Musings on picks, and strings, etc. (LONG).


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I’ve been making myself a little crazy going down the rabbit hole of searching for the perfect pick. It started with ordering and trying out samples from different manufacturers. After putting in a lot of time on this, I found that V-Picks’ lineup had the kind of picks that felt and sounded best to me, as a whole. But Vinni Smith makes what seems like dozens of different models - in a lot of different shapes and thicknesses - although he uses one kind of material (acrylic resin blends). So “the process” of ordering numerous picks to try out shifted to V-Picks.

I now have a lot of different models of V-Picks. I’d settle on one style and thickness, but found myself changing my favorite to another pick the next week - or the next day. For a while I would favor thicker picks because they forced me to play with a lighter touch, which seemed less fatiguing. But then the greater tendency of the really thick models to produce “chirps” on picking the strings soured me on those. I learned to pretty much ignore the chirping if it didn’t get amplified, but sometimes I heard it through the amp. So I went to thinner models. But I’d go back and forth on this.

This went on for a couple of months until I realized several things that have changed my approach to “the quest”. First of all, after playing so many different models, I discovered that I could adapt equally well to different thicknesses, tip styles, and to a lesser degree, to different shapes. The shapes I do well with are the triangular ones; which can be rounded, or pointed, or in between.

Next, I noticed that different picks sounded different on different guitars. I tended to switch favorites when I would switch from on guitar to another. I already had selected a favorite pick for my acoustic that is a model I haven’t ever gravitated towards for my electrics. On the acoustic I prefer a thinner and somewhat larger pick that gives me greater control over dynamics of volume and tonality in my more percussive acoustic style. Then I made the big realization that my electrics were different from one another as well, and I seemed to favor different picks on different guitars.

So the quest for THE ONE perfect pick has gone out the window. Now it depends on the sonic characteristics of each guitar, deriving from their different combinations of tonewoods, pickups, body style and - importantly - strings. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I find myself straying very far from a flat EQ on the amp for the guitar to sound right, something needs changing.

On my mellowest sounding guitar (one with a single humbucker in the neck position) what works best is a very thin, pointed pick to get the brightness and articulation needed to keep it from sounding muddy. On a guitar that has a very bright bridge pickup that is too ice-picky with that same pick (a Medium Ultra Light Pointed model), I’ve gone to a thicker pick for it’s darker tone (either a Screamer or Medium Pointed at 2.75mm - thicker than that and I get an amplified chirp). For my T style guitar with flatwounds I can use either a thicker, rounded pick to emphasize the softer tone of the flats and tame the brightness of the plain strings, or a thinner pointier pick to compensate for that softness. And so it goes. Different guitars/strings/pickups etc. call for different picks.

With this selection system I’m now enjoying better tone across the board. This might not work for you, but we’re all different. I hope this is useful to some of you.

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