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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Feb 21, 2018 5:52 pm

All the Gypsy Jazz guys use super thick pics, it's impossible to get the power and tone required from a bendy piece of plastic (the Selmer style guitars they use (I nearly said "we use" but remembered I have a way to go yet :blush: ) were designed to compete with a horn section in the days before amplification). All the following is my opinion and is more relevant to acoustic guitars BTW.

I use Michael Wegen Gypsy Jazz picks (roughly the size of a standard pick but 3.5mm thick) for acoustic guitar and mandolin. I use his 'Twins' (smaller but still 3.5mm thick) for electric guitar. They are hand made and the tips are beveled differently for left and right handed players. The material is very smooth and hard so even his 1.4mm 'Bluegrass picks are very stiff (much more so than 'normal' plastic pics and don't even mention nylon.......). Michael's GJ picks cost €15 each and the twins €20 for a pack of two, not cheap (especially when you leave one on a music stand at a gig.....), so I routinely have around £40 worth of pics in my pocket :shock: They do last well though

IMHO the easiest way to make a great acoustic guitar sound cheap is to use a thin pic (and by thin I mean >1mm). 1mm+ is starting to sound ok but the thinnest I will use are the above mentioned 'Wegen Bluegrass Picks' (cheap at €15 for a 4 pack). They are harder than most 1.4mm pics though.

You need a firm but relaxed grip so the energy you put into the pic is transferred to the string, my belief is that this is why thick pics sound so much better. Thin pics waste most of that energy.

Electric guitars don't rely so much on the actual sound of the instrument as we enhance it with fx and a nice amp so the string gauge and plectrum make significantly less difference but I still use my thick picks 'cos `I like the feel and control they give (not that I can always make best use of it).
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Wonks » Wed Feb 21, 2018 7:25 pm

I alternate between picking my nose and my ear. Does that count?
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:09 pm

Only if you hold you pick correctly :D
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby CS70 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 9:21 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:You need a firm but relaxed grip so the energy you put into the pic is transferred to the string, my belief is that this is why thick pics sound so much better. Thin pics waste most of that energy.

Electric guitars don't rely so much on the actual sound of the instrument as we enhance it with fx and a nice amp so the string gauge and plectrum make significantly less difference but I still use my thick picks 'cos `I like the feel and control they give (not that I can always make best use of it).

Thin plastic picks bend, and quite randomly due to the changes in angle and force at the scale in which they bend. That makes it very hard to be precise, both on acoustic and electric, and develop articulation. The advantage on the electric is that you can use much thinner strings and still sound awesome.

I guess a thin pick in a very stiff material could actually work pretty well. Excluding diamond, grapheme and some nanomaterials could do, but they cost even more - leaving one at a gig would be terminal to finances :-D

Could be fun to try with steel tough.
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Feb 21, 2018 10:06 pm

I have a stainless steel pic (a Steve Vai signature Planet Waves IIRC) that my wife bought me for a birthday. I don't use it TBH, I like my Wegen Pics but it is completely unyielding as you would expect but much brighter than plastic. Might dig it out band use it as a 'sfx' pic......
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby The Coastal Path » Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:29 am

If you can lay your mits on some, I recommend the picks used in Robert Fripp’s guitar craft - they are quite heavy, but triangular in shape and made I believe from some kind of rubber. The first time I used them I could clearly hear a better tone when compared with the Dunlop picks I had been using before. The Guitar Craft method of holding the pick - which is not far from the Gypsy Jazz method as far as I understand - is also worth investigating.
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Feb 22, 2018 11:00 am

From the description on Wiki I'd say the GC grip is the BG grip. Hard to know about the picks as they have had several incarnations. But they are very thin which suggests they are flexible which is never a good thing. The shape though looks cumbersome in the extreme. The New Standard Tuning looks interesting though, I have wondered about tuning in fifths for years but dismissed it as the range over 6 strings puts the lowest too low for a standard scale length if the top string is not to be at a pitch too high for even the lightest steel strings. I suspect the top string tuned to G is the highest possible with any reliability but the m3 interval detracts from the elegance of the tuning (and seems a bit of a cop out)......

More interesting is parallel fourths (E A D G C F) which is used by some modern jazz players (Deirdre Cartwright) http://www.deirdrecartwright.com/play/tuning-in-4ths/
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Lala » Thu Feb 22, 2018 11:23 am

Deirdre Cartwright - bloody hell, I haven't heard her name in years, I remember her on Rockschool !!

I've spent about an hour this morning looking at picks, as you do :roll: , Clifford Essex Music have a very large range of the Wegen picks in some scarily thick dimensions but none with a particularly defined point - so what I've done, to dip my toe in the water so to speak, is order two Gravity picks. I'd never heard of them until my research this morning but they do have some with a more defined point, along with some pretty positive reviews.

I've never played with a 2mm pick in my life, I'm a bit apprehensive about it but I'll give it a go.

Many thanks for your input :thumbup:

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Re: Alternate picking

Postby The Coastal Path » Thu Feb 22, 2018 5:29 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:From the description on Wiki I'd say the GC grip is the BG grip. Hard to know about the picks as they have had several incarnations. But they are very thin which suggests they are flexible which is never a good thing. The shape though looks cumbersome in the extreme. The New Standard Tuning looks interesting though, I have wondered about tuning in fifths for years but dismissed it as the range over 6 strings puts the lowest too low for a standard scale length if the top string is not to be at a pitch too high for even the lightest steel strings. I suspect the top string tuned to G is the highest possible with any reliability but the m3 interval detracts from the elegance of the tuning (and seems a bit of a cop out)......

More interesting is parallel fourths (E A D G C F) which is used by some modern jazz players (Deirdre Cartwright) http://www.deirdrecartwright.com/play/tuning-in-4ths/

The GC picks come in three weights and even though they are light they have no flex at all - I think this is to do with the material they are made from. Some may find them cumbersome - but they are the same size as most picks and personally I've found them more comfortable than most. But each to their own.

The NST 5ths tuning sounds great - I keep a couple of guitars in this tuning - but unlike all the other alternate tunings I try, NST makes every shape and habit you have go out the window - which is the blessing and curse of the tuning. But it will certainly make you play differently, so is well worth trying IMO.
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Feb 22, 2018 6:39 pm

I may give it a try, I play mandolin which is tuned in fifths so is won't be too much of a step away (apart from a couple of extra strings and twice the scale length.....).

If the picks are very stiff that explains the 'fatter tone' claims. Apparently Michael Wegen sent them some prototype GC picks but they didn't meet with approval.

I'm not a fan of either triangular picks or ones with an excessively pointy tip so they probably wouldn't tempt me away from my Wegen picks.
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Studio Support Gnome » Sat Feb 24, 2018 4:04 pm

the number one speed killer is tension...

tense mind, neck/ shoulders/ forearms, wrists , hands and fingers....

usually because you are "trying" too hard, and are mentally and physically locked up.


the key is relaxed practice, and steady comfortable progress.

and building up muscle memory for patterns , and positions, so that you have complete relaxed confidence the hand will go where it's supposed to if just given general hint as to the intent.

and understanding how to get between positions and different modal types with minimal effort.

I think most would agree i'm not the slowest guy around, on a good day , i can almost keep up with AJ, but only when i'm relaxed and confident in what i'm playing, and it is context dependent, a straight forward picked run i can do... but i've still to master the speed with which he throws in right hand hammer-ons within an alternate picked phrase. I just cant;t think that fast.... and that is the other side of the equation, if you are a mere mortal like me, and not a troll in an arctic environment, then if you have to think about playing it , it's too late.... and you're slow.... you kind of need to develop a direct subconscious connection between the ear and the hand, that relies on acquired muscle memory, and leave the conscious brain out of it ... so you might issue "batch commands" of "get from here to here , using this scale" and then let the hand and ear do their thing to achieve that... while you plan what happens after that....

I tend towards legato and economy picking side of things, but do break out the odd alternate picked bit as a flavour change..... and my style is very much my own.... I would vastly rather be a full fat version of me, not a half assed version of Satch or AJ

with regards picks... use what you are comfortable with... the thinner the pick the more important your control of it and your grip is.... for the record.... i use a .50 Red dunlop Tortex most of the time..... with occasional forays up to the .60 orange Tortex when playing down tuned rhythm parts or acoustic .

i'm not saying it's the best route, but it's what works for me. most seem to favour the heavier pick... i just find i lose too much dynamic control when the pick becomes too hard

IMHO anything heavier is akin to playing with a brick ....

my control of dynamic input ( stiffness ) is achieved by variation of the relative positions of the pick, thumb and index finger , you can reinforce the spine of the pick by adjusting the index finger , or relax it a little , , or slide it up , giving you variation in how much deflection of the pick tip there is , as well as the angle of attack to the string .

keeping picks sharp/clean is indeed important.... and one advantage of the heavier pick is that they do not wear quite as fast.... I do go through lot ....

Picks are to be considered disposable , when they get a bit frayed, you can polish up the edges and clean them up, provided you keep the same profile point at the tip.... but this is only practical a couple of times, after that it's new pick time.... clearly heavier picks are more economical..... as they wear more slowly....

suffice to say I go through a lot.....

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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Watchmaker » Sat Feb 24, 2018 5:15 pm

As David Bowie said "you're not alone!"

I can't play fast at all and have a tale nearly identical to yours. I always tell myself it's because I'm really a drummer but I've put more hours into guitar with less result, so...

anyway, when I was young there was a kid who absolutely killed the guitar, still one of the best technicians with soul I've ever run across and when I asked him how he could play so fast he replied: "by playing slow a lot"
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Guest » Sun Feb 25, 2018 7:22 am

I won't claim that I'm in 'shredder territory', either, but what works best for me for playing fast is a medium-thickness pick and light-gauge strings (I use Ernie Ball 11-52's on my acoustic). The medium picks provide the right balance between accuracy (thick) and forgiveness (thin), IMO.

Also, you won't be able to reach a Mandolin-player level speed with just a bit of casual practice. It (unfortunately) takes quite a long time to reach such a level.
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Feb 25, 2018 9:46 am

whitzmusic wrote:Also, you won't be able to reach a Mandolin-player level speed with just a bit of casual practice. It (unfortunately) takes quite a long time to reach such a level.

:D especially on a mandolin (I'm still trying........)
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Lala » Sun Feb 25, 2018 2:16 pm

Studio Support Gnome wrote:. ..with regards picks... use what you are comfortable with... the thinner the pick the more important your control of it and your grip is.... for the record.... i use a .50 Red dunlop Tortex most of the time..... with occasional forays up to the .60 orange Tortex when playing down tuned rhythm parts or acoustic .

i'm not saying it's the best route, but it's what works for me. most seem to favour the heavier pick... i just find i lose too much dynamic control when the pick becomes too hard

IMHO anything heavier is akin to playing with a brick...

This is EXACTLY how I feel about using a thick pick! I totally understand the physics behind the use of a thick pick for speed playing, namely that it doesn't flex and pushes through the string onto the next one but for me, it loses a lot of sensitivity and feel. That said I don't think I've ever played with something as light as a 0.5 lol.

Thanks for all the replies.

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Re: Alternate picking

Postby CS70 » Sun Feb 25, 2018 3:22 pm

Lala wrote:
Studio Support Gnome wrote:. ..with regards picks... use what you are comfortable with... the thinner the pick the more important your control of it and your grip is.... for the record.... i use a .50 Red dunlop Tortex most of the time..... with occasional forays up to the .60 orange Tortex when playing down tuned rhythm parts or acoustic .

i'm not saying it's the best route, but it's what works for me. most seem to favour the heavier pick... i just find i lose too much dynamic control when the pick becomes too hard

IMHO anything heavier is akin to playing with a brick...

This is EXACTLY how I feel about using a thick pick! I totally understand the physics behind the use of a thick pick for speed playing, namely that it doesn't flex and pushes through the string onto the next one but for me, it loses a lot of sensitivity and feel. That said I don't think I've ever played with something as light as a 0.5 lol.

Thanks for all the replies.

Nick

All good but remember that playing the guitar is about letting your fingers do something that they wouldn't normally want to do (I think it was Mark Knopfler who said that :))
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby batshbvb » Mon Feb 26, 2018 8:12 pm

Wonks wrote:I alternate between picking my nose and my ear. Does that count?

Lol, very funny! *nosarcasm* :D
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby ManFromGlass » Tue Feb 27, 2018 1:11 am

just don't ask what colour his finger currently is . . . . . . unless it alternates too? :?
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Wonks » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:19 am

I almost wrote something other than 'ear'... ;)
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Re: Alternate picking

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Feb 27, 2018 9:56 am

I wonder if that's how Clapton discovered the famous "br**n sound"?
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