses Tortex .60 picks and also has a fine tone.
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  18. #10

    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    For my tastes, for mandolin I prefer a larger triangle (rather than a teardrop), with points (not rounded), and a pick thickness of around 1.5mm. That gives me a really punchy tone, good bottom end and no shrillness. It also maintains excellent string separation. Favourite pick for the 4 years or so is a Blue Chip TP60, with a Dunlop Primetone large triangle 1.5mm running a very close second. If you’re only just getting into mandolin, the Dunlop will be a lot cheaper than a Blue Chip.

    For guitar, I prefer a 1mm (or thereabouts) teardrop. Blue Chip TD40 or Dunlop Primetone teardrop 0.96mm.

    Oh, just one more thing. Primetones come in 2 flavours (as well as various shapes, thicknesses and sizes). There’s a smooth dark brown type, and a more amber coloured type with “grippy” areas. To my ears, the smooth ones sound much better. I find the grippy ones to be a bit shrill.

    Hope this helps.

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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    The great thing about having a nice stash of picks on-hand (an Altoids tin works best for this IMO) is that you can try out different picks for different tunes anytime. The bad part is that when your playing isn't going so well, you might be tempted to blame the pick and switch to another, rather than facing the fact that it's you and not the pick. Ask me how I know this. I've recently went through a lot of pick-buying and have made myself stop switching them around and focus on my playing with one, though I won't say which one.


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  22. #12

    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    +1 for the Dunlop Primetone.

    It may not end up being your favorite but its a great way to experiment with different thickness and shapes on a quality pick that doesn't cost much. I like tone of the smooth Primetone better but try both.
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    plus 2 for Dunlop Prime tone, I prefer the 1.5, but understandably thinner picks are probably more commonly favored.
    They are not exactly cheap, but not as much as Blue Chip so its not so bad experimenting with different sizes, and thickness.

    I have noticed they do wear easy (maybe I play hard) and I find myself preferring newer unused pick

    if you can find a an open music store with a variety I'm sure they would let you sample on site.
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    These:

    Dunlop 477P307 Primetone Large Round Tip Guitar Picks, 3.0mm, Black

    They call them Primetones for some reason but they are made of a different material and feel totally different.

    I've been through the whole Primetone line and have found them (mostly) too noisy for my playing style.
    These however give me a sweet tone with little noise.

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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    Thanks all - I'll try a bunch of thickness from about 1.0 up. Meantime, I've gone down another rabbit hole, and ordered a Black Mountain spring fitting thumb pick. I used to play guitar with a flat pick and two finger picks, so I'll try that and see if it works on mandolin.

  29. #16

    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    The most important is "what does it sound like?" Next most important is "what does it feel like?"

    Also of importance (if you play outside): "what color is it? If I drop it, will it disappear?"

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    also, although it's nice to have a single pick you love with your mandolin, some picks just sound better with whatever string/instrument combination you currently have and that can change at any time. My blue chip is a lovely thing, but i don't like the way it sounds on my snake. OTOH, it sounds better than other picks on my Eastman. So i have 2 picks I use constantly, but only on the mandolins they sound "right" on, and I keep them in the strings so I always have them where I want them. You might like one pick for when you play bluegrass and another when you play Irish -- certainly with people I play with, they want different sounds from the mandolin when they play one or the other.
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  32. #18

    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    I own a bunch of Ultex myself, use them to brighten certain guitars because they are a bright pick. On guitars they do sound different for different thicknesses (the regular point, not the sharps). I can rotate them and get a darker sound too, it's surprising how much difference it makes.

    For mandos the primetones did it for me, as I prefer a darker sound. CT-55 is about as close to a perfect mandolin pick as I have found, aided by some stick-on non-slip pads. I use those pads on the Ultex triangles too.

    I also match picks to instruments. It's the easiest way to change sound on the fly. I even matched picks to music genre for a while (darker for some, brighter for others), but gave that up as I like a consistent feel.
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    Question Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    get an assortment & try them all.. that's how I chose..

    Thick and roundish .. Dawg Picks

    Fender 346 rounded edge triangle their Heavy is thinner but not too much..


    what happened to that traveling pick assortment basket?
    you might get in on that..



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    Registered User Cobalt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    I'd suggest thin and flexible for Celtic and tremolo. This isn't a 'one size fits all' thing. Ballet, tap and clog all use foorwear appropriate for their dancing style. But you wouldn't do ballet wearing clogs, nor do clog-dancing in ballet shoes. Try out the thin and flexible and it opens up a new world of possibilities. But use all of the others too. Variety.

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  38. #21

    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    I've been going crazy with this since getting a mandolin a couple of months ago. I am a thumb style blues/jazz guitar player. I'd sometimes use a pick when having callus problems so I'm familiar. I'll add to the discussion that a little pick like a Dunlop Jazz can have more resistance at the same thickness as a larger pick. My mandolin came with a blue chip and I'm appalled that a forty dollar pick can make so much difference. I sure wish somebody was packaging a real assortment by thickness of say the Dunlop jazz or other shapes. Seems I have to buy a dozen of each size other than a couple of mixed bag assortments.

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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cobalt View Post
    I'd suggest thin and flexible for Celtic and tremolo.
    Interesting - I think I've seen others who suggest really stiff (and quite thick) picks for tremolo specifically because they don't bend. Any opinions on that?

  40. #23
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    The thicker the pick, the more bass you'll get. If you want a more trebly sound, use a medium. A thinner picker tends to brighten to higher harmonic overtones.

    How far away from the bridge you play also affects the "tone" as far as what harmonics are strengthened or minimized.

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  42. #24
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    VPicks Yes...but what one likes another dislikes... 1.5mm minimum guitar or mandolin, shoulder of a teardrop for me

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  44. #25
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    Default Re: Pick thickness - how to choose?

    I’d also like to know what the “Celtic” players use, though it likely varies as most things do. But I wonder if there is some general consensus? Watching the recent Dagger Gordon video from Mandolin Monday, I kept wondering what sort of pick he uses.
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