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Thread: Pick Question

  1. #1

    Default Pick Question

    I am new to the mandolin (this is the only instrument I have attempted to play) and I have noticed that thinner picks seem to be louder for me. Why would that be? It seems the thicker pick I use the more muted it sounds.

  2. #2

    Default Re: Pick Question

    Well, there are probably two things going on. One is you probably arenít used to hearing the sound of the pick hitting the strings and the particular sounds when you are playing the instrument, rather than being just a listener. What you hear as the player is different than when you are the listener. You hear things like pick noise, string harmonics, and unintended vibrations like from the section of strings between the tailpiece and bridge more clearly than a listener would hear, if they hear these things at all.

    Second is just the mechanics of using a pick. A thinner pick is more flexible, so there is more ďsnapbackĒ action when you strike the strings. A thicker pick wonít snap back nearly as much, and wonít have as much pick noise. The choice between a thinner vs thicker pick is normally up to the individual player, although certain genres tend to use one or the other. Classical players, for instance, generally prefer thinner teardrop picks, where bluegrass players generally prefer thicker picks. Thatís not to say you canít play classical with a thick pick or bluegrass with a thin pick, in fact, many players do with great success. It all depends on the particular sound you want to develop, and whatís comfortable in the hand to play with.

    Oddly enough, most players would say the opposite, as far as the string/instrument volume goes, from my experience. Thicker picks generate a bit more volume or punch in each note, and tend to be a better choice when playing with other instruments where you need to cut through the rhythm playing for a break/solo at times. Thinner picks are a bit quieter, but are a bit easier to manipulate for harder techniques like tremelo and triplet turnarounds. Classical players tend to use them because they donít really need to punch through a lot of rhythm playing, especially when playing alone or a duet, and there is typically lots of melodic runs and variations in classical music as opposed to contemporary genres where you play mostly rhythm with the occasional solo/break.
    Probably more than what you asked for, but once I get going, I canít stop. Lol.

  3. #3
    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Your experience might be completely different then mine, but here goes!

    When I was new at mandolin I was coming from acoustic guitar (mostly strumming). At that time I used .60 or .73 picks. I was comfortable with those, which made playing easier, which made my playing louder. As time went on I started exploring with different picks and became more comfortable with picks in the 1mm range, which are waayyy louder than any .60 could ever be for me now.

    On guitar I'll still use a .73 for quiet playing but have become more comfortable with thicker and bigger picks.

    Once again, this is only my experience.

    Happy picking!

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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Pick thickness, pick shape, pick bevel, all make a difference. Here is an amazing article to help sort it all out.

    http://jazzmando.com/tips/archives/000718.shtml
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    A thinner pick may indeed be louder as it will give you a brighter sound and may seem louder. For me it all depends on the mandolin. I have mandolins that I use a thin pick on and it sounds great with plenty of volume. I don't have any mandolins that I like a thick pick like most here do, it sounds dead. Especially on the G string. If your mandolin is bright sounding throughout all the strings a thicker pick will help that, if your mandolin is warm and deep a thick pick will sound warmer on the high strings, but may sound dead on the G string. To me the difference on the high strings is subtle with different thickness of picks, but the G string it makes a significant difference, so I use the pick thickness that gives me the sound I want on my G string. The thinnest Blue Chip, a 35, is too thick for my taste. I like the Wegen TF100, but I thin them down to make them sound better. Like different mandolins, picks, strings it's all a journey, enjoy.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    I use a 1.4 mm pick for many types of playing, and I use a 0.75 mm pick for others. Having pick options greatly increases the versatility of one's playing. I don't get the idea of trying to find one pick to be THE pick one uses.
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  8. #7

    Default Re: Pick Question

    To me, material, thickness, point shape, and bevel all make a difference.

    I can radically change the sound of an instrument with just a pick change. So to me a big pick collection is really fun and useful to have around.

    When you get to thin like around .60, a flexible pick will give you sort of a fixed loudness, and it will be focussed on the higher strings. I have noticed the effect that dunlop .60 will feel louder. But it is an illusion to a point, a slightly thicker pick will give you more control, you can play both loud and soft, whereas the dunlop .60 sort of dictates its own volume by it's flex point. A stiffer pick you loosen the grip to get softer (so the pick doesn't dig in as much), and you tighten your grip to get louder, that doesn't work nearly as well with a flexible pick, but also allows a beginner who hasn't developed that skill to play easier. Thinner picks also won't drive the lower strings the same, giving them a brighter thinner sound, it is a really big difference too.

    I like a pick that doesn't make me work too hard to get loud, and doesn't lose too much control when playing soft, it's a fine balance. And I match the pick to the instrument for tone and feel.

    Best bet is to get a huge collection of picks and start your journey. As your skills develop, it's best to revisit picks from time to time.

    I did a revisit recently and switched to the CT-55 for mandolin, it's got power and control. The unbeveled pick I was using was softer, especially on the higher strings, giving the illusion of a darker sound, but it made me work too hard to get loud.

    Most picks are cheap, if you get all of the dunlops for example, meaning tortex, ultex, and primetones (in their various thicknesses and point shapes), it won't set you back that much, and will give you a pretty good baseline. Sampler packs can be found on amazon that cover some of those. I found I like pointy triangles for mandolin for example and ended up with primetones for a long time. I own have all the ultex and primetone triangle varieties in my collection. After a few years of playing, and learning what kind of picks I really liked, I started buying a BC here and there. Those few BC's set me back more than the hundred or so other picks combined.

    I still have that collection of picks, and when I get a new instrument (not another mandolin, but something different like my new tenor guitar), I spend hours matching the pick to the instrument, both for feel and sound.

    Given I like a classical sustained sound, with a lot of control (loud and soft), I play a CT-55 triangle for mandolin, it's a pretty dark pick, but still bevelled and gives a lot of power and control for me. A primetone triangle is very similar (and much cheaper) and is what I played on for a long time before I tried a BC.

    On my tenor guitars, I like a brighter sound (like a Taylor guitar), so I go with thinner (but still stiff) picks. An ultex .73 is about as thin as I can go, and ultex is a fairly stiff material with a bright sound, so it's one of my faves there.

    For the 4-string electrics I am using primetone triangles, but want to try the ultex .73 on them to see if I can brighten them up a bit.
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    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Define "thin" here - are we talking .70mm or something like 1.0mm, which would be "thin" in comparison to a 1.5mm or 2.0mm pick? For years my go to pick has been a Blue Chip TPR35 or their Kenny Smith KS35 model, both .89mm. Occasionally I'll switch to a TPR40 (1.0mm), but always end up back with the 35's. For me, playing irish trad music on oval hole mandolins, these work best. When I first picked up the mandolin I was trying to play using Jim Dunlop nylon .73mm picks (which I thought were "heavy" because I used .50mm picks on my tenor banjo) and they were just too floppy, and the sound with them was very thin and low volume - this might have been attributed to less than ideal playing technique on my part as a newbie except that when I switched to a heavier pick, a hot pink Jim Dunlop Delrin 500 .96mm pick there was a huge improvement in volume and tone - they're teardrop shaped but I used the shoulder end when playing. They were my go-to picks until I got my first Blue Chip and went down that slippery slope.
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    Registered User Murphy Slaw's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Quote Originally Posted by zdub View Post
    It seems the thicker pick I use the more muted it sounds.
    I think your "taste" will change over time.

    When I first bought my first Bluechip, I thought it sounded muted. Couldn't make it work for me. Then I did a cd project with a friend and in the studio noticed the old Tortex sounded thin and "plastic". No tone. I had brought the Bluechip "just in case" and heard the difference during playback/listening.

    I will also use Wegens and Primetones, but have never gone back to a thinner pick, they just sound "cheap" now.
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    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffD View Post
    Pick thickness, pick shape, pick bevel, all make a difference. Here is an amazing article to help sort it all out.
    One other issue is the stiffness of the material used.

    I prefer a .73 or so Ultex or Ultem, with a sharp point. It's very stiff, though.

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    Default Re: Pick Question

    My BC 35 measures .035", the TF100 Wegen measures ..040", I thin the Wegen to .032". I would have to convert that to mm, but Jill says the BC35 is .89mm. Different material different sound. I am sure material has as much to do with it as thickness and point. I used BC picks for a few years, and love the glide, but never liked the sound from the G string. The thinned Wegens are closer to what I am after. Like David I have also used the primetone, and ultex, ultem and find those acceptable in a .73mm. Thin, but stiff enough. I will sometimes use a thin pick on my old Gibson, but use the rounded corner and not the point. Gives it a great sound with plenty of volume. The Gibson, of course has plenty of bottom end, not tubby, just solid deep, so the thin pick works well. I have used as low as a .60mm, but used the rounded part of the pick. I may have to thin my BC35 and see what it sounds like??
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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    I guess we should do some experimentation with a decibel meter and some kind of robot arm to play with the exact angle and force. Then we could try all different thicknesses, shapes and materials.

    Or maybe see if Myth Brothers have already done this.

    Our ears can be so... what's the word, subjective???

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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Quote Originally Posted by Zach Wilson View Post
    Our ears can be so... what's the word, subjective???
    That's why different picks work on the same or different mandolins, we all hear differently and want to hear what we like. Years ago when I played the Gibson exclusively I was told you could always hear my mandolin in a jam of 10-14 instruments, including several fiddles, banjos and guitars. I was using the .60mm and the rounded corner. I wouldn't use that pick on my ff hole mandolins, I want a different sound and that pick does not give it to me. We all have different hearing and tastes, thankfully.
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    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    My BC 35 measures .035", the TF100 Wegen measures ..040", I thin the Wegen to .032". I would have to convert that to mm, but Jill says the BC35 is .89mm. Different material different sound. I am sure material has as much to do with it as thickness and point. I used BC picks for a few years, and love the glide, but never liked the sound from the G string. The thinned Wegens are closer to what I am after. Like David I have also used the primetone, and ultex, ultem and find those acceptable in a .73mm. Thin, but stiff enough. I will sometimes use a thin pick on my old Gibson, but use the rounded corner and not the point. Gives it a great sound with plenty of volume. The Gibson, of course has plenty of bottom end, not tubby, just solid deep, so the thin pick works well. I have used as low as a .60mm, but used the rounded part of the pick. I may have to thin my BC35 and see what it sounds like??
    Pick thickness tip shape material used but also how stiff the material used all makes a difference. I have found my 40 BC pick to be as stiff and sound better than some of the thicker picks I have used in the past.
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    I use various thickness of picks based on the song I am playing.
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    Be Wild Zach Wilson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I use various thickness of picks based on the song I am playing.
    I do the same. I also use different shapes for different tunes/songs. An example would be; I like to keep a rounded pick near by for tremolo playing.

    I guess I think if picks like how an electric guitar player might use pedals or his tone/volume knobs.

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    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Pick Question

    Quote Originally Posted by zdub View Post
    I am new to the mandolin (this is the only instrument I have attempted to play) and I have noticed that thinner picks seem to be louder for me. Why would that be? It seems the thicker pick I use the more muted it sounds.
    My guess is that since you are new to the mandolin, you do not have a developed right hand technique. The thinner pick is easier to move thru the strings while the heavier pick requires more effort and precision, therefore sounding "muted".

    Keep pickin!
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