The new Oxford dictionary describes Picking as: to repeatedly pull at something with one’s fingers. It sounds so simple, and I think for most players (or 4-year-old :)) it is, as for myself it’s the weakest link in my technique chain. I picked up bad habits when self learning guitar as a kid, all but one I’ve been able to re- condition through hard practice and wood-shedding through the years. I started playing Violin and trumpet at the age of five in my public school system that had some really dedicated teachers who really cared about music. By the time I was in 6th grade I understood intervals and could read scores and charts well. I understood the circle of 5th’s and was starting to click with a little harmony and analyses. Why would I need an instructor to learn my 4th instrument my parents thought, they were off on that one a bit :) Guitar has been my first love since my grandparents bought me a 3/4 Harmony for Christmas that didn’t leave my side from 8 years old.
Not having someone teach me proper picking technique is what created this deficit in my playing. My wrist is to tight and I grip the pick very hard. For 10 years I’ve been aware of my technique flaw and am trying to correct it but find it difficult when I’m in the moment improvising. When I loosen up (literally) my playing becomes very clean and I have twice the chops but it’s difficult for me to do as an unconscious response like breathing. That’s what I do when I’m improvising, trying to create the ideas in my head bringing them to the speaker the way I hear them in my consciousness. Keeping cognizant of my picking technique in those moments are focus breaking for the most part still, but getting better. I do pretty well in the studio with my technique now, but playing live is a whole different cup of tea. Some of this issue is caused by picks, they always felt uncomfortable, some fit better than others, but none felt like my old school vans from high school or my scooter boots that are 8 years old. They slipped out of my hands often, at the end of rehearsals picks were all over my playing space.
In the late 80 I started using Jim Dunlop Green Totex heavy gauge picks, I would take gritty sandpaper and scratch them up so they wouldn’t slip in and out of my fingers. Most picks have this flaw for my skin type, Fender etc. I sweat when I play with a band, it causes my hands get oily from it like a 15-year-old hitting Mid puberty. In the Mid 90’s I switched to Jim Dunlop Jazz 3 picks, the small diameter forced me to play with less motion and they have a rough surface by design that helps with slippage. However the Jazz 3’s are just a tad to small, I wish the made them just slightly larger. I also can’t pick an acoustic with them because of their size, I flat pick with a Fender size pick.
A year or so ago I was checking into these boutique type picks that people swear by, at $25 US a pick “they better be” I thought. The day I was ready to drop $35 on a single guitar pick (just the sound of that is ludicrous isn’t it?) I came across Pete Weise talking about these picks he liked and started using called Black ice by Planet Waves of all companies. I really admire his playing so I thought “oh heck why not” and ordered a a pack of 10 from Musicians Friend. I was fortunate that the warehouse person who packed my picks sent me ten packages of ten picks each :) I called MF they told me I could keep them. This pick looks just like a Dunlop Jazz 3 but slightly larger, just what I always desired. The surface was slick like a Fender pick thus the skeptic in me came out. They’re made of Duralin and cured in a process they label tumbling. Something about this process make them slip far less than any other pick I’ve ever used and they’re just a bit Larger than a JD Jazz 3. The bonus is the material, it feels comfortable like no other pick I’ve driven.
I’d be interested in hearing from other players, what kind of picks they use and what the pro’s and Cons are for them.