Posted by: Glenelg Guitar Studio | January 25, 2016

Take a Pick


PickNo; not that sort of PICK.  You know ..the Guitar PICK.

Although the subject of “picks” (or is it “plectrums”) isn’t as sexy, glamorous or popular as how to play Lead breaks or famous Spanish masterpieces etc, it is vital to know a little about the subject in order to;
1.get an authentic sound.
2.make it easier to play your favourite style or piece of music.

Initially, I didn’t use a pick to strum with and used my fingers to do the job as it was easier. To be honest I was never quite comfortable with the sound I obtained. I eventually realised that I had allowed my decision on how to strum to be swayed by what was easier rather than what was going to produce the most authentic sound. As a result I changed to using a pick when the music required it and after a period of adjustment got the sound I was after.

So here is a ‘fact-sheet’ that I hope you find helpful.

Ever been to a music shop and been bewildered by the enormous variety of picks on display?

This is because picks/plectrums  come in all sizes, thicknesses, colours, prices, pictures, shapes and endorsed by many famous names(“BB King and Taylor Swift”), religions (“I pick Jesus”), feel good sayings (“Don’t fret. I pick you), tv shows (“The Simpsons Pick”) and many emblazoned with skulls! Additionally, there are many types of material used including plastic, nylon, rubber, tortoise shell, wood, metal, glass, stone and aluminium to name a few. Check some of them out here.

Do I call it a Plectrum or Pick?

I have found so far that what you call the trusty guitar pick could come down to where you live, the age of your guitar teacher, your parents or the books you are reading to learn about guitar. So call it what you like but don’t be surprised if people look at you strange when you use the word pick in the company of those who use the word plectrum and vice versa!

What guitar pick/plectrum  should I use? 

There are a few things to consider. You need to find something that you feel comfortable playing and that suits the style of music you are playing. From personal experience-as I generally strum a little and pick a little-I had to find a happy medium between thickness and size. You may only be a ‘Joe Strummer’ so need a slightly thinner pick to get a different tone and sound, or need a heavier gauge pick which is better for riffing and ripping out guitar solo’s.

As one Guitarist put it “During my metal years the picks were very thick, but as I’ve mellowed over time so has the thickness of my guitar pick, so similar to when playing football, you start off in the forwards or on the wing, quick and fast and then as you mature, get slower and train a little less you end up in the backs, your pick choice over the years tends to follow this pattern too, fast, quick and thick at the beginning of your career and slowly as the years mature you, your style changes, you listen to slower music with more feeling, you mellow out and your guitar pick gets thinner and thinner like your hair!”

When do I replace my picks?

It’s time to get new pick when the edges become serrated. There is nothing worse than the sound produced by a pick where the surface is not smooth. And at $1.00 a pick they are cheapest part about playing Guitar

How can I stop my plectrum/pick from slipping?

At times I have used a hole punch in my picks which works wonders to keep the pick from slipping. Other times I have used sandpaper and I know players who use skateboard grip tape

 How do I hold the pick?

There is where there are a lot of varying opinions particularly on the internet. So here is my opinion as taught to me by John Wilson, one Adelaide’s finest plectrum players. John encouraged me to hold the pick using only my thumb and index finger and only on the top half of the pick. The advantage is that you can maintain the same pick technique regardless of whether you are picking notes or strumming. 

I’d love to hear what has works for you, so please let me know when we catch up.

And of course keep those ideas coming through for other subjects related to your playing that you would like to receive a post on. I have nothing to sell so the information is unbiased and directed at improving your playing and enjoyment on the instrument.

Happy Playing.

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