Hey guitar folks, ready to delve in to some serious pic discussion? This is a blog that I’ve been simmering on
the back burner for many weeks now; ever since the summer NAMM show. At the NAMM show I did something quite out of
character for me, I actually dropped ten bucks and purchased a meager four "V-picks".
They were enticing, with oh-so cool looks, and
promises to improve my tone and speed, and not fall out of my fingers. Right then and there, I decided I could make
one heck of a blog outta comparing these new-fangeled picks to old
standards. Later that day, I ran into
Daniel from WGS and showed the new picks to him; he proceeded to lay in my hand
a "Finns" pick, another new one to me!
was official; the pic-wars were on! Since
then, I’ve gone plumb pic-wild. Here is just one of several of my stray pic containers;
I’ll just bet you have some that look similar.
My pic journey began with the obligatory "Fender Medium". In the middle of Minnesota farm country in the late 70’s/early
80’s these were pretty much the only pic readily available. When I visited my
folks on the farm this summer, I found a plastic box full of literally hundreds
of broken Fender Medium picks. That was
the problem with those things, they always broke. It was difficult to find one in my pic
collection that was intact. I’ll say
this, that old celluloid must have been some chemically potent stuff, I nearly got
high as a kite just breathing in the fumes as I opened that box of broken
picks; the first time they had been open in decades.
Right around 1980 I ordered a stone "mind-pick" from an advertisement in
Guitar Player Magazine. It promised
tonal improvement and lightning-fast speed, all for the amazing price of just
ten bucks (hummm ... sounds suspiciously like the v-pick pitch now that I think
about it). What it actually was, well,
was ... a rock; a pretty polished rock, but a rock none the less. It is a novelty; it is not a guitar pick.
Somewhere in the early 80’s the new Dunlop nylon pics found their way to my
small town, and wonder of all wonders, the darn things didn’t break; but boy
did they wear-down.
Maybe the Fender’s
would have worn-down too, but they always broke before they had time to wear
down! I stuck with various Dunlop nylon
pics for a decade or so.
Then I moved to Nashville
and became a pic-whore. I didn’t intend
to, it just happened. Everywhere I went,
people were giving me picks with their company name on them.
When I opened my first checking account in Nashville, I got a free
toaster and a big handful of pics, seriously!
Test drive a car; get a pick with the salesman’s name and number on
it. Walk into a guitar shop, and walk
out with a handful of store-branded picks, gratis! Buy a pair of jeans, and get a pack of free
picks. Every band, and every player
seemed to have vanity picks with their name on them, and they tossed them out
like candy at a Christmas day parade.
buddy Todd still uses pics in leau of business cards.
So for a decade or so, I simply used whatever pick I managed to grab, paying
little attention to what it was made out of or how thick it was. Then in the 90’s I started to play
professionally quite a bit more and decided to re-think my pic philosophy. About that time I read an article on the
virtues of the tardrop-shaped Dunlop Nylon Jazz picks ... bought some and hated
them. I’d unsuccessfully tried Fender’s
tear-drop pics, I should have known that size and shape just didn’t work for
For a while I did what some of the A-team Nashville session guys did at the
time and used a cut-off thumb pick with a traditional pick stuck under it. That didn’t ever really work for me, but I’ve
still got the mutilated thumb picks.
I tried a bunch of picks with "grippy" surfaces and I hated each and every
one of them.
Next, I experimented with nearly every pick Dunlop makes, and ya gotta hand
it to them, they make a bunch of different picks: Celluloid, Nylon, Ultex, Tortex, Poly, Felt, Delrin,
flat picks and thumb picks, big picks and little picks, the list goes on and on ... My hat’s off to Dunlop for their contributions to us all, but oh, the
Darn if I didn’t come back to
the same old dilemma, when it came right down to it, I preferred the celluloid
picks, everything else just didn’t sound as good and the tip wore down quickly,
and when they wore down, they sounded even worse. Of course, the celluloid pics broke with a
Then lightning struck: I happened upon a single d’addario pick unlike any
other I’d ever felt. It had a real magic
on acoustic guitar, and try as I may, I couldn’t wear the thing down. Ureka, I’d found my pick! Problem: it was no longer made. I actually called d’addario and was told they
should still be available under the Planet Waves name, but I have never been
able to find them. After years of use,
that special pic did finally break, and even then it behaved unlike any other
pick I’ve ever owned, actually breaking from top to bottom!
Ever since, I’ve been a pic nomad, wandering aimlessly from pic to
pick. Early this summer I picked up a
handful of (free) music-store branded picks, later that evening, after playing
the first song of the evening at an outdoor show, I thought something black was
raining down out of the sky. I had black
powder all over myself and my guitar. It
was the pick, now only a fraction of its original size. I shoulda known better.
For the most part, I was back to celluloid pics, mostly made by Martin, for
acoustic work; and various Dunlop pics for electric.
So, that takes me to where this blog started, the summer NAMM show in Nashville; I was seriously
primed to find the new pic of my dreams.
Did I find it? Well, yes, but not
the way I expected. The V-Picks wound up
(for me anyway) being in roughly the same classification as the stone "mind
pick": a neat curiosity, but not a functional pic. Like the rock pick, they have absolutely no "give"
to them, and they felt like a chunk of Plexiglas in my hand. That may be your thing, but it’s not mine.
The real hit was that "finns" pick that Daniel handed me. Turns out it is, in fact, a nylon pic made by
Dunlop, but it doesn’t feel or respond like any other nylon pic I’ve ever
held. I’ve never liked a pic that was
not of the traditional size/shape, but I like this one. On acoustic, it sounds very much like a thin celluloid
pic: bright, expressive, and sensitive.
On electric it sounds and feels like a cross between a nylon and a celluloid,
with the best qualities of both, like that magic d’addario. Oh, and that weird shape? Well, all I can say is that it works for me,
actually felt quite natural from the very first time I used it. Give one a try, I double-dog dare ya.
Next week I plan to have some video comparisons of some of the pics
highlighted here, it’s gonna be awesome!
But first I’ll leave you with a couple of interesting novelty picks.
First the edible weatware pic ... actually made from wheat. I didn’t actually try eating one, but when I
tried playing with them, they instantly broke.
Next the pic preferred by countless punk rockers:
And finally, I had to include this:
Got your own pic story? Share it with us here
as a comment to this blog! See ya next