Thumbpickers club: post your own experience

TelePrankster

Member
Messages
989
I always used flatpicks, mostly Jazz III/JD JazzTones size. I started using a thumbpick a couple of years ago after watching a Thom Bresh DVD about Travis picking. If you play Chet stuff, Travis picking or fingerpicking in general you can't at least try a thumbpick. The advantages are pretty obvious, you just need to find the right thumbpick for your needs and practice.
My first thumbpick was a Dunlop 9022R (plastic tortoise) I bought in a local shop. After a couple of weeks I was able to use it comfortably for Chet stuff and fingerpicking so I used it for a while. I tried other thumbpicks during the time (Herco, Ernie Ball etc.) but I eventually came back to that heavy thick Dunlop.
My musical journey lead me towards country chicken picking/hybrid picking so my right hand got into a transition phase. I realized pretty soon that chicken picking was definitely doable with a thumbpick, but some of those fast alternate picking lines were hard to play so I found myself going back and forth from a thumbpick to a flatpick depending on the music I wanted to play. It worked of course, but I HATED it.
After reading great things about Fred Kelly's Slick Picks I tried one of them and everyhting changed. After a couple of months of practice I was able to use it for everything, from Chet stuff to chicken picking, alternate picking, even strumming.
I didn't look for something else until I accidentally found a Fred Kelly standard pick at home. I tried it and, in my opinion, it's even better. I'm sure there are other good thumbpicks around but I found the one that works for me.
Recently I started to play some Brent Mason songs and I've seen how he replaces every upstroke with the use of one of his fingers (mostly middle finger) during single lines. I'm mastering this technique and basically it makes you able to play with any thumbpick you want.

This is just my experience, I hope it will be useful for you.
 

p.j.

Member
Messages
5,822
I have tried and tried to get on with a thumb-pick but have never had any luck. Good on anyone who perseveres and can get on with one.
 

bgmacaw

Member
Messages
8,075
I use either a metal Geipel thumbpick or a Herco heavy depending on the type of attack I want.

I tried Slick Pick but as the typical TGP saying goes, "I just couldn't bond with it"
 

chankgeez

Senior Member
Messages
10,778
I like these:

ProPik-Medium-TP1.jpg
 
Messages
635
I've pretty much given up on thumb picks. It seems every time I get used to one I can't make the transition back to a flat pick. I've settled on using Brian Setzers "hybrid" method.
 

teleluvver

Member
Messages
1,645
...Recently I started to play some Brent Mason songs and I've seen how he replaces every upstroke with the use of one of his fingers (mostly middle finger) during single lines. I'm mastering this technique and basically it makes you able to play with any thumbpick you want.
Brent wears fake nails to get consistent volume/tone between thumb pick and fingers. My real nails can't take the constant punishment, and fake nails present other challenges. What do you do?
 

erksin

Member
Messages
23,125
Nils Lofgren is a thumbpicker too and man I don't think I've seen a player with more control over harmonics - he's pretty jaw dropping to see play live.

Being a lefty, it was always impossible to find a thumbpick that fit me right so I just kinda gave up on it. This thread reminded me so maybe I'll see what's out there now...
 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
I do a fair amount of Travis picking, and have always hybrid picked with pick and fingers on electric guitars. In recent years I've mostly played acoustic guitars, and I do most of the Travis style playing with thumb and fingers, although plenty of hybrid picking still shows up when using a pick. I use the purple Dunlop tortex 1.14 for guitar and mandolin.

Chet Atkins was a big deal when I was growing up, and lots of guys used thumbpicks. I've not put massive amounts of time into it at any one stretch, but I've given thumbpicks several shots on guitar over the years. The Fred Kelly picks are cool. I finally came to the conclusion though that thumbpicks are not a go for me on guitar. Too many things I enjoy with the flatpick, like funk comping, octave stabs, rakes. The stuff that I'd be thumb picking on, I feel pretty good about with hybrid picking or thumb & fingers.

I do use thumb and finger picks for five string banjo. I started off with generic Dunlops. Until a real banjo player buddy straightened me out, I wore the fingerpicks backwards, Freddy Krueger-style. I didn't know any better. I played gigs like that for a while, and usually wound up slinging Dunlop picks across the room. Even after I got the picks turned around properly, I was still slinging them around bars all over north Georgia. At which point I discovered


Yessir. I like them very much. Double-banded, comfortable, pliable, and I don't sling them across the room. I've been using the ProPiks for 7-8 years, quite happy with them.
 

iamthearm

Member
Messages
509
I love the idea of thumb picks. I play a bit of banjo as well and use one with little issue. Guitar is another beast. I've been playing for 28 years and pick slanting and angle of attack are just too far ingrained in my playing to be able to make the jump. I really wish I could have the best of both worlds but I just re-focused on chicken pickin' instead.
 

TelePrankster

Member
Messages
989
I've settled on using Brian Setzers "hybrid" method.
I re-learned every Travis picking song I play using a flatpick instead of a thumbpick. It wasn't hard, to be honest. Plucking with just two fingers instead of three forced me to move my middle and ring fingers between G-B-E strings during some passages. It's not hard, but definitely not very comfortable for me. After a while I introduced my right hand's pinky to the mix and it worked very well. I played that way for a while but:
1) Unfortunately, the pinky is weaker compared to other fingers and shorter. You can develop a good technique using it but it's not 100% reliable, in my experience. You can use it for smooth chords like Danny Gatton, for Travis picking passages, but it's very hard to make it act like a ring finger. If you play Travis picking, you'll know that most of the times the song melody is played with your middle and ring fingers, mostly the ring finger. Try to use your pinky instead and you'll know what I'm talking about.
2) Any flatpick doing boom-chick on E-A-D strings sounds different compared to a thumbpick. It doesn't depend necessarely on the pick material, the difference is in the attack angle, thumb position and movement. You can try to buy a flatpick and a thumbpick made by the same identical material and you'll hear the difference. For the kind of sound I like, having a free thumb (and 3 fingers for plucking the strings) is crucial. Bass notes are clearer, bouncier, with more control if you want to emphasize the second and forth beat and create some sort of a drum pattern.
I really dig the hybrid picking (with a flatpick) approach for Rockabilly and country chicken picking but I ended up looking for a pick that allows me to do both things, that's why I use a thumbpick.

Brent wears fake nails to get consistent volume/tone between thumb pick and fingers. My real nails can't take the constant punishment, and fake nails present other challenges. What do you do?
Brent uses a very uncommon and odd right hand technique. To be more specific, he does single lines using a thumbpick, his middle and ring finger. Most of the times his pattern is thumbpick>middle>thumbpick>ring and I'm not talking about string arpeggios. He uses this pattern even on a single string. It's crazy but hey... listen to him and tell me he doesn't sound great. He uses acrylic fake nails just for his middle and ring fingers, his index is used for plucking the strings and double stops so he doesn't wear a fake nail.

Me? I usually grab my thumbpick with my index finger and play single lines exactly like I'd do with a flatpick. Downstrokes and upstrokes, zero difference. The same is for two strings double stops: I prefer to use my middle and ring fingers so I can put alternate picking lines between and keep my right hand busy. That's my standard position, unless I'm playing Chet/Travis stuff.
Sometimes I like to mix things up during single lines and I replace every upstroke with an index or middle finger pluck (downstroke, finger, downstroke, finger etc.)
I practice a lot this technique and I can get constant tone and volume using my (natural) nails. Practice a lot and your body will adapt to sound exactly like the pick, if you choose the right pick. The problem with this particular approach is "punishment", like you said. If you do arpeggios and Travis picking there's no problem, but after hours of practicing single lines, your nails will be worn out pretty bad. My nails are pretty strong but they're not made by iron. :) I like them around 1,5/2mm long so I don't have long nails at all.

Too many things I enjoy with the flatpick, like funk comping, octave stabs, rakes. The stuff that I'd be thumb picking on, I feel pretty good about with hybrid picking or thumb & fingers.
Using a thumbpick exactly like a flatpick is very common and relatively easy to do. The opposite is not doable at all and it involve doing some tricks and accept some compromises to make things work. You'll sound different, like I said before.
I'm not saying that a thumbpick is better but it's a more all around versatile tool for finger pickers. I love flatpicks and use them now and then.
 

Tim Bowen

Member
Messages
3,481
I re-learned every Travis picking song I play using a flatpick instead of a thumbpick. It wasn't hard, to be honest. Plucking with just two fingers instead of three forced me to move my middle and ring fingers between G-B-E strings during some passages. It's not hard, but definitely not very comfortable for me. After a while I introduced my right hand's pinky to the mix and it worked very well. I played that way for a while but:
1) Unfortunately, the pinky is weaker compared to other fingers and shorter. You can develop a good technique using it but it's not 100% reliable, in my experience. You can use it for smooth chords like Danny Gatton, for Travis picking passages, but it's very hard to make it act like a ring finger. If you play Travis picking, you'll know that most of the times the song melody is played with your middle and ring fingers, mostly the ring finger. Try to use your pinky instead and you'll know what I'm talking about.


One issue that I had early on with hybrid picking was getting equal volume from the middle and ring fingers. I first alleviated this by using a compressor, and while I still use light comp, the issue sort of fixed itself over time.

I do use the pinky as well.

It has always been difficult for me to come up with absolutes. Albert Lee says that he uses the pinky as much or more than other fingers when hybrid picking.

TelePrankster said:
2) Any flatpick doing boom-chick on E-A-D strings sounds different compared to a thumbpick. It doesn't depend necessarely on the pick material, the difference is in the attack angle, thumb position and movement. You can try to buy a flatpick and a thumbpick made by the same identical material and you'll hear the difference. For the kind of sound I like, having a free thumb (and 3 fingers for plucking the strings) is crucial. Bass notes are clearer, bouncier, with more control if you want to emphasize the second and forth beat and create some sort of a drum pattern.
I really dig the hybrid picking (with a flatpick) approach for Rockabilly and country chicken picking but I ended up looking for a pick that allows me to do both things, that's why I use a thumbpick.


It's definitely about the differences in sound and attack, although considerations of facility can still apply.

As I said, I moved from hybrid picking to fingerstyle for rockabilly and Travis picking, when I moved from solidbody electric guitars and tube amps to acoustic-electric guitars through PA's for the bulk of my live work. It was mostly a sound and feel thing for me.

I actually like playing banjo best with fingerstyle. The decision to use thumb and finger picks instead of thumb and fingers is of course about presence, attack, and cut among mixed instrumentation. Which is interesting because I fingerpick some songs live on high-string acoustic guitar, and don't have any issues cutting there.

Most things that are out of range for me personally, technique-wise on the guitar within this conversation, are equally so for hybrid, fingerstyle, and thumbpick and fingers(picks).

TelePrankster said:
Using a thumbpick exactly like a flatpick is very common and relatively easy to do.


Can you effectively do the Jimmy Nolen/James Brown chicken scratching thing with a thumbpick?
 

108

Member
Messages
2,840
I don't like having control over the pick for harmonics and such. I hybrid pick and the pick is constantly changing angles and positions in my hand for tonal changes. Thumb picks are unnatural to me and give me less control but damn I like the idea of never dropping a pick, that's a constant issue for me. It's often intentional, I'll want to switch from pick to fingerstyle for a cleaner part and when caught in the moment dump the pick on the floor without thinking about it, then have to grab another when the right moment comes which is a hassle, but I can't seem to break myself of the habit.
 

TelePrankster

Member
Messages
989
I tried many thumbpicks and some of them are harder to use for upstrokes and/or strumming. You need to find the right pick for you.
 




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