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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Holding onto the pick.

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

beezaboy - Posted - 04/15/2009:  20:14:36

I'm having trouble holding the pick on upstrokes. The strings are pulling it farther and farther out with each upstroke until control is compromised and I am fumbling to regain proper grip while trying to complete a tune. I remember a product from yesteryear called Gorilla Snot which was apparently some kind of stickem. Does anyone use some sort of aide to overcome this problem. NFL receivers use some kind of super stickem. Should banjoists follow suit?


neplusultra - Posted - 04/15/2009:  23:03:48

A friend of mine uses COOL picks (yep, the brand name is cool) they have a little rubbery surface where your finger comes into contact with them. I just lick my fingers at the beginning of the set before I grab my pick.

I find it best to practice making minor adjustments constantly as I play to keep the pick where I want it...if I'm not paying attention (which sometimes happens when you're playing Bye Bye Blues for the eleventieth gajillionth time of your career) then that's when I get into trouble...and by the time I feel it going it's too late to recover.

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 04/16/2009:  00:54:23


Moisture is the best cure.

Do f.ex. between tunes store the pick in your mouth/hold it with your lips or do have a wet cloth or a glass of water nearby.

All plastic materials as well as natural/artificial tortoise shell do absorbe moisture very kvickly - this makes the materials "sticky".

Beside that



beezaboy - Posted - 04/16/2009:  04:21:51

NPE and Polle _ Thanks for the tips. Actually I have been using the saliva technique and now I know it is probably best with your reassurances above.
Thank you.


NYCJazz - Posted - 04/16/2009:  07:18:07

Here's something I came across...

Haven't tried them yet.

Improvisation is the ability to talk to oneself.
~ Cecil Taylor

Dogface - Posted - 04/16/2009:  07:38:12

You can find a product in music stores. It's a small jar of sticky stuff used sparingly....called Gorilla Snot.... same people that make the glue and tape...


If there are no dogs in heaven then when I die I want to go where they went...

Will Rogers

will cramer - Posted - 04/16/2009:  09:13:59

YUP!! I have had the pick problem as well. I did 2 things that cured it. Because I live in a frozen waste land and the weather is very dry my fingers get dry and slippery plus I find it hard to play fast if I am gripping the pick to tightly (death grip) so this is what I did...
1) I use Gorrila Snot (the product spoken about in some of these posts)
2) I use a Redbear pick... I will get you all the website info on this after I research it. (they are handmade in the US and are very expensive)
I have found that the Redbear imitation tortise shell stuff stays put and I can ease up my grip and play way faster with more control.
Sometimes just practicing is not enough...It helps to identify specific problems and solve them. Will. ( )--::

beezaboy - Posted - 04/16/2009:  09:18:51

Jazz- Thank you for the Bumblebee picks link. I think I'll try one.
BTW a well written little book that I think you would enjoy is
"Picks! by Will Hoover ISBN 0879303778. It is inexpensive and
entertaining. Lots of photos. I got mine on eBay. It depicts a
pick similar to the Bumblebee that was marketed in the 1980's.


mikeyes - Posted - 04/16/2009:  13:20:42


The subject of losing a pick has been discussed on a number of venues and one of the things that always comes up is how are you gripping the pick? (Not you in particular, although that is a question you need to ask.) If you ask a consensus of guitar, mandolin and banjo players about grip you will find that a large number of them recommend a very loose grip and that they rely on pick technique to keep the pick safe. The theory is that if you have a consistent stroke then the pick should not fly out of your hand.

I have found that some plectra (for our European friends) are easier to keep than others. Cool picks, Dunlop nylons and one other whose brand I can't remember (something like Snarling Dogs - they are all electric guitar picks) work very well whereas others are very slippery.

Here they are, Snarling Dogs

Mike Keyes

Edited by - mikeyes on 04/16/2009 13:22:47

NYCJazz - Posted - 04/16/2009:  13:49:10

Somewhere else on BHO I was introduced to the pick-related term "clown barf" meaning the multi-colored ones.

The cover of that "Picks!" book reminded me!

Improvisation is the ability to talk to oneself.
~ Cecil Taylor

rudykizuty - Posted - 04/16/2009:  15:42:35

Originally posted by neplusultra

A friend of mine uses COOL picks (yep, the brand name is cool) they have a little rubbery surface where your finger comes into contact with them.

COOL also makes peel n' stick rubber pads that you can apply to your favorite pick of choice.

Anthony Herner

beezaboy - Posted - 04/16/2009:  17:19:04

Thank you for the tips. I am going to try them all.
Tonite I ordered a medium large Bumblebee with the loop
that goes over the thumb. Probably too clever and won't
work but its worth a try. Then I'm going to get some Gorilla
Snot and Redbear pick as recommended by Will. Meantime
I'm going insert my current Dunlop between cheek and gum
(you'll understand this only if you are from deep south USA)
and flail away!


beezaboy - Posted - 04/16/2009:  17:25:47

Mike - I did not see your post soon enough. I ordered the Bumblebee from the company in your post. I have an account there now so will have to study your picks idea to see what to order because this company has a zillion choices for picks!! Tires me out just looking
at them all. At the music store in town the choice is limited but at
least you can pick them up and see how they feel.


Banjoed - Posted - 04/17/2009:  01:15:25

Clayton ( make a pick with a roughened patch on either side. It feels a little like sandpaper at first but it may help.

I do reiterate what Mike says above, pick holding technique may be the real issue here. I recommend holding the pick between the pad of the thumb and the outer edge of a loosely curled in index finger. The pick is then supported at the first joint of the index finger and is kept in place by the weight of the thumb. I do notice that the original post refers the upstroke being an issue. Holding the pick this way means that the upstroke is controlled by the wrist not the fingers and the weight of the thumb remains constant to hold the pick in place. The other real benefit of this holding method is that little or no "squeezing" of the pick is required to hold it in place or pull it across strings thereby reducing overall tension in the hand and arm
I do feel that holding the pick almost like a pencil will cause more slipping problems.

Enda Scahill

Check out Enda Scahill's Irish Banjo Tutor @

mikeyes - Posted - 04/17/2009:  16:07:04

If you look at you can get an idea on how Enda holds his pick. Look at some of the other videos in the shaskeenreel group and you can see a few more banjo players including Tom Cussen himself. This should give you a good idea about pick hold.

Mike Keyes

Edited by - mikeyes on 04/17/2009 16:08:29

beezaboy - Posted - 04/17/2009:  18:15:22

Mike - Thank you for the You-Tube Link. I watched and hold the pick pretty much like Enda but not like the blue shirt guy on Enda's left. BTW: What is that music? Not Harry Reser. Fiddle tunes? It is marvelous whatever it is. Enda plays effortlessly. That is the sign that the guy is really accomplished!


mikeyes - Posted - 04/17/2009:  20:02:18

The first tune is an American fiddle tune done Irish style; the second a barndance, I think.

Is that correct Enda?

Mike Keyes

beezaboy - Posted - 04/20/2009:  15:32:55

My Bumblebee picks arrived today and, for me, they do not work. They hang steadfastly on the thumb and are not going anywhere but this makes them inflexible and like strumming or plucking with a nail. So, its spit for now until I can acquire the recommended picks and some snot.
Thanks again.


diarmaid - Posted - 04/21/2009:  03:22:03

I hold the plectrum a wee bit more like a pencil, against my index and middle (second) finger which feels more steady to me, though i try not to hold it too tight, the wee grippy spots on the jim dunlop ) 0.60 nylons work grand for me, though i hardly ever use strumming

mikeyes - Posted - 04/21/2009:  10:11:47


email me off line and I will send you a Snarling Dog pick

Mike Keyes

NYCJazz - Posted - 04/21/2009:  11:16:26

Anyone try Ibanez Grip Wizard picks?

I have a package, but I haven't tried them yet.

You don''t need any brains to listen to music. ~ Luciano Pavarotti

Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 04/22/2009:  02:15:26

I wonder - why hasn´t anyone mentioned instant glue - LOL!

I myself am a 3-fingertip holder - sometimes a 2-fingertip holder (slow ballads etc.). I´m only using triangular picks.

As far as I´ve noticed, Cynthis Sayer is a 2-fingertip holder all the time.

The fingertips are the most sensible part of your fingers - using these gives you a better feeling of your pick grip.

For best steady grip plus fast playing ability use an almost non-flexible pick - let the needed flexibility come from a somehow loose grip.



mikeyes - Posted - 04/22/2009:  07:02:15

Remember that there are two completely different styles being talked about here. Jazz banjoists usually use a thicker pick than the Irish players because their techniques are different.

As a rule, jazz picks are thicker than the one that Irish tuned banjo players use. So there is going to be a difference in the way that the picks are used and, presumably, the way they are held.

Most Irish players I know prefer the more flexible thinner plectra. They tend to play single string style with triplets being the main ornament - in fact the ornamentation is an integral part of the music. There are several jazz techniques, but they often play multiple strings and a stiffer pick is an advantage.

Can you play all of these techniques with a thicker or thinner than usual pick? Of course, but it is not going to be as easy if you are used to one size pick.

So it might be a good thing to identify what style of music you play for the purposes of this discussion.

Mike Keyes

will cramer - Posted - 04/22/2009:  15:59:20

Picks!! I tend to be a bit of a gear hound so I will have to get me some Ibanez sandpaper jobs as mentioned above. Before I started using the Redbear ($$$) picks I used a black teardrop shaped nylon pick (Brain) it has a grippy surface something like a cat's tongue (don't ask) It worked well for me and sounded nice but I found I had trouble holding it when I played fast. They come in all gauges but I liked the .88 for the sound. I play Jazz and am always playing single notes, chords, crosspicking and the tremolo so I need a pick that can do it all. My Redbear is a med with a speed bevel (tip is sanded to release the string) The pick is very hard and thus the tip of the pick slides off the string much easier than a nylon pick. (the string will "bite" into nylon, I only figured this out yesterday) So now when I play fast the pick stays put in between my thumb and curled first finger even though I have a loose grip. My guitar player Tim tends to keep his pick between the thumb print and the finger print but I like it between the thumb print and the side of the first finger as it keeps the wrist straight (see Enda's post and video, that's some great playing. stuff like that will make the 4 string banjo mainstream again!)
Happy pickin' Will. ( )--::

beezaboy - Posted - 04/22/2009:  19:05:42

Okay. Redbear has several proponents here. Will describes his redbear "($$$)" so I assume that these picks cost more than 11cents. I'll go look. I'm staying away from cats.


Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 04/23/2009:  00:46:55


When playing mixed stuff - rhythm, rhythmic/harmonic soloes etc. in jazz or folk bands - I´ll use a PEAVY Abelone triangular pick 0.73.

When playing soloist stuff - rhythm, chord melody, single string etc. - I´ll use a REDBEAR triangular medium (appr. 1.25) pick with a standard bevel. The price for this is $20 - so don´t drop it on stage or elsewhere - LOL!



will cramer - Posted - 04/23/2009:  11:31:57

So now I would like to move from the general to the more specific. Beezaboy, please tell us when you are having trouble with the pick on the upstrokes is this with single notes or chords? or both?
thx. Will. ( )--::

beezaboy - Posted - 04/23/2009:  18:41:42

Will - It's chords. Downstroke I'm pretty okay. Upstrokes pull the pick from my grip until I'm hanging on by a thread trying to finish the tune. Meantime, I'm fumbling with the pick trying to draw it back and being distracted so I miss the next chord. My pathetic attempt at a smooth tremolo of a chord is worse as the strings are pulling the pick out. If I sqeeze too hard the tremolo becomes uneven and brittle.


Polle Flaunoe - Posted - 04/24/2009:  03:22:24


I don´t play/practise on a daily basis any more. Due to this my right hand tremolo tecnique can sometimes feel a little rusty in the beginning, when I grab a banjo.

In order to get my coordination back - I´ll then practise for 5 minutes or so in the following way:

Forget about your left hand - just use it for supporting the neck.

Hold the pick in a way, so it´s absolutely parallel to the strings and perpendicular to the head.

Start tremoloing slowly on the 4th string. When you feel, that you can control the tremolo and the up- and down-strikes sound exactly the same - increase the speed.

Once this tremolo is also working fine - decrease and afterwards increase the speed in a linear way - and back again - keep on practice the speed shifting.

These speed variations are extremely important for obtaining a relaxed tremolo.

Start shifting the single string tremoloing between strings - then go on with 2-string tremoloes in the same way, then 3-string and in the end 4-string.

Finally you´re ready for left hand chord settings.

Do never ever start practising tremoloes on all strings - do start with one string and then work up from there.

Plus be aware, that the tremolo speed variations are extremely important for getting a relaxed way of playing.

Kindly regards


rudykizuty - Posted - 04/24/2009:  03:45:01

I hate to throw an echo into the conversation, but have you checked out your LMS for the COOL peel n stick rubber grips I mentioned earlier in the thread? My father is 70 and due to age, has been complaining more and more about problems he has holding onto the pick. He's tried a number of other things too, but with no luck. Since I've had good luck with these, I gave him a few last weekend...........and he hasn't stopped calling me all week to thank me and tell me how much he loves them. They're really worth a try.

Anthony Herner

beezaboy - Posted - 04/24/2009:  18:00:31

Polle - Anthony:
Thank you for the tips. Cool pick and peel and single strings first then onto chords. I'll try it. I am 66 so maybe this slippery pick thing is something we can all look forward to in our "Golden Years". Phew!


beezaboy - Posted - 05/10/2009:  18:43:09

Ok...the mailman has come and gone and I have pretty much all of them now except still waiting for some medium Fenders.
1..The Red Bear is very expensive but very nice. I got the tortis one and even tho it has no grip surface it is shaped like the standard Fender but is a little bigger and seems to stick to your fingers better. it really brightens the sound of the banjo and I liked so much I ordered two more so I could give one to my banjo teacher and have a spare.
2. Snarling Dog Brains stick pretty well but still come loose.
3. Cool - These are pretty nice but the soft cushiony grip surface I haven't come to appreciate yet.
4. Gorilla Snot. Don't like it. It's sticky (duh) so it impairs up down strokes and tremolo by sticking pick to your fingers and not allowing pick to move back and forth "naturally".
5. Spit. One of the best ideas but I haven't tried it on the Red Bear because the directions say keep dry!
6. Bumblebee thumb loop/plectrum combo - Shoulda saved my money and bought a Happy Meal. The thumb loop makes the pick immobile so not for tenor or plectrum players IMO.


oldtimer - Posted - 05/10/2009:  21:42:57

I superglue a little fold of thin leather over the "hold area". I have been doing this for many years and it works great.

stay tooned....
Glenn Godsey

"Time passes unhindered"

beezaboy - Posted - 05/11/2009:  02:53:28

Oldtimer - Thank you for the leather tip. This idea is similar to the old factory made picks with the cork affixed to the hold area.


beezaboy - Posted - 05/11/2009:  20:02:49

Wait, wait, wait!! I got some Fender mediums today. Boy are they nice. Now I have a different pick for every day of the week. It'll be just like selecting my underwear with the days of the week printed on them!


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