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Thin plastic picks do work

PatrickPatrick Paris, FranceNew
edited November 2012 in Technique Posts: 29
Hello all,

I've used very thick picks for years when playing gypsy jazz (3,5 to 4 mm in different materials, Wegen plastic or tortoise shell in fact). But the more it goes, and the thinner the pick I use. Lately I've been successfully using picks that are 2mm or even 1,5 mm thick. In fact, it's after seeing a Bireli Lagrene concert and noticing that he got his perfect tone out od his Dupont with a very simple Dunlop tortex 1,5 mm thick pick (the one that has a light purple color) that the idea came to me. So I've tried it and the same one in 2mm thickness and after some adjustments I noticed it works just as well. You can get a very nice tone out of them.
Also one important aspect I noticed is that when using thin picks it makes you work harder on the right hand technique as it has to compensate for the natural power and fat tone you usually have with a very thick pick. But the right hand technique can be adapted in such a way that you get just about the same effect or very close (great power and pretty fat tone, not too bright sounding). So I even found it a good way to work on a better thechnique to use such picks for a long while as when you switch back to thick picks you really get a monstruous tone...

Do some of you use fairly thin picks (or even the Dunlop Tortex ones I mention) ? Why or why not ? What's your experience whith thinner picks and how did this affect your right hand technique (if it did) ?

Thanks in advance for any input on the subject.

take care,

Patrick
Paris, France
«1

Comments

  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,049
    In my opinion, the material and size does not matter as much as the shape of the pick although of course, it does contribute to the sound of the instrument

    for solos, i am able to play with any decent shaped pick.

    you wrote:

    >Also one important aspect I noticed is that when using thin picks it >makes you work harder on the right hand technique as it has to >compensate for the natural power and fat tone you usually have with a very thick pick

    I don't agree with that. I think it's harder to use a thin pick, because the edge is not as smooth. On thicker picks, the edge is much rounder and it definitely is a bit easier to slice through the strings.... But to me, the difference is minimal, I just have to make a few slight adjustments in my technique (ie the angle of the pick when i attack the strings)

    but otherwise, i think if someone absolutely cannot play with any other pick besides his wegen or tortis, or whatever, then there's probably a problem in his/her right hand technique...

    finally for pompe, the shape to me is very VERY important, I much prefer the sound of the pompe played with a round edge pick... I hold the backside of a big fat pick (the round part) to play the pompe

    Stochelo Rosenberg is a perfect example for me, I've seen him use different kinds of picks from wegen to tortoise to even a 1mm pick! and he still sounds more or less the same all the time...

    hope that helps

    t'es de Paris? y'a mon pote stephane wrembel qui joue ce week-end a fontainebleau, et le Ritary ensemble la semaine qui suit! t'as de la chance... des spectacles a ne pas rater! si tu y vas, tu leur un diras un ptit bonjour de la part de denis. A+
  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    Posts: 5,817
    dennis wrote:
    Stochelo Rosenberg is a perfect example for me, I've seen him use different kinds of picks from wegen to tortoise to even a 1mm pick! and he still sounds more or less the same all the time...

    On a number of occasions Stochelo handed his guitar and pick to me. Then, of course, I had to play for him (yikes!). Thank God for Unaccompanied Django...ha ha

    Anyway, I was surprised by how thin his pick was. About 1mm...definitly Tortoise shell. But I'm sure he uses other things. I think he used a pick similar to the Wegen Big City pick for a while.

    -Michael
  • PatrickPatrick Paris, FranceNew
    Posts: 29
    Thanks Dennis and Michael for your valuable inputs. It's much appreciated. In fact I know stochelo pretty well myself and have tried his picks. The bigcity type pick is in fact a wegen pick that is 1,9 mm thick but with nice beveled edges (hey Michel got the bevels always great from the beginning anyway). This pick also has some weird convex cut on the upper side (opposite from the picking point) so that when it rests on his first index joint, the convex part sticks and fits perfectly the articulation between his first second index joint... Anyway, this is the way Stochelo likes it and for my right hand position, the pick doesn't feel comfortable at all.
    I totally agree with the fact that what matters most is the shape and certainly above all the edges and the way they're beveled. But then again, I really think that having a thin pick is less forgiving in terms of technique that having a thick one. If you dig too deep between strings, you get stuck. If you hold it too perpendicular to the string surface you get a too bright sound, etc, etc. Whereas, with a thick pick, you almost never get stuck as the strings will bend and the pick will pass through. And as Dennis rightly said, a thicker pick allows for better beveled edges. But this drawback I found can turn into an advantage when practicing cause you have to really get the technique right to have a nice tone with a thinner pick.

    Last, I also think that thinner picks tend to bounce back from the string once they passed the string. If this effect is kept reasonable (either via a pretty rigid material or with a not too thin pick either), it helps having a nicer rest stroke sound because the pick tends to literally lay on the string before slapping it and boucing back. I don't know if you know the CD called "La Poupa" from a french band called "Am Ketenes" but if so, listen to the watz of Latcheben to hear the best example I've heard so far. You literally hear the pick boucing back and forth and feel the plain rest stroke effect on every single note. It's a beauty. And for knowing the lead player I know he also plays some amazingly thin plastic type of pick.

    Take care and thanks for any additional thought on this.

    Patrick
    Paris, france
  • Archtop EddyArchtop Eddy Manitou Springs, ColoradoModerator
    Posts: 589
    I think I know the Wegen pick that Stochelo was using. It's a pick Michel specially designed for Stochelo to go with the book Leo Eimers was helping to produce. Don't know what ever happened to the book, but the picks are black, have an imprint on one side with SR, and just a tad thicker than a Dunlop 208.

    A.E.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    dennis wrote:
    In my opinion, the material and size does not matter as much as the shape of the pick although of course, it does contribute to the sound of the instrument

    for solos, i am able to play with any decent shaped pick.

    you wrote:

    >Also one important aspect I noticed is that when using thin picks it >makes you work harder on the right hand technique as it has to >compensate for the natural power and fat tone you usually have with a very thick pick

    I don't agree with that. I think it's harder to use a thin pick, because the edge is not as smooth. On thicker picks, the edge is much rounder and it definitely is a bit easier to slice through the strings.... But to me, the difference is minimal, I just have to make a few slight adjustments in my technique (ie the angle of the pick when i attack the strings)

    but otherwise, i think if someone absolutely cannot play with any other pick besides his wegen or tortis, or whatever, then there's probably a problem in his/her right hand technique...

    finally for pompe, the shape to me is very VERY important, I much prefer the sound of the pompe played with a round edge pick... I hold the backside of a big fat pick (the round part) to play the pompe

    Stochelo Rosenberg is a perfect example for me, I've seen him use different kinds of picks from wegen to tortoise to even a 1mm pick! and he still sounds more or less the same all the time...

    hope that helps

    t'es de Paris? y'a mon pote stephane wrembel qui joue ce week-end a fontainebleau, et le Ritary ensemble la semaine qui suit! t'as de la chance... des spectacles a ne pas rater! si tu y vas, tu leur un diras un ptit bonjour de la part de denis. A+

    I'm on an old post bender, apparently. I've gone everywhere from wegen 3.5-7's to Dunlop 2 to Big City's. Mostly, because rhythm sends me, and every one of my rhythm heroes plays something different, apparently, and in a desperate attempt to capture what took them years to accomplish, I adopt whatever the hero de la semaine(s) I'm studying seems to be using. I know Hono and Denis use Dunlop 2's, Stochelo uses (at least on the "In the style of" DVD) Big City 1.8's; an article with Bireli, Bireli basically said the fatties are critical to the GJ sound. Stochelo uses the point, I love the tone from even the simplest Lady be Good in A he gets; nothing harsh, the very definition of leger, sec, etc; Denis and Hono use the round back edge (or side) - and drive and power are wholly inadequate descriptors, no idea what pick Nous'che uses, or what part of the pick he uses. And I would give up an incarnation for capturing the sound of any of these guys.

    Candidly, a friend recently told me it seems I'm looking for a definitive answer to things that don't have one.

    Chastened. I'm beginning to think unless I can get a groove and swing out of a cigar box and my thumb, nothing will make a difference.
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • You can e en get the sound with the back of your nails.

    The trick is Paul, decide what you want to use and then spend a year or two learning with it.

    Personally I find the tip of the big city just a tiny bit too pointy. Just hang in there for a week or so, then you will understand my thoughts a little better. :D They may not make any more sense, but at least you will understand the nonsense better.

    If you spend the time a comb would probably work ok,
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • AhabAhab GB✭✭
    Posts: 88
    I was using tortoise-shell picks for quite a while, normally at least 2.5mm thick, and whilst they feel and sound great, I knew that Bireli and a lot of the other French guys use Dulop tortex 2mm and thought I'd give it a go and it has made a difference because it's improved my right-hand technique by forcing my to be more accurate with my picking patterns, and it's forced me to concentrate more on getting the sound from my fingers. I've found the more I concentrate on these things the less I need the comfort blanket of a certain pick thickness or string guage or whatever.
  • MitchMitch Paris, Jazz manouche's capital city!✭✭✭✭ Di Mauro, Lebreton, Castelluccia, Patenotte, Gallato
    Posts: 159
    I'm beginning to think unless I can get a groove and swing out of a cigar box and my thumb, nothing will make a difference.

    mmh that's pretty about it...

    I feel sad for you guys that are spending so much time, energy and stress for those pick matters... As long as it doesn't bend, that's all!

    Remember Django once played a whole week with a comb's dent!

    Though, if you want to get the full tone of a good quality Gipsy jazz guitar a rather fat pick (between 2,5 and 5mm) seems unavoidable.

    And the Dunlop trend is only due to Bireli... and it's to be used with the round edge.. incredible how it spread among Bireli wannabe's.
    Do you know how a hundred guitarists change a light bulb? One of them changes it and the 99 others wonder how Bireli would have done it :lol: :wink:

    Anyway, before that ALL the gypsies were playing with tortoise or clothing's buttons.

    Don't mind the pick, see Stochelo who can play almost any pick and have his tone.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,283
    Interesting you say this, Mitch. Probably by force of obsession more than anything else, every day, I play various rounds with the Dunlop, the Wegen 2.5, the Big City. I don't know if it's because I've been working fairly hard, from some generous stuff Denis provided, or not - but it's becoming a bit less odd, picking up different picks, and playing them; meaning, I seem to be making adjustments as I play them, that don't seem radical, but I'm getting a decent tone with whatever pick I'm grabbing.

    You mention Stochelo's ease; I know Denis has this ability as well. Ideally, my goal would be to pick up any pick, any guitar, and play it well, on the fly. I don't know that I can agree that a thick pick is essential to the sound - because I've heard the sound, on thin picks. An attractive option, at $5 a dozen....

    Changing a light bulb..hahahah. In my case, it's because I'm trying to steal someone's life work, in quick order...an impossibility. So it's "because Hono...or Denis....or Stochelo...or Nous'che or Alfonso.....or Gonzalo....or Adrien.....or...or...." did it.

    I actually saw Alfonso Ponticelli make a beautiful set, with a literal guitar box he built, with 3 strings. A think he kicked out, the night before. I got no hope. :shock:

    You're on the guitarjazzmanouche site, yes? Ancien cuisinier français....
    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • Mitch

    As a horn player, its in the blood. I learned at an early age to obsess about reeds. Picks are the guitar equivalent of reeds :shock: :lol: :lol:

    I have a book written funnily enough by a guy named Ray Reed that is 200 pages of adjusting sax reeds :shock: (think changing point profile and thickness for guitar equaivalent)

    If one is playing eighths at 200+ bpm it doesnt matter what is used imo but on a slow ballad, well now there we have to agree to disagree....
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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