Thin picks and speed

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Tracker_Buckmann, Mar 7, 2021.

  1. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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    This is my first post here, I'm not sure where the search bar is, I'm sure this has been discussed before, but i figured that i would just post this here. With that out of the way, here goes.

    So recently I've been experimenting with lighter guage picks, 1.0mm or so for example instead of the 2.0mm picks that i normally use. I am using a sharper pick, and i usually just sharpen them myself with a dremel tool. I had a bunch of thin picks that i sometimes receive when i buy random things from music retailers, so this was practical. I also have to give credit to Paul Gilbert who first gave me this idea.

    I've always struggled with speed on the guitar. Whenever i would play fast i would get sloppy, and I'm still nowhere near the speed that i want to be. I was always told that a pick that flexes destroys your economy of motion by taking up more stroke if you will. However, the experts unanimously agree that it is a very light touch that gets you that tremendous speed and dexterity. If you really pay attention, unless you are playing with too much forte, there isn't much flex in the pick at all. There is a massive increase in sensitivity, particularly with a very sharp pick. I can feel the top half of each string as i gently scratch the surface of it. With a thicker pick, i just don't have this fingertip feel. It feels like wearing multiple condoms to use a lude analogy.

    As for the economy of motion argument, i don't think that a small motion necessarily equals more speed. Sometimes a larger motion is actually necessary in order to achieve speed and fluidity; take the balisong or "butterfly" knife as an example:

    Now, if you've ever played with one, you might think that in order to open it quickly you have to use the smallest motion possible; this is far from accurate. You must fling part of the handle over your hand and twirl the blade around, using it's weight to create the momentum necessary to carry it through quickly. If you study martial arts, then you know that in order to build speed and power, the smallest movement isn't best and the movements that seem small in reality use momentum from your footwork and from your hips, similarly how a guitarist uses his elbow on his picking arm.

    So, think of the kind of motions that kill speed. Things like picking from the finger joints rather than from the elbow, or with slight wrist movement. These are technically larger motions than barely moving the forearm, but they are the necessary motions if you want to play faster. Controlling these bigger motions from the elbow, hitting the string gently and across an even, parallel plane seems to be the trick- I'm not claiming to be an expert, I'm just sharing what I've observed. Criticism is fully welcome. We all want to be the best, right? Our own personal best. I know that i do.

    Pick slanting is also a demonstration of this longer stroke, it is probably the best example of it. It takes a bigger, more spacious motion that takes more stroke, but it is faster to play this way. It is the only way (that i am aware of) not to get trapped between strings (a smaller motion traps you there), and of course this isn't true of techniques that would require sweep picking, but there again, that's a pretty big motion with a long stroke if you think about it. A bit apples to oranges, but still.. Economy picking might be an exception, but i trip over myself with every attempt. In fact, i had to force myself to unlearn the technique after a year of trying to use it exclusively over alternate picking before i discovered pick slanting. (Props to Troy Grady). I still use it for some patterns, but I'm not really conscious of doing it and i don't really do it across more than two strings.

    So, what are your thoughts on how the guage of your pick plays into all of this? How much force are you using to get from one string to the next and is that fat pick really needed or is it making it harder for you to scratch that string just right?

    No doubt it can be done, but i think that it takes significantly more time practicing than with a thinner pick to get the feel for it.

    Thoughts?
     
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  2. c7spheres

    c7spheres GuitArtist

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    I think it depends on the player for the most part. People seem to achieve great speed with thin and thick picks.
    - I'm not a fan of picking from the elbow. Seems more inaccurate and a waste of energy to me, but then look at all the people doing it with no problems.
    - Thin picks do warp and break easier though.
    - There are thin picks that are stiffer than some thicker picks. It's really about the flex rather than the thickness.
    - I find the shape and taper of the point and sides matter more than anything.
    - I use 1mm Acetal Claytons for the most part, but they do wear down fast.
     
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  3. budda

    budda Do not criticize as this Contributor

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    Some people enjoy 2mm picks and i have never been one of them. Bought one as a novelty, still unused.

    I use 1.14 jazz iii picks. Doesnt matter what style or guitar, thats what Im grabbing.

    Use whatever keeps you comfortable.
     
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  4. Mboogie7

    Mboogie7 SS.org Regular

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    same. 1.14 jazz iii’s are my favorite by far.
     
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  5. Humbuck

    Humbuck Can't stop, won't stop

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    I was good with green tortex .88's for decades...I could never understated how players could use 1.5 or 2mm pick for anything, that is until I tried a 4mm pick. Game changer for me. I would never go back.
     
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  6. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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    I used to play with stubby picks and in my teens, i actually used to glue two 2.0mm picks together and make my own stubby picks by sanding them down. That was before ebay and amazon existed.

    I haven't used such a thick pick in a long time, so I'm not really sure how it would affect my playing now that I'm more aware of my technique, but it might be something to try.
     
  7. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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    I'd be curious to see how your technique differs. I suppose the control comes from where you rest your hand, but it isn't the most natural thing and that can vary greatly depending upon the pickslant used. At the same time, you aren't exactly strumming every string individually. It's a wider motion than not moving from the elbow, but it is certainly still relatively subtle compared to say, strumming a chord progression.

    With a sharp tip especially they will wear down. But I'm really striving to play as gently as possible. Paul Gilbert recommends playing with a clean tone to develop this skill and i find it helpful to play with a slightly overdriven tone. If i start getting too violent the dynamics let me know it immediately. Practicing with a lot of distortion it is easy to overlook this.

    It sort of reminds me of something i read about microphone technology once, how the voices of singers like Elvis Presley wouldn't have been possible without it. He was, in actuality, barely making much of a sound.
     
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  8. profwoot

    profwoot SS.org Regular

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    Because so many different players make so many different types of picks work, it seems to me the best idea is to just try a bunch of different types of picks and see which works best with whatever natural motion you already have.

    If your natural motion is to pick "through" a string rather than "around" it, then playing fast with a thick pick is difficult because the string you just picked moves a lot, making the return stroke less reliable since the string is less likely to be near its neutral position. It also sounds bad because of the inconsistency in pick attack. So people with such technique are better off using a more flexible pick, even for fast parts.

    The best pick also very much depends on the type of part you're playing. For example, I love the thick Andy James Flow picks (~2mm I think) for articulate leads, but for anything else they are very pokey in the mix so I favor the Rabea Massaad Flow picks instead (~1mm maybe). Unless you have highly-refined technique, a chuggy riff played with a thick pick is really hard to mix, whereas a flexible pick acts as a compressor to keep things level. I even keep a couple of extremely floppy picks around for tracking generic background strumming, since the point of such a part is to add support without drawing attention to itself.

    The same principle seems to apply even more to bass, at least for me. I've been using delrin-tipped Dava picks, which are quite flexible (and the tip is nicely slippery across the big strings, rather than scratchy).
     
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  9. c7spheres

    c7spheres GuitArtist

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    - I hardly move at all when playing fast. I rest my palm but when playing fast there's almost no pressure on it.
    - The motion is more of a holding a key while unlocking a door type rotation.
    - The slant is hardly there at all, there is usually a very slight angle on it to the strings but it's hardly slanted at all.
    - My pick is "normal" shaped.

    - I've tried all the pick slanting and alternate picking stuff. I just don't use it. I can see how useful it is though, but I already developed speed before I thought about in a big way. Obviously you experiment when learning so anyone trying to develop speed would likely benefit by trying the techiniques of the great speed players like Batio, Morse etc...
    - I can play way faster than I ever really care to, so speed practice is at the bottom of the list for the moment. I feel I have a good grasp of fast playing.
    - It's harder to play slow, clean, and dynamic with consistency. To a point.
     
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  10. Merrekof

    Merrekof SS.org Regular

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    Jim Dunlop nylon 0.88. Had thick and thin in several materials but the 0.88 is what worked best for me. 1 mm is fine too but the 0,88 is my nr. 1. Been using it for a decade now, I believe.
     
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  11. mmr007

    mmr007 SS.org Regular

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    I literally cannot play fast accurately on anything heavier than .60mm (dunlop nylon)...maybe I need to get back in the gym to handle a heavier pick. But seriously with the lighter pick I have way more control over tone and dynamics...with a heavier gauge I struggle more in every aspect of pick attack
     
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  12. BornToLooze

    BornToLooze SS.org Regular

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    I kinda...get you.

    When I first started playing, I used my dad's hand me downs. Old Epi Strat copy he had, put a couple extra wraps when I changed his strings so I could put them on my guitar, and some of his old Fender thin picks.

    At first I would hold the pick with 3 fingers so I could bend it around my finger to make it a little stiffer where it wouldn't break as fast. I got a handfull of 1mm nylon Dunlops when one of his friends came over to say hi and I was in my room room super gluing picks together.

    You just have to play with it for a little bit, and then you'll figure out how to get used to it.
     
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  13. CerealKiller

    CerealKiller SS.org Regular

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    I mostly use 1.14 mm Jazz III XL picks, but I have used 2mm Gatorgrip picks before, and also thinner picks, down to about 0.6mm. I find the biggest difference to be how they sound and how fast they wear out, not so much how fast I can pick with either.
    The thicker picks are fine for lead work, but rhythm guitar parts sound 'wrong' to me. The thin edge of the 0.6mm gives a beautifully gnarly scratchy sound, like mini pick-scratches at every stroke, which I believe is also why Paul Gilbert likes them. But that edge will be chewed up after a couple of hours, and I cannot be bothered to change or sharpen picks that often. The 1.14mm are a nice middle ground for me - they sound good, and they'll last a couple of weeks.
     
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  14. NoodleFace

    NoodleFace Delicious Noodles

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    I use 2.0 dunlop flow's (Andy James, John Petrucci, regular flow), and they just feel the best.

    My dad started me on guitar with fender thin picks (which he still uses) which I guess are 0.44mm. Insane that he still uses those, to me. They bend when you play, especially if you play fast.

    Sometimes I switch it up and just use Jazz III's which have always been my standard goto. My only preference is the pick doesn't bend, it has a mild grip, and doesn't make weird plastic noises touching the strings.
     
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  15. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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    I have some flow picks. It's one of those things, i can play just fine with them, but for whatever reason I will switch to something else which will be "the ultimate way" and then i will completely change my mind again.

    I have a lot of dunlop jazz III picks, i have used those, but i also have gigantic hands and it just feels a little like... i don't know how to describe it. Imagine Shrek using a human sized pencil. I really like for the back of the pick edge to make contact with that first joint in my index finger.

    I definitely think that you can go too light. But too heavy is also an issue. I've been using the sharp dunlop 1.14mm picks, again, playing with a cleaner tone and even blending in legato like Paul Gilbert and I'm getting more of that sound that he gets when playing fast, which i love. No one does it quite like him. So precise and rhythmically chrisp and clean.

    I completely forgot that Dava flex picks were a thing. So i will be ordering a few of those. I definitely understand about playing rhythm with a 2mm pick, it just doesn't feel right to me at all while strumming chords.
     
  16. Tracker_Buckmann

    Tracker_Buckmann SS.org Regular

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    Also, i have noticed that when i hold the pick with more pressure on the leading edge rather than more to the middle or the back, i get a lot more speed and control over how it flexes. I seem to be flexing it into a bit of a curved shape, so I'm unconsciously controlling the amount of flex that the pick has.
     
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  17. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    People who hold their picks in the middle will always have trouble picking fast, and that get amplified with a thinner pick. If you hold the pick toward the playing edge, thickness is less of a factor. Monster-thick picks (25mm or whatever ridiculous thing people were using) force you to hold the pick closer to the edge.

    Ultimately, if you find the best technique for each kind of pick, it really doesn't matter as much as we like to think it does.
     
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