Choice Picks: Not Just for Your Nose and Bum

The perfect tonez.

The Holy Grail of all riffers.

You dream of it, you strive for it, you'd step over your own mum and drag yourself uphill over hot coals and broken glass with your fly unzipped to attain it. You buy amplifiers, guitars, pedals, pickups, leads, strings all in the search of the ultimate combination to take you to the promised land of sick riffz. Yet like Venus's arms or Scomo's integrity it remains unfound.



Well, often the reason for this can be an issue many players avoid acknowledging like George Calombaris ignores workers rights. That reason is bad technique. You can give a person Van Halen's full rig, guitar tech, and sound engineer, but without reasonable technique they will still sound like a dying Dachshund dropped in a piano full of bees.

Now mostly this is a problem that can only be addressed by lessons and practice. But there is one glaring little thing I notice in many players that can be corrected instantly, and will greatly improve the relationship of player to instrument.

Using the right pick for the job.

Over many years of performing with and recording guitar, this little unsung issue has had an impact on my sound far more profound than I could have ever imagined. It's the point of interface between yourself and the instrument. It can accentuate or hinder your playing depending several factors: how you use it, its thickness, its shape, and what it's made from.

All these factors can change your dynamic response greatly, and it's important to get it right. Here are a few of things to consider when picking your pick:

  • Listen and experiment. Picks are largely cheap. Buy loads of different types and listen to the results. Don't discount a pick if it gets great results but is initially hard to use. Your hand can adapt, give it a chance.
  • When beginning your exploration, as a general rule I find picks of a lighter gauge (.60 and below) but still "bitey" are fantastic on acoustic guitars whilst  gauges .73 and above are generally better for control and articulation on electric instruments.
  • If possible record yourself playing similar passages with different pick types to assess a picks suitability. The tape doesn't lie.
  • Lastly a little fun fact that if you love a good rock pick drag on electric don't use a nylon pick. They are too slippery to drag they just slip.

Heed my advice friends. Even 20 years later I am still trying different pick styles and I imagine I always will. Attack, control, dynamics all begin here and it is always worth considering.

Till next time, stay safe and riff hard.

Chris Re-Animator.