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 Playing Advice: Bluegrass (Scruggs) Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Questions About Pick Shape


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/390846

nc2va2nc - Posted - 06/04/2023:  08:11:22


I’m wondering what y’all think about pick blade shape. I’m talking about whether you curve the blade up to wrap around your finger tip, or keep the blade straight out. And, if you keep the blade straight, how far do you like it to extend past your finger? I’m a beginner, and I’m experimenting. I’m trying Pickey Picks with the blade curved, but I tend to catch the 2nd string a lot with my index finger. I haven’t yet tried them with the blade straight out. My Dunlops are just slightly curved.
Thoughts?
Thanks in advance!

Laurence Diehl - Posted - 06/04/2023:  08:44:37


Most people put a curve in their picks. You will have to experiment with the amount of curve that feels comfortable.

RB3 - Posted - 06/04/2023:  08:48:19


Below is a photo of the right hand of Earl Scruggs. If you'll get yourself some National picks and shape them and wear them on your fingers the way Earl did, you can't go wrong. No one ever got better tone out of a banjo than Earl Scruggs.


Tractor1 - Posted - 06/04/2023:  09:24:50


Earl's is as good as one can get --tonewise- and i recommend it also-- as first encounter--but some great players in order to get things going do change from this --John Hickman and Alan Munde are usually mentioned as examples
my 2 cents

Culloden - Posted - 06/04/2023:  09:29:43


Try to adjust them so that they don't stick straight out but have just a little bend. Then adjust them so they stick out no more than 1/8" past the tips of your fingers.

That makes a good starting point but it doesn't mean that they will be right for you. You will probably have to make adjustments from there to get them where they fit your picking style.

Laurence Diehl said it straight, you have to experiment until you find what is right for you.



BTW, I use Dunlop picks with the curve that they come with from the box.


Edited by - Culloden on 06/04/2023 09:33:37

KCJones - Posted - 06/04/2023:  11:06:53


I do mine like Earl did, because that's how Earl did it.



To me, the real reason is that this allows you to pick with the tip of your finger and pull the strings up away from the head, rather than picking with the pad of you finger and pushing the strings down towards the head. Tip gives more power than pad, pull gives more 'pop' than push. That's my completely unscientific anecdotal opinion, anyway.



Really though, anyway you want is the right way. As long as you're getting the tone you want. Earl had his way, but JD Crowe did just fine with a different approach. Then you've got guys like John Apfelthaler who has an unorthodox approach but gets amazing tone with it. 


Edited by - KCJones on 06/04/2023 11:10:17

Texasbanjo - Posted - 06/04/2023:  11:20:48


It's definitely a matter of personal preference and whatever works for you. If you're experimenting, give the experiment time to work or not work. A few weeks should help make up your mind if that particular way works or if it still doesn't feel right. Keep trying until you find what feels good, works well and you really like.

Personally, I like my picks curved over the fleshy part of my fingers. For me, I think it gives me more area to pick and release. Might not work at all for you. I tried with picks straight, but seemed like I was arching my wrist too much and it wasn't comfortable. I also had a problem hitting the right strings with the picks out straight. Definitely wasn't what I needed.

stanleytone - Posted - 06/04/2023:  11:22:57


Experiment is the magic word until you settle on what feels best and makes you play better. Not necessarily making it easier since you may sacrifice tone for ease, which really comes with lots of practice. Example:
When i first started playing guitar i used a thin pick. When i got into bluegrass guys told me to throw that thin pick in the trash and get something thicker.
Result? I have been using Dunlop Gator 2mm flatpicks for decades now, and the more rounded side at that! It took time to get used to it but it brought out the deeper woodier sound of the guitar.

nc2va2nc - Posted - 06/04/2023:  11:34:02


Thank you for all the tips so far!

BobbyE - Posted - 06/04/2023:  12:26:31


Learning how to wear your picks is part of the process in learning to play. Don’t be afraid to experiment but also give yourself time to learn if something will work before you dash off to try a new flavor.

Bobby

DRL777 - Posted - 06/04/2023:  13:55:10


quote:

Originally posted by RB3

Below is a photo of the right hand of Earl Scruggs. If you'll get yourself some National picks and shape them and wear them on your fingers the way Earl did, you can't go wrong. No one ever got better tone out of a banjo than Earl Scruggs.






Sure looks like he turned his picks (a lot) for a flatter attack in this pic. Just sayin'

sunburst - Posted - 06/04/2023:  14:28:43


Here are mine. I used to have them a bit straighter, but someone suggested that we get more "pop" out of the banjo with more curve, so I tried it and I did hear a difference (I think...). It took a long time to adjust to the new pick shape, but it works well for me now.



 

nc2va2nc - Posted - 06/04/2023:  14:40:00


quote:

Originally posted by sunburst

Here are mine. I used to have them a bit straighter, but someone suggested that we get more "pop" out of the banjo with more curve, so I tried it and I did hear a difference (I think...). It took a long time to adjust to the new pick shape, but it works well for me now.




did you have to learn not to catch the 2nd string with your index finger?







 

Laurence Diehl - Posted - 06/04/2023:  14:57:26


I hope nobody is suggesting that if you shape your picks like Earl you will sound like Earl. There’s a lot more to it. I saw a shot of Bella’s hand and his picks were pretty straight and hanging off the end of his fingers. That would not work for me , but it sure was working for him!

sunburst - Posted - 06/04/2023:  14:57:29


quote:

Originally posted by nc2va2nc

did you have to learn not to catch the 2nd string with your index finger?







No, that was not a problem. It just felt different and the attack of the strings was different so my timing was off and I missed strings and stuff like that for a while. When I'm picking, my fingernails actually touch the picks so I have to keep them clipped.






 

MuskokaJohn - Posted - 06/04/2023:  17:41:43


I’m a beginner also, I’ve found I prefer them curved to follow the shape of my finger, and worn slightly away from the tips as to extend them. You’ll get it through trial and error, everyone is different. I also found Pickey Picks didn’t work for me, I prefer a Dunlop paddle  shape on the thicker side, so you may want to experiment with different shapes as well.

 



What works for you may not work for others, etc etc. I also use a metal thumb pick and I've heard that's not generally a thing (I like the V shape Dunlop tip on my thumb) 


Edited by - MuskokaJohn on 06/04/2023 17:46:01

pickthefive - Posted - 06/04/2023:  19:07:23


Eli Gilbert just posted a video:

banjohangout.org/topic/390844

... in which you can see his right hand really well. Eli is a top-level player -- I am sure there are other ways to play, but you can't go wrong by copying him.

Culloden - Posted - 06/05/2023:  08:46:52


quote:

Originally posted by MuskokaJohn

I’m a beginner also, I’ve found I prefer them curved to follow the shape of my finger, and worn slightly away from the tips as to extend them. You’ll get it through trial and error, everyone is different. I also found Pickey Picks didn’t work for me, I prefer a Dunlop paddle  shape on the thicker side, so you may want to experiment with different shapes as well.

 



What works for you may not work for others, etc etc. I also use a metal thumb pick and I've heard that's not generally a thing (I like the V shape Dunlop tip on my thumb) 






John, there will always be people who tell you that you should use a plastic thumb pick or some other contraption which works best for them. If you like a metal thumb pick them use it. I have been using one since I started playing 50 years ago. I used a metal Dunlop thumb pick for almost 40 years then switched to the Dr. Sherpa thumb pick a few years ago. It is a lighter gauge than the Dunlop and is easier on my arthritic hands.



If you prefer a metal thumb pick, pick on.

steve davis - Posted - 06/05/2023:  09:11:19


I play my Dunlop .025s just as they are shaped by Dunlop.
My fingers are long and if I curl the tips I have to lower my hand beyond comfortable.
My picks are out straight and my armrest is as high as it will go.

latigo1 - Posted - 06/05/2023:  11:59:03


People have all different lengths and shapes of arms, wrists, hands, and fingers, all of which contribute to what shape picks are going to be best for them. There is not one shape that is good for everyone, no matter what shape some of the great players use. You will probably find that the picks you prefer now, as a beginner, might not be what you prefer as your speed and proficiency develops. Keep several different sets of picks around and try them from time to time to see if your preference changes.

nc2va2nc - Posted - 06/05/2023:  12:02:54


quote:

Originally posted by pickthefive

Eli Gilbert just posted a video:



banjohangout.org="">banjohangout.org/topic/390844



... in which you can see his right hand really well. Eli is a top-level player -- I am sure there are other ways to play, but you can't go wrong by copying him.




Wow, his picks are really long!  They look like they're curved and extending beyond the tops of his fingers!







 

Jack Baker - Posted - 06/05/2023:  12:43:09


Yes,


That's how I've always worn mine. How people bend and shape their picks is a universal similarity. I don't remember how I learned to shape mine. I've been playing since the 50s...Jack




Originally posted by sunburst

Here are mine. I used to have them a bit straighter, but someone suggested that we get more "pop" out of the banjo with more curve, so I tried it and I did hear a difference (I think...). It took a long time to adjust to the new pick shape, but it works well for me now.






 

steve davis - Posted - 06/05/2023:  14:10:39


I don't analyze anything after I find my comfort zone.

MuskokaJohn - Posted - 06/05/2023:  15:58:31


quote:

Originally posted by Culloden

quote:

Originally posted by MuskokaJohn

I’m a beginner also, I’ve found I prefer them curved to follow the shape of my finger, and worn slightly away from the tips as to extend them. You’ll get it through trial and error, everyone is different. I also found Pickey Picks didn’t work for me, I prefer a Dunlop paddle  shape on the thicker side, so you may want to experiment with different shapes as well.

 



What works for you may not work for others, etc etc. I also use a metal thumb pick and I've heard that's not generally a thing (I like the V shape Dunlop tip on my thumb) 






John, there will always be people who tell you that you should use a plastic thumb pick or some other contraption which works best for them. If you like a metal thumb pick them use it. I have been using one since I started playing 50 years ago. I used a metal Dunlop thumb pick for almost 40 years then switched to the Dr. Sherpa thumb pick a few years ago. It is a lighter gauge than the Dunlop and is easier on my arthritic hands.



If you prefer a metal thumb pick, pick on.






Thanks, to be honest I'm just starting out (2 months on now) but I've been around enough and am old enough to know when I'm splitting hairs. It's comfortable, not that noisy, and it's in my jar, works for me :) 



We'll see as my hand starts up with arthritis, which I'm feeling in my left shoulder already at 46. 

 



pick on

steve davis - Posted - 06/06/2023:  06:02:02


There's no way anyone can simply listen to someone's playing and tell how their picks are bent or if they have both ring and pinkie touching the head.
There are many great players that have as much tone as Earl had that don't play exactly like Earl.

steve davis - Posted - 06/06/2023:  10:15:29


I usually don't have a clue how many of my fingers are touching the head.
I feel that if I'm not concerning myself with anything but the right notes in the right tone everything else takes care of itself.

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