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falkowskej jackshenry

Thick pick = loud?

I know none of us want another pick thread but here we go.

so I play acoustic as often as I possibly can, lately I even opt to play acoustic in gig that most people would say are bound to fail without amplification. I just love the experience of an acoustic performance.

Now as very recently I’ve been gravitating towards slightly thinner picks in this setting, 1.5 and most recently 1.25. While I think it lacks some of the giant volume tone and dynamics in the high strings up the neck, it’s done wonders for a clearer tone on the wound strings which I’ve had issues with sounding very muddy. To my surprise at a recent bluegrass jam (a type of music I have very little experience with) the other guitarist had a firm stance that you use thicker picks for a better tone but then opt for thinner picks to “cut” through the mix. Some of them said they went under 1mm when they were in bigger jams for that reason.

now obviously the guitars and strings used make a difference, but as I search for the best volume solution for playing in settings where you need every decibel you can get, I’m curious what the loudest acoustic solution you find. Thickness? material? I know that heavier strings tend to help but selmer type guitars tend to be very loud compared to dreads/arch tops which opt for much thicker strings in traditional acoustic settings.

I guess without a specific question in mind this is a suggestion for thoughts in the subject.

WillieBill Da Costa Williamsbillyshakes


  • pdgpdg ✭✭
    Posts: 243

    I find it hard to make firm conclusions about this, myself! I think that the pick thickness, shape of the tip, bevel of the pick, and the angle that your pick strikes the strings (actually, two angles for two dimensions) affect how much your guitar, with its strings and setup, will be heard.

    Also, how close you play to the bridge vs. the soundhole will play a part.

    I think thicker picks are maybe generally louder (and clickier), but possibly less "cutting." Pointier tips, more bevel, picking "flatter" to the strings (especially with the more rounded tips), and maybe picking more "into" the guitar top, may produce a more cutting sound.

    Personally, it's nice to get used to one pick and one maximum picking level you don't go beyond. But some people play harder in group settings and so they may go for thicker strings. higher action, thicker pick, maybe with a more rounded tip (so as not to lose control), etc.

    If this is very important for you, you could ask other players to indulge you for 10 minutes, while you run through the same part of one song maybe five times, with five different picks, while they play along with you. Keep track of the order of picks, and ask them to keep track and rate how well they heard you with each pick! (Also ask them how they liked the sound resulting from each pick, since cutting power isn't everything.)

    WillieBill Da Costa WilliamsBucobillyshakes
  • edited July 24 Posts: 58

    Actually I’ve been taking a lot of videos of myself playing with different picks over some backing tracks, with the volume of the backing track pretty high to simulate a loud acoustic setting. My findings are pretty consistent, when your surrounded by a lot of noise you need to cut through, thicker picks (3mm and higher) definitely raise your volume for bashing out chords and digging into the high strings but have very muddy bass and mid range. Medium by gypsy jazz standards (2-2.5mm range) lessen the punch of high notes but bring a bit more of the mid range into play and under 2mm really help make the lower strings cut through the mix and while the high strings aren’t significantly less cutting, they definitely lack fullness. Obviously we can all point to a player who pulls amazing tone out of the instrument either way, like Joscho Stephan who uses a pick under 2mm and cuts through in any jam session he’s in or Duved who plays with much thicker picks in the 4mm range and primarily plays acoustic gigs. Maybe it means less to volume and more to tone once you get to a thickness that at least gives you no flex. And perhaps at a certain point a thinner picks “cut” and a much thicker picks power ends up putting any two player in the same range of being heard in an ensemble

    Bill Da Costa WilliamsBucovanmalmsteenbillyshakesWillie
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,215

    Bluegrass flatpickers use an entirely different wrist to GJ guitarists, so their wisdom probably doesn't translate to technique in this world.

    My experience is similar to yours - thick pick = louder, but the sound is worse and there isn't as much control. Seems like many top players at Samois and DIJ have started with a fat pick (wegen 3.5mm usually, up to 5mm even), and after playing for several years they switch to a thinner pick like 2mm or 1.5mm. Perhaps the thicker picks are a better choice for beginners, when you don't really have sufficient nuance and control of the right hand to see the benefits of a thinner pick yet?

    vanmalmsteenWillieBill Da Costa WilliamsrudolfochristnomadgtrbillyshakesBuco
  • Posts: 168

    Them's fightin' words!! ;)

    vanmalmsteenbillyshakesWim Glenn
  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Altamira M-01D, Epiphone Joe Pass
    Posts: 155

    This is an interesting conversation to me. My latest thing is to alter my pick based on the situation. If I'm at a gig where we're using amps, I reach for my Dunlop Gator Grip 2.0 and I use the side of the pick. I find it gives me lots of control (the string is actually rubbing against my finger nail a bit, since the pick is so small that way) and I have nice control over my rhythm volume, to keep it present but quiet. Yet my soloing cuts through. If I'm on an unplugged gig (or informal jam without amps), I reach for my relatively big 2.9 and use the pointy end. (Out of respect for Michael, I wont mention the make, since it's a competitor). That way, I cant get great volume for soloing (and substantial volume for rhythm) by digging in.

    Bill Da Costa WilliamsBuco
  • MikeKMikeK Asheville, NCNew Altamira M-10, Altamira M-01D, Epiphone Joe Pass
    Posts: 155

    I meant *CAN get great volume for soloing by digging in*.

  • Posts: 3,440

    Never went to such detail regarding tone and thickness of the pick. Tone wise, I never found better than the Blue Chip 1.6mm, rounded tip in general. But I found something interesting recently. I got one of these Japanese picks (it's 3mm) from @pdg here and noticed that when I use that one while jamming outside, high E string sounds much better. It doesn't make the note fret out like with BC does when I dig in. I get kinda that Tchavolo type sound with it. With BC when I dig in on high E, it just sounds crappy. I don't have any other thick picks any longer to compare. And its tone is good even when just practicing quieter. This was pretty interesting to me. I think I'm gonna look for another 3mm one to test this more.

    Every note wants to go somewhere-Kurt Rosenwinkel
  • dennisdennis Montreal, QuebecModerator
    Posts: 2,131

    I did a bit of a personal study on this with a few friends. My conclusion was that the bigger picks were certainly louder but not quite significantly louder. In the end, I firmly believe your technique matters more in determining effective projection. Then the different pick types/shapes will also result in slight adjustments in technique. I use 2.0 mm rounded edge, if i used pointier picks (which I don't but could), I would adjust my technique accordingly and attack at more of an angle than if I used the rounded edge.

    If you use the really thick picks, then your playing style has to match the pick to get the best sound out of them. That usually means more downstroke / rest-stroke based playing. The thinner picks give more articulation with down and upstrokes allowing for more of a hybrid approach at the expense of volume (and really not much if your technique is good in the first place).

    billyshakesBill Da Costa Williamsgeese_comBucorudolfochristJSantaAzazzell
  • rudolfochristrudolfochrist Worms, GermanyNew Dupont MD-100
    Posts: 94

    I met Gismo Graf and Brady Winterstein last weekend and we also discussed pick thickness. Brady used the Dunlop Gator Grip 2mm and was the loudest player by far. He was incredibly loud. His Gaffiero has to be involved as well, but he was still the loudest when Brady played Joschi Graf's Freschi. I guess this kind of supports what @dennis said.

    The video doesn't reflect the loudness of Brady's guitar as it was live, but anyway, nice performance 😊

    BucoJSantageese_comWillieBill Da Costa Williams
  • JSantaJSanta NY✭✭✭ CB #42, Gaffiero Modèle Original
    Posts: 189

    My Gaffiero is a cannon, louder and cuts more than my Bumgarner, no question. I completely agree that the guitar in part plays a part in this, but not all of it, to the points being made here.

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