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Thread: Classical style plectrum

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    Registered User MLT's Avatar
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    Hi all,

    I hope this is the correct board to ask this. #I would like to try a classical style plectrum. #

    As I start to explore playing old style Italian and classical I would like to experiment with one, but can't find where to buy one.

    Any help in pointing me in the right direction would be great.
    MLT
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    I am not sure what you mean by a classical style plectrum. There are quite a few varieties used by players of classical music. Some use the slim pointy Pettine ones; some use the long double pointed Ranieri picks. Some of the players in the German school of playing use sort of rubber-type picks to avoid pick noise. Some folks just use small "jazz-style" picks. Some may just use std picks like anyone else.

    I think it also depends on the type of music you are playing and your playing style. I am sure that others will chime in here.

    What are you using at the moment? Does it inhibit your playing?



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    WHile I have a couple Pettine picks and a whole slew of others, the ones that get the nod are either TS or Wegen or a strange old beveled pick made for a Rochester mando instructor, stamped very lightly "Santos Supreme". I'll give you a dollar for every one of those you send me.

    For no particular reason, I've grown accustomed to large triangular picks. They seem to fit nicely against my first finger joint and don't tend to rotate much, keeping the point pointed at the strings. It works for me, and if you could hear my playing you'd avoid them like the plague.

    Aside from that, I find each instrument/string combination responds differently to different picks. On the other hand, good players that I know use only one kind of pick, sometimes highly personalised thru shaping and buffing. It seems to be a very personal thing.

    So what do you play on? Bowlback, Gibson, flatback? String gauge may also determine pick thickness preferences.

  4. #4

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    hi Jim,
    I hate to be "picky" - pun intended .....but its not just the German-style players who use various more rubbery style materials - Woll picks come in blue and white and there is a black pick called a Roland pick that many use for Calace. The German-style players were certainly the instigator of this pick of course.
    They do sort of cut down on pick noise (clicks are replaced with a dull thud!) but they also get much more tone out of many instruments and take the high-end frequency off, often making the sound less tinny and brittle.
    No-one has mentioned tortoiseshell picks yet or Dogul (used by many of Ugo Orlandi's followers).......
    Also recently discovered the yellow Dava control picks - they're pretty interesting as are the Clayton little ones - the white ones.....again they get a lovely warm tone, though I find them a little "clicky" for my own personal taste.
    Shaping any of the above mentioned picks with fine sandpaper followed by 2000 grade polishing paper (like guitarists use) is a MUST though - you can achieve the degree of point you want and keep the tip really smooth and fine.
    I'll stop now!
    All the best
    Ali

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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    I have a Dogal pick somewhere that Eugene gave me but it is so small I probably misplaced it.

    I mainly play with a John Pearse jazz heavy pick or a TS one that was shped to that same shape. I need to thin down that TS one tho since it is pretty heavy weight and is too much for even the Pandini.

    I have been fooling around with the Ranieri pick that Ralf sent me when I got my Embergher. It takes a little while to get used to esp for tremelo but I can see how you can control tone with it. That pick would definitely not be a bluegrass one tho

    BTW Ali, I did not mean to lump you with the German style players or imply that only those who play in that style use those Woll picks.



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    Registered User MLT's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your thoughts and practices.

    Currently I am using "Dog-Like" picks and have used Dunlop 207s and JazzMando Plecs. #I like the feel of all of these but have really gotten a feel for the Dog-like ones. #

    As I am hoping to begin to play music of the style listed in this forum and traditional italian, I thought that a plec in the style that I have seen like these...for no other reason that experimentation.

    Thanks again.



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    MLT
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  7. #7
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Those are Ranieri picks.
    Jim

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    Quote Originally Posted by (jgarber @ Sep. 20 2007, 09:18)
    Those are Ranieri picks.
    Yes, they're similar ... this material is different though (not TS) and also the way they're shaped.

    About the German "rubber" plectrums I wanted to say that I do agree with Ali about them "replacing the clicks with a dull thud", but I can't agree that they get "much more tone" out of many instruments. Any rubber plectrum I've seen or heard so far always sounded "less" than a (decent) traditional plectrum, both in "real volume" and "perceived volume".

    To be honest, I find the "dull thud" quite disturbing as it's never been part of the sound of a classical mandolin.
    By eliminating the typical "click", you no longer have an authentical mandolin sound.
    (Would a harpsichord still sound like a harpichord if the clicks were eliminated? )

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    FWIW, my opinion (having tried all of the above plectrums) is that mostly this is a matter of personal choice and taste. Certainly, in the list of things that can go wrong in a mandolin performance, "clicks" vs. "thuds" are about fifth or sixth-order, as an economist would say (way down the list, in other words). In my experience, if you are sitting, say, 30-50 feet away in the audience, it gets lost in the room ambience, unless you are in a very special room and you have much better hearing. Over time, I have gravitated towards lighter gauge picks because, as it happens, that is what most of the other players in the Providence Mandolin Orchestra use. If we all used heavy-duty Wegen's, I use that (I have a bunch in my pick box at home).
    Robert A. Margo

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    Quote Originally Posted by (margora @ Sep. 20 2007, 11:20)
    In my experience, if you are sitting, say, 30-50 feet away in the audience, it gets lost in the room ambience, unless you are in a very special room and you have much better hearing.
    Yes, I completely agree: as you go further away those clicks and thuds disappear, but the initial sound you make determines what part of the sound does reach the audience.
    So if your plectrum produces fewer high harmonics than is typical for a mandolin, they can't be projected into the concert hall to start with. #
    Without these typical high harmonics, it often ends up sounding like a guitar played in the higher positions ... a wonderful sound indeed, but it's not what a mandolin is supposed to sound like ...

    The choice of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra seems very logical to me: when speaking of non-TS plectrums, the lighter gauges are generally the ones that produces more high harmonics and sound more like a classical mandolin.

  11. #11

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    Ah-ha - I think we are all falling into the trap of judging the typical combination of strings, pick, make of mandolin AND style of playing! Not just the pick itself!
    I have been experimenting alot using musical collegaues as guinea pigs and various acoustics.....and the conclusion is surprising........and dispels many myths about needing a bright metallic sound to project.......
    Of course, a mandolin should be sparkly and bright and all those things but it can also have a lovely depth of sound and tone that perhaps it is not always noted for.......this topic is progressing away from picks themselves.....
    I think this conversation is far more reaching than simply german style mandolin versus "traditional" style.....which is what seems to have been implied the moment anyone mentioned rubber picks - by the way, they are not rubber, merely a very slightly rubbery material......
    Ali

  12. #12

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    As to where to get the Woll picks....I bought mine from Trekel ( trekel.de). #I like the white ones very much but still mostly use the Tortis picks on the Pandini. #I have two tortise picks but one is too thick and the other too thin... #The Tortis is just right! --A Goldilocks moment.
    The blue Woll was too soft, but what a stunning color. # I was tempted to make earrings out of them, but a mandocellist in the orchestra who tried it loves it so now I only have one. #The white Woll produces a really pleasing sound. #It gives a little more body to the tone than most other picks but, in my opinion, it still has brightness. # As to where to get a Ranieri style pick... I think making one is about your only option. #There was a very good thread on just how to do that.

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    I'd love to try one of these traditional Italian models...0-160 b.p.m. in sixty seconds or less.



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    Hello Ali,
    I'm sure you don't mind these replies ... it's just because I think we agree more on this subject than what appears from the previous posts ...

    Quote Originally Posted by
    Ah-ha - I think we are all falling into the trap of judging the typical combination of strings, pick, make of mandolin AND style of playing! Not just the pick itself!
    I'm sorry, but I don't see it as a trap ... according to the title of the thread, we have been discussing the "classical style plectrum", but I think we all agree that the total sound is made by the combination of mandolin, plectrum, strings, and - in my opinion for at least 50%: the player's technique. However, the plectrum is quite important.

    Quote Originally Posted by
    I have been experimenting alot using musical collegaues as guinea pigs and various acoustics.....and the conclusion is surprising........and dispels many myths about needing a bright metallic sound to project.......
    Here is a little confusion about what I said about projection: I never said we need "a" bright sound "to be able" to project ... but we need "the" bright sound (typical for the mandolin) "to be projected" into the concert hall. And of course a mandolin can never project what isn't there ...

    Quote Originally Posted by
    Of course, a mandolin should be sparkly and bright and all those things but it can also have a lovely depth of sound and tone that perhaps it is not always noted for.......
    I absolutely agree ... both brightness and depth of sound should be possible on the same instrument, with the same strings and plectrum.

    Quote Originally Posted by
    this topic is progressing away from picks themselves.....
    I think this conversation is far more reaching than simply german style mandolin versus "traditional" style.....which is what seems to have been implied the moment anyone mentioned rubber picks - by the way, they are not rubber, merely a very slightly rubbery material......
    The German style implies indeed much more than just another plectrum (whatever material it is made of). They also use different instruments with strings that prevent the mandolin from making a bright sound, and a different technique. It's very well thought of ... no risk of making a bright sound on the mandolin ... as they call it: only "full and warm tones"!





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    "The choice of the Providence Mandolin Orchestra seems very logical to me: when speaking of non-TS plectrums, the lighter gauges are generally the ones that produces more high harmonics and sound more like a classical mandolin."

    Except that none of play bowlbacks, and lighter here is not light by European standards, and (speaking only for myself) trying to achieve a sound "more like a classical mandolin" is not a specific goal in mind, since it would be inappropriate to quite a lot of the music we play.
    Robert A. Margo

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    "Without these typical high harmonics, it often ends up sounding like a guitar played in the higher positions ... a wonderful sound indeed, but it's not what a mandolin is supposed to sound like ..."

    Depends on the music one is playing.
    Robert A. Margo

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    Quote Originally Posted by (margora @ Sep. 20 2007, 21:06)
    Except that none of play bowlbacks, and lighter here is not light by European standards, and (speaking only for myself) trying to achieve a sound "more like a classical mandolin" is not a specific goal in mind, since it would be inappropriate to quite a lot of the music we play.
    Quote Originally Posted by
    Depends on the music one is playing.
    Well, if we're not talking about classical mandolins or classical mandolin music, there's no need for "the classical mandolin sound" ... which is what I thought this thread was about.




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    "Well, if we're not talking about classical mandolins or classical mandolin music, there's no need for "the classical mandolin sound" ... which is what I thought this thread was about."

    I thought we were talking about the types of picks we used.

    Anyway, if one's definition of "classical mandolin sound" or "classical mandolin music" refers to music composed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries primarily in Italy, Belgium, etc. plus the considerable quantity of modern Japanese pastiches in this style then I certainly agree that Ralf's point of view is legitimate. This is also the point of view that Paul Sparks expresses in his book. To me the legitimacy derives from the fact that the composers of such music had this sound ideal in mind and one should, at the very least, be mindful of compositional intent. One should not do so slavishly, however, and this is different, in any case, from assertions about projection and so forth which as Ms. Stephens rightly points out, are, or may be, highly suspect on empirical grounds.

    With regard to the PMO, with one exception (Calace's "Impressioni Orientali", which is hardly representative) we play none of this music. To perform a modern German work with a "classical mandolin sound" as Ralf has described, IMHO, would simply be wrong. Some of the pieces that we play, such as the Kioulaphides concerto, sound fine either way, again, IMHO.
    Robert A. Margo

  19. #19

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    I don’t mean to run over anyone’s dogma with my karma, but I think it can be acknowledged that there is variation in what is considered correct and/or desirable in classical mandolin tone. #A dogmatic allegiance to a certain way of doing things is, of course, a long tradition in classical music and I have a certain amount of respect for that... #I think it just means people A) care a lot about the sound they’re producing. #B) have a clear idea of what that sound should be like and C) think they’ve found the means to produce it. #On the other hand…..I listen to Caterina Lichetnberg’s playing (German instrument, pick, strings, training….) and I LOVE what I hear. #I listen to Carlo Aonzo’s playing (Italian instrument, strings, heart and soul) and I LOVE what I hear. #I’ve never had a moment of thinking “Gee, if only Carlo were using a Knorr mandolin…” or “Ah, Caternina would be sound so much better if only she’d trade in those Thomastiks for a set of Dogals”. #The German school is well established enough that I don’t think it can be dismissed as “incorrect” because it’s of more recent development. #I also don’t think members of the German school should tout their way of doing things as the only correct way of approaching classical mandolin, as some have been known to do. #I guess I favor a certain amount of growth, development and experimentation as a healthy approach to musical expression, even in the Classical realm. #This, of course, doesn’t lend itself to an easy answer to “What kind of pick should I use for classical music”. #

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    Quote Originally Posted by
    I thought we were talking about the types of picks we used.
    Yes, but as the title of the thread says: "classical style plectrums".

    Quote Originally Posted by
    To perform a modern German work with a "classical mandolin sound" as Ralf has described, IMHO, would simply be wrong. #Some of the pieces that we play, such as the Kioulaphides concerto, sound fine either way, again, IMHO.
    I will not easily perform modern German works, but only because I don't like most of them. However, if I do like one, and I find it suitable for my type of instrument, I see no problem in playing it, as I don't see any problem in playing Bach or other violin music, which was also composed for a different instrument. For the same reason I have no problem with Bach played on guitar, etc ...
    Even violin players, who have an enormous high quality repertoire, play transcriptions ... why not ...

    I have only one problem with the German mandolin school: Those who have (in recent years) completely modified the sound and technique of the classical mandolin, think they can just ignore the complete history of players and master luthiers of the past 150 years and teach this new method as being the only correct classical style. Of course, by now, things have developed so far that you can't blaim the new generation of that school, who have never known anything else and didn't have the opportunity to choose when they started to play mandolin. I've heard of several players who have been to masterclasses in Germany with their italian mandolin and plectrum, and were being laughed at and made fun of ... #the situation is getting a bit better nowadays, but it's still sad when such things happen.

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    Very well and eloquently said: Robert and Linda - ultimately it comes down to personal taste.
    Long live free choice and diversity in every walk of life!
    Ali

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    Once again, it's the world upside down ... people who continue a tradition are being told that what they're doing is wrong.
    This is not hearsay, it's my own experience: twenty years ago I have had mandolin lessons from people who told me that I shouldn't use that long TS plectrum anymore because it makes too many side noises and I was given this "rubbery" plectrum. For some reason I also had to change the position of my left hand into a guitar position. I was recommended to put a hot iron on the 4 last frets and remove them, because they were in the way for the plectrum and I wouldn't need them anymore ... if I had to play those high notes, they would sound equally well without the fret.
    The brass wound strings I was using were no good and had to be replaced by flatwound strings. For the time being, I could continue to use my Embergher mandolin, but it would be better if I looked out for a mandolin that would also be suitable for classical music. I would also need a footstool, and put both feet on it, which would be the only way to hold the mandolin properly ... #This is what I've been told on my first mandolin lesson with this teacher at the music school, after I played Calace's Moto Perpetuo during the audition.
    And this kind of manipulation is what happened to hundreds of people in the 1980s. #
    I'm now very happy that after a few lessons I've had the guts to say "no, I won't do this, I rather quit these lessons and get no diploma, and continue with the private lessons of my own teacher!" Almost all players in Belgium switched to this new method and if I had done so too, there would have been very little chance that you would ever have heard of a Roman plectrum and that the Roman plectrum technique would have continued to be passed on from one person to another.
    I can assure you, you'd have a different view on the situation, if you had experienced all this and seen what happened to so many players over all these years, and found Embergher mandolins with a modified flat fingerboard, heavy flat wound strings and a sunk table ...

    Now, after so many years, when this new method has been well established, the situation is reversed and I'm being accused of not accepting the German mandolin school as an "improvement". Only because I'm defending and trying to keep alive an old Italian mandolin school, people say that I'm "offending" the new German school!
    I don't blaim any of today's players who are only doing their best to make the best possible music on their instrument. They can't help what happened and should by all means continue and have confidence in what they're doing.
    I also can't change what happened, but I can't lie about the facts and will never accept lies about them either. No one can blaim me for preventing an old tradition from being ignored and replaced by a new one.

    However, I'm not at all alone in this ... I know many people who know the situation exactly and fully agree with me, but I understand not everyone can afford to speak openly about it: a lot of them have to make a living with the mandolin and can't risk not to be accepted in the European mandolin world for some reason.

    So, yes indeed, "long live free choice", only pity English isn't my first language so I can't say all this very eloquently.
    Finally, as with so many things - and I really hate to say so - it often comes down to "making money".

    I will follow the example of the wiser members of this board and say no more about this matter. They're absulotely right: it's a waste of time.
    So please go on and continue with the real subject of this thread. Actually it was #"Where to get" a classical style plectrum. #

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    Ralf,

    As I was the one who started this thread, I would like to say two things. First, I believe that your english is very eloquent and you make a very good point. Secondly, thank you for pointing out the original intent of this thread, which is where can I get a classical style plectrum. Albeit I was very inefficient in my own english, but I had hoped that the picture helped. It was never my intent to start such a deep discussion on schools and styles--especially since I do not believe I have the appropriate depth of knowedge to have an opninion.

    I beieve that I understand now that these are considered "Roman" and the fact remains that I would still like to know where to acquire (get) one so that I can try it out.

    Thank you all.
    MLT
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    Ralf, I have great respect for you. #I'm sure everyone on this board does. #You've educated people about a school of mandolin playing that was, and is, in danger of being completely forgotten, which is astonishing given the beauty of the music that can be made with it, as evidenced by your own performances. You are not alone in having to suffer through dogmatic, pedantic teachers, the bane of students everywhere. #In my studies on violin I've had my bowhold completely "remade" three times because -- "You'll never be able to play with power and conviction with your Belgian style bowhold" (Although evidently Ysaye did OK ) Next it was "Your Russian bowhold is holding back the expressive potential of your bowstroke"(although Heifetz did OK with it) #and now I can't even remember what the next "correct" method was...French maybe?. #I think I ended up with an international hybrid! #My problem is when people say "The method I adhere to is THE way" instead of "A" way of playing. I'm not in any way saying the German school is an improvement. #I'm saying it results in a very different sound but I believe that sound is also relevant. #I'm not sure you agree with me on that. #One method doesn't need to replace another. #There are different desirable sounds...it's simply another way of being a musician on the mandolin.

  25. #25

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    MLT, are you planning to use a Roman plectrum on your Breedlove? #A second Pandora's box awaits opening....

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