tone, pick thickness, and pick noise

vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
edited June 2013 in Technique Posts: 133
Hi All,

About a year ago, I switched from a fat gypsy jazz Wegen (3.5mm) to a Wegen big city (1.8mm). I can't exactly recall why — I think I ordered them from Michael and I noticed that I could play a bit faster with them so I stuck with them. A few weeks ago I ran across my old gypsy jazz Wegen and decided to play a few licks with it. Whoa — the tone was so much fatter. Even my girlfriend (who thankfully puts up with endless practice) said go back to the fat Wegen. The big city pick just sounds tinny and "thin" in comparison.

But here's the thing: I know good players can get warm fat tones out of thin picks because Stochelo uses thin pics... and so do Gonzalo and Adrien Moignard as far as I understand. What are the variables that go into getting good tone from thinner picks (pick angle, hand tension, etc)? I guess I just want variables to experiment with.

I would prefer to play with thinner picks because they have less "chatter" (that sound of the plastic against string metal), I can pick faster with them, and they are cheaper. Is there a string+pick interactive effect too? I usually play with V027s, but have Argentines on now.
I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.


  • Michael.ArmitageMichael.Armitage Melbourne, Australia✭✭ 2012 Alain Mazaud Vieux Paris
    Posts: 8
    Hey Vince,

    I'm no authority on picks or technique but I'll throw my two cents in....

    I've been using a 3.5 mm Wegen for a while. It tends to click more than I'd like. I used to obsess over finding a better pick until coming to the conclusion that the right hand technique is more important. Clearly, if the great players can produce a fat, warm tone with a thin pick it must have a lot to do with their superior technique. I soon noticed that I could almost eliminate the clicking, even if only at slow tempos and for brief moments, if I really focused on my right hand technique.

    Whenever I start to become aware of excessive clicking with the Wegen, I stop what I'm practicing, slow the metronome and play simple single rest strokes on each string, using a mirror to monitor my right hand, until I get back in the 'zone' where the clicking is gone or minimal. Using a mirror really helps to develop an image in your mind of the motor pattern that produces the best tone. I try and do this at the beginning and end of each practice session to reinforce that pattern.

    I think the problem is that many of us are guilty of trying to play at tempos that exceed our ability to control the tone we produce. Classical guitarist will spend years refining their thumb rest stroke until they can produce a consistently pleasing tone on all strings at a range of tempos. On the other hand, jazz players tend to focus more on learning repertoire, improv and in the case of gypsy jazz, trying to keep up with fast tempos. I think this ultimately means that many of us constantly reinforce undesirable technical habits when we practice and jam and therefore, struggle to ever develop the technique required to produce the tone that guys like Stochelo produce with apparent ease.

    I remember thinking that I had a good rest stroke technique 5 years ago. When I listen to my recordings from back then, I totally sucked. I realise now that it's a process of continual refinement. I've accepted that I'll never be completely happy with my playing or my sound but I'll keep working at it all the same as there is no other way to go.

    I might end up forking out $75 for a 2.5mm Blue Chip pick just out of curiosity as they apparently produce very little string noise but I worry that it would be too thin. For now, I'll stick with the Wegen until someone recommends something better and keep practicing.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,318
    I heard second hand that Gonzalo is lately using the 2mm Dunlop Gators???
  • I use a Blue Chip 80 that I have made for me. Very much the same as a wegen big city but slightly different tip profile. I do find it to be inherently the slickest quietest pick i have tried. Wgens tortoise shell etc etc. have a box full.

    It takes a bit of getting used to playing a thinner pick on rhythm. Height control is critical. I find single string much easier and faster on the thinner pick.

    I took a masterclass with Stochelo at dfnw and he was using rhe 1.7 mm wegen big city.

    Ooops almost forgot. I much prefer the sound i get with the blue chip. Fatter richer
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • I've seen a few players use the Dunlop Gator 2mm and I usually keep a few spares in my case, just in case (ha). I used to use these almost exclusively, but found that they tend to wear pretty quickly. They sound good enough.
    The Big City is nice too, albeit a bit bright in my hands. They're pretty durable.

    That all being said, I really think Michael nails it on the head. I've recently started taking lessons again and I'm going back to open string exercises to warm up and achieve a good tone across the board. The clicking disappears entirely when I am practicing these slowly and am focused on the correct sound and motor motion. It's all kind of funny to me that I breezed through this type of exercise after a few months and now I have to come back to it. Such is the struggle.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,471
    For what it's worth (meaning, I carry no weight of decades of experience), I know I've come full circle - I've a tidy little collection of Wegen 3.5's, 5's, even a 7. I went to a Wegen 2.5 at DIJ.

    Now, I just use the Dunlop 2, gator. I'm convinced that if Hono Winterstein, Denis Chang, Adrian Holovaty (and I'm sure countless others) can sound this good using these, well - it's the technique, not the pick, at least in my instance.

    Jay, I was wondering what Stochelo was using (I'm basically working through the "In the Way of Stochelo R." DVD) - is it the white 1.8mm Big City, as here?

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • At the time. Saw him thats what he was using. Dont know if that has changed.

    My reasoning in using the blue chip is that the slicker the pick, then less friction noise and less effort to get a good solid attack.

    I have tried most of the gj picks and for those that can afford them, IMO blue chip is the state of the art. I sent Matthew Goins a photo of a wegen big city and asked him to copy the body shape but keep the tip profile of his large jazz. Blue chips can be very slippery so the holes help grip. The result is for me pick perfection.

    I first learned of blue chip when playing dobro. In order to sound good one needs to really dig hard. I would burn through dunlop thumbpicks in a week. My blue chip thumbpick lasted over a year and was still useable when I got into playing gj on guitar....dont know how much longer it would have been useable year? Maybe.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • bryanologybryanology Los Angeles, CANew
    Posts: 22
    I've been digging the John Pearse "Fast Turtle" model. Big attack without much pick-on-string sound. Even has a little divot for your thumb. The elongated shape of the pick also provides a little bit more leverage, or power, to the rest stroke.
  • PassacagliaPassacaglia Madison, WI✭✭✭✭
    Posts: 1,471
    One rather bothersome thing I've noticed using the Dunlop, is how often it flies out of my hand. At our Midwest Fest, playing until all hours of the morning fireside, I easily lost 8-10 in the darkness, pretty funny to recover them the next morning (perfect camo - kind of a dark green-gray). I presume that over time, this lame tendency will go away. I'm determined that if Hono, Denis, Adrian, et al can do it, at some point, I'll grow into them as well. At $5 a dozen, an attractive option.

    pas encore, j'erre toujours.
  • vincevince Davis & San Francisco, CANew
    Posts: 133
    Huh, Passacaglia, I'll try those Dunlops too. Can't beat that price!

    One thing I noticed last night was that with smaller picks, I have a tendency to not do a full rest stroke, i.e. the pick doesn't end up on the string below after each down stroke played. I'm losing volume, but not too much tone. I'll have to work on this.

    Another thing I noticed: I have a tendency to play closer to the soundhole rather than closer to the bridge with thinner picks. These thinner picks sound particularly bad close to the bridge.

    I don't know whether I'll ever be an excellent player if I keep practicing, but I'm absolutely sure I won't be if I stop.
  • 5 bucks a dozen is way less stressful than 50 bucks each :shock: :lol:
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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