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Thread: pointy vs round picks.

  1. #51
    Registered User 300win's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve L View Post
    In your hands, perhaps so.
    I stand by what I said. In my 44 + years of playing on mandolins from what I've heard and seen. extreme pointy picks produces a thin shallow tone regardless of the mandolin, or the player, each and every time, period !

  2. #52
    Mandolicious fishtownmike's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    I use the large triangle dunlop ultex picks in a 1.14 gauge. I use these for guitar and mandolin. I found this is a pick that I'm comfortable with and has great tone compared to standard picks. I tend to vary my picking technique as i play. I will extend the index or curl it up and lighten or tighten my grip to vary tones. I have tried the rounded pick like the Dawgs and just not happy with them....Mike

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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by 300win View Post
    I stand by what I said. In my 44 + years of playing on mandolins from what I've heard and seen. extreme pointy picks produces a thin shallow tone regardless of the mandolin, or the player, each and every time, period !
    Nonsense.
    Steve

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    Registered User Chris Biorkman's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    This has to be the silliest argument I've ever seen on this board. Fighting over pick shape? Wow.
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Biorkman View Post
    This has to be the silliest argument I've ever seen on this board. Fighting over pick shape? Wow.
    You should see the capo threads!
    Steve

  6. #56
    Registered User 300win's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve L View Post
    You should see the capo threads!
    Nonsense.

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by mandotopia View Post
    What does Andy Statman use?
    Last I looked, a Fender heavy.

    If one wants to alleviate the shrillness associated with pointy picks then the the string must be plucked in such a way that the string vibrates more vertical to the top. Developing a good rest stroke facilitates this.
    In my experience, the rest stroke makes the strings vibrate in a nice circular pattern, rather than the vertical movement that a free stroke generates. The rest stroke is undoubtedly fatter and warmer...

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    jbmando RIP HK Jim Broyles's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by fishtownmike View Post
    I use the large triangle dunlop ultex picks in a 1.14 gauge. I use these for guitar and mandolin. I found this is a pick that I'm comfortable with and has great tone compared to standard picks. I tend to vary my picking technique as i play. I will extend the index or curl it up and lighten or tighten my grip to vary tones. I have tried the rounded pick like the Dawgs and just not happy with them....Mike
    I use the 1.14 triangles for mandolin and the 1.00 for strumming on acoustic guitar. The 351 shape 1.00s sound good on electric but tend to go with a celluloid heavy 351 for electric guitar. I like the Jazz III's for jazz on flatwound 11's for my semi-hollow guitar, an Ibanez Artcore. The ultex material just produces such a nice tone on strings, to my ear.
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    Registered User Glassweb's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    [QUOTE=John McGann;712957]Last I looked, a Fender heavy.

    Andy has used Fender X-tra heavy for years, but I recently got him some Red Bear and BlueChip picks of the same shape and gauge to try. Not sure which one he's "connected" with at this point. In any case, Andy, who has fantastic control of his tone (maybe the most beautiful double stop tremelo in the biz) used (gasp!) those pointy end Fender picks for years...

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    Horton River NWT Rob Gerety's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    I pick up whatever is laying around on my table or in my pocket and make the best of it. Usually it a fender heavy, martin heavy or Blue Chip medium. I'm beginning to notice that I tend to go with something more muted when my strings are band new and something brighter when my new strings have reached middle age.
    Rob G.
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    I used to use the stiffest thickest rounded picks I could find , had been on a shell pick for years then I had to reset the neck on my old mandolin ,
    sine most of my playing was nowadays in front of a mike I used a dgree or so less neck angle and now the stiff picks just dont work for me any more, I guess less neck angle , less string pressure a more flexible is giving me a much better sound now than the heavy picks and now I dont have to pound the mando so hard.
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    [QUOTE=Glassweb;712984]
    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    Last I looked, a Fender heavy.

    Andy has used Fender X-tra heavy for years, but I recently got him some Red Bear and BlueChip picks of the same shape and gauge to try. Not sure which one he's "connected" with at this point. In any case, Andy, who has fantastic control of his tone (maybe the most beautiful double stop tremelo in the biz) used (gasp!) those pointy end Fender picks for years...
    Andy is not only a great player but has excellent taste in picks!

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    Registered User SincereCorgi's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    Last I looked, a Fender heavy.
    Wait, so is a Fender heavy (or extra heavy) considered to be a rounder pick, then? Man, maybe I'm not in the pointy pick camp after all. I thought a round pick would be like a Golden Gate or a Dawg, which I can't get to work on the higher strings at all. If Thile and Marshall use those big triangular ones and Statman uses a Fender shape, I'll consider myself in excellent company and never worry about roundness envy again.

  14. #64
    bird and mando geek Rob Fowler's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    In response to the OP's statement about Thile using a round pick in the Fretboard Journal article. Here's Grisman and Thile's quotes from the interview:

    Dawg said that he has always tried to mellow out the treble on the mandolin.

    CT: Right, your Dawg picks do that to the sound. I remember the first time I used your pick, I realized, wait that's part of the sound I love.

    Dawg: And a lot of people think it sounds dead, but I find that with a point on a pick you get more click and brightness. It's adding another element.

    CT: It is. On a pointed pick, you're going to hear more pick and less mandolin. It's funny, I eventually went from the Dawg pick to something with a little more point, but still not like a Fender Heavy kind of a point or anything like that. I think ultimately I just don't have a terribly powerful arm......

    On the cover it looks like Thile was playing with his past-favored pick, the Wegen TF140; there's also a picture of him in the interview with his loar and it looked like the same pick.

    Just wanted to clear up this little-important misunderstanding.....

  15. #65

    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Mr. Fowler, thanks for finding the original article. Thile and Grisman are a little less strident in their advocacy of round picks than my fading memory captured. I disagree with Grisman that pick noise is a necessary byproduct of a pointy pick.

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post

    In my experience, the rest stroke makes the strings vibrate in a nice circular pattern, rather than the vertical movement that a free stroke generates. The rest stroke is undoubtedly fatter and warmer...
    Do you mean vertical to the top or the ground? I just assumed the freestroke made the string vibrate horizontal to the top and a rest stroke was more vertical. I did not consider that the warm fat tone of the rest stroke was because of circularity rather than verticality.

    What is pointy? I fender heavy is in my opinion about the middle between pointy and round. The Pettine picks are pointy but I doubt many players have ever seen one. I have never seen one in a instrument store and usually bought mine when visiting Providence Mandolin Orchestra territory. I stocked up. Someone up there is/was the source. They are a little small so I made (cut and filed) a slightly bigger one from a guitar pick. Because these picks are not widely distributed, they have not been widely tried. It is entirely possible that Thile has never run across one.

    So much of what one believes is a good tone is esthetic. I, for example do not desire the woody bark of a Loar. I once had a conversation with the late great luthier John Zeidler about this very topic when I was considering purchasing one of his Mandolins. He said he was not trying to recreate a Loar but was after a more of a bell like tone. I had a chance to play one a fellow mando player had at a Winterhawk festival in the late 80's. It was beautiful sounding but not Loar like. (alas I could not afford an mere $3k in the 1980's. Hindsight...) This is analogous to pick shape. It really depends on what sound you are after. But know this. Pointy picks do not necessarily have too much pick noise and sound shrill. It takes a considerable amount of time using a pointy pick to overcome these tendencies but once mastered, a pointy pick has clear advantages in articulation and clarity of tone IMHO (If that is the sound you want). I think a player as great as Thile could prove me right (If he chose to put in the time to master a pointy pick) and bring forth an era where pointy picks are accepted beyond the classical world. Me, I am just a mando nobody with good tone and a strong opinion. ,
    Last edited by mandotopia; Sep-12-2009 at 8:39pm. Reason: edit quote

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    The free stroke, to my ears and eyes, makes the string vibrate vertically in orientation to the top, rather than the spinning vibration seen by the rest stroke. This is easy to see and hear.

    Pointy picks make less contact with the string and tend to not draw out the deeper tones of the instrument, but emphasize the high end- to me, the mandolin has plenty of high end in general. I've always felt that the thicker picks maximize volume and range of tone, and allowed me better access to a wider range of tones. For me, a standard guitar pick played with the "dumb end" rather than the point has yielded the results I want to hear- that the pick acts more like a violin bow, drawing/coaxing sound from the string at a slight angle, rather than (as ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons would say) "spankin' the plank!"

    The Pettine pick, to my knowledge, was not designed for F style mandolins, but roundback style instruments and maybe the Lyon and Healy type instruments, which produce an entirely different kind of sound. I also acquired a few via the Providence Mandolin Orchestra back in the early 80's.

    Many contemporary classical mandolinists, especially in Europe, now use Pettine shaped picks made of rubber of varying densities. This cures the shrill brightness of pointy plastic and provides a richer, darker tone that I prefer to hear. My friend Annika Lückebergfeld turned me on to them. They seem to work better (to my ears) on the roundback instruments.

    I know a little about John Zeidler as we were best friends from '75 to '02 when he passed away, and I have only played his mandolins (except for a starter Harmony that John revoiced and refinished) my entire life. It's very true that John felt that the best instruments "had yet to be built", and that he did not view Martin or Gibson as being the ultimate instruments- often great, but he was searching for something else.

    Being different can be a blessing or a curse. People often settle on an 'ultimate sound' exemplified by existing instruments, and their ears become attenuated to that sound, and anything else can be substandard in contrast. It's hard to sell someone on new sounds if they are convinced the ultimate has already been achieved (you know, how all the great orchestral music has already been written by dead white guys).

    I love what John achieved in 99% of his work, and have never lusted after Loars (although I've played a bunch of them). They are awesome instruments, of course, but I feel I've developed (if I can be so pompous as to say) "my sound" FWIW around the Zeidler.

    With the 'dumb end' of the pick, of course. If my tone is 'lacking' in any way close to Dawg and Chris, I'm a happy camper!

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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    With many of the Irish players you might hear, there can be a thinness of tone due to using thin pointed picks as John mentioned earlier. My own learning curve (In no way remotely comparable with John's) has led to to using a much thicker pick than most Irish players and a much pointier pick than bluegrass based players will use. For me, it's a good compromise. The instrument functions in my music differently from Bluegrass. I found in my own playing that thin tone had more to do with the density of the pick than the point but the idiomatic sound I'm after is inherently different from the bluegrass derived tone.

    What rankled me in this thread were the dogmatic, parochial assertions that owing to my choice of plectra that (a) I can't possibly sound good, and (b) I'm too obtuse to realize this. It's vaguely insulting. If I had read this stuff on a bright sunny day, I probably would have shrugged it off but it was a lousy day, I was in a bad mood and it bugged me.

    I think for many people, the Monroe based sound is the sine qua non of mandolin tone in the way that for years the fat warm Charlie Christian based guitar tone was the standard for electric guitars. There are more colors in the paint box and a lot of subjectivity on which to use and how to use them. Taste, skill, and context surely count for something.
    Last edited by Steve L; Sep-13-2009 at 10:48am.
    Steve

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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    If you can play like either CT or Dawg, then it wouldn't really matter to you what type of picks they use or what shape they happened to be, as you would have already made your own decisions and choices. For us mere mortals, we have to get on with the business of doing the best we can with the materials we find at hand. The Dawg pick would my first choice for a manhole cover or a replacement ceramic floor tile. For mandolin playing, I have no idea how he gets his tone (which is amongst the finest you will hear anywhere) with that thing. To say that a pointed pick will always sound thin is just not so; the tone it will produce has at least as much to do with the material that the pick is made of and how it comes to it's edge, as the shape of it's tip will. I have found that a "blunt" edge on a broadly pointed pick gives entirely different results than a beveled edge on the same thickness and shape of pick. People should be aware that they don't have to limit themselves to what is sold "off the shelf" in their choices of picks or strings in their quest for their tone, or think that just because someone else uses it, even if they are your musical ideal, that it must be good for you as well. Your tone is everything, as it is the very heart of the sound that you are producing.
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by John McGann View Post
    Many contemporary classical mandolinists, especially in Europe, now use Pettine shaped picks made of rubber of varying densities. This cures the shrill brightness of pointy plastic and provides a richer, darker tone that I prefer to hear. My friend Annika Lückebergfeld turned me on to them. They seem to work better (to my ears) on the roundback instruments.
    Can you cite a source for these picks?

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    Registered User Charley wild's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    I agree with SteveL and Fretbear. I love to jive Jim in VA and JeffD about Blue Chips picks. But it's done good fun. I think they realize that. It's everybody's own choice what they use. I respect those choices. If you're happy with the type pick you are using far be it from me to tell you that you're wrong.
    And Fretbear is right IMHO. I mentioned that I had just come around to using the point of a pick and I have seen no problem with my tone being thinner. I can move the point to slightly different angles to suit what I'm playing (tremolo, etc.) just like I could with the rounded edge. I just feel I have more control and my sound is cleaner and less muffled. What the various pro's cited above do is fine for them but it may not be for me or you. As FB stated, remember, it's you doing the playing!

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    Mano-a-Mando John McGann's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Whitener View Post
    Can you cite a source for these picks?
    Annika brought some over for me from Germany, but I don't know how easy they are to find (here or there!)

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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Charley wild View Post
    It's everybody's own choice what they use. I respect those choices. If you're happy with the type pick you are using far be it from me to tell you that you're wrong.
    The only wrong choice is one that doesn't work for you, I think...

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    Horton River NWT Rob Gerety's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve L View Post
    What rankled me in this thread were the dogmatic, parochial assertions that owing to my choice of plectra that (a) I can't possibly sound good, and (b) I'm too obtuse to realize this. It's vaguely insulting.
    I don't blame you for being rankled.
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    Notary Sojac Paul Kotapish's Avatar
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    This thread has developed a little bit of that "dancing-about-architecture" awkwardness.

    It's almost impossible to conduct a meaningful conversation about tone and its variants without the sonic information on actual instruments with actual picks and strings to illustrate what we mean when we talk about tone.

    What might sound "crystaline and silver" to some will be characterized as "thin and tinny" by others, while "fat and warm" might be "muddy and flat" to others still.

    I read once that Hugo D'Alton--the great English classical mandolinist--thought that Lloyd Loar's F-5 design was an abomination and that its characteristic tone was completely inappropriate for "authentic" mandolin music, despite the fact that Load had, in fact, designed it primarily for classical music.

    His fundamental ideal for mandolin tone was very different from the ideal that many of us have been shooting for in the post-Dawg-influence era.

    Those kind of differences can lead to some significant misunderstandings, frustration, and hurt feelings.

    Me, I like all the variety, and I think it would be a big loss if everyone was shooting for a uniform ideal sound. Like John said, "the only wrong choice is one that doesn't work for you . . . "
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    Default Re: pointy vs round picks.

    A couple months back I had the pleasure of playing a few tunes with five-string banjo genius Yens Krueger. On pretty tunes his banjo sung, seemingly sustaining longer than a Les Paul,with vocal-type vibrato even. On the hard grass he had the bite and drive expected by the hard-core purists of that genre. Along the way there were many other perfect choices of touch and tone. Did he changes banjos, or picks? No.
    Someone even commented, "Man, what kind of banjo is that? It sounds so beautiful! " I pointed to Yens's hands, then his brain, then his heart. "Here's your sound" I said.

    One time Dawg came to town. I thought I was having a problem with a mandolin. He graciously offered to look at it and see if it was set up wrong or something.We went into a tune and I stopped him in the middle of an improvised chorus, saying "OK, man, I see---nothing at all wrong with the mandolin!" He was peeling the paint from my living room wall--tone for days.

    Dan Crary came in once for a Taylor guitar workshop. Among many other golden observations was.."There are tons of great guitars nowadays--Martin, Bourguois, Collings, etc.. THE ONE YOU SPEND THE MOST TIME WITH IS THE ONE THAT WILL SOUND BEST...

    Did Wes Montgomery produce a beautiful sound?Most say yes, still unsurpassed 40 years after his death. HE USED NO PICK AT ALL.

    These anecdotes are offered in the spirit of remembering that what we really like to hear are notes, ideas, and the soul of the instrumentalist, as opposed to picks,string guages, or other technology. Young or new players, strive for clean and full tone regardless of your setup, equipment, or the opinions of stylists and manufacturers. You can do it! Sure, everything matters---nylon sounds different from bone or plastic, etc. The great players transcend all that. Hand David Grisman a $35 mandolin and a quarter for a pick, ask him to play a tune....you would know instantly that it was him. It would sound GOOD! So good...

    Another time Andy Statman appeared as a guest of Bela Fleck, in an outdoor venue where the sound was a challenge. Surrounded by amplifiers and synthesizers in a boomy hall, Andy played into an SM57. Every note seemed carved out and hand delivered to this listener. Were we hearing
    the mandolin? The pick? The mic? No, we were hearing the Notes, the Music, his ideas and his intent.

    I'm realizing now that I have several favorite mandolin players and no two of them use the same pick.

    OK, cats, sorry to go off like this. Now back to the notes..

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