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Guitar: Thumb Picks

Joe Offer 21 Feb 15 - 11:13 PM
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Subject: Guitar: Thumb Picks
From: Joe Offer
Date: 21 Feb 15 - 11:13 PM

Another fine thread resurrected by punkfolkrocker

Subject: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,Justin
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 10:57 AM

For the last seven years I have been playing acoustic guitar. For the first year I had a tutor who taught me the basics, since then I have pretty much taught myself...

In all this time I have only been able to strum the guitar and now would like to take the plunge into the dark science of finger-picking.
Are metal thumb-picks an aid in this technique or a hindrance for a beginner like myself?

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,gillymor
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 11:45 AM

Hi Justin, if you go to the box on the upper right of this page and type thumbpicks and/or fingerpicks in the search box and uncheck DT and leave the Forum box checked you'll find all kinds of threads on this subject.
There's a lot of ways to go and it's a matter of personal preference. I keep my fingernails just slightly higher than the pads of my fingers and strike the string with a combination of flesh and nail. I only use a thumbpick (a plastic Dunlop and I shorten the point of it and thin it a bit with piece of sandpaper) when I'm playing with someone else or if the side of my thumb gets sore. Most of the time I like the raw flesh sound better. When I used to perform regularly I had acrylic nails applied at a nail salon to maintain some consistency. Never could get comfortable with fingerpicks.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: olddude
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 12:04 PM

No for banjo yes but I find them no good on guitar for me at least

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 12:14 PM

I play with thumbpicks (Dunlop 'Heavies Calico' plastic or BlueChip stainless-steel band with a plastic blade) and finger-picks (ProPiks 'Fingertone' nickels or National nickels). I can play with bare thumb and fingers, but I hate the lack of volume and the dead, mushy tone it produces, so I mostly stick to the picks.

I used to have my fingernails re-in forced with acrylic gel and fibreglass wraps, but I had problems with the health of my natural nails, so I had to give it up.

As with all these things, playing with picks is a technique that has to be learned and practiced to achieve any kind of expertise. It's down to persistence. And also down to personal preference - nobody else can tell you what to like!

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Stanron
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 01:05 PM

If you play on your own at home then picks are not essential. Picks give a stronger and brighter sound at the expense of subtlety and sensitivity. If you gig acoustically you might prefer to use picks.

Keep in mind that if you depend on picks you will be at a loss if you loose or forget them.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,ploppo
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 01:38 PM

Your local guitar store should stock a range of different picks, so try em all.
I think a thumb pick balances the basses against the higher frequency trebles so evening up the overall sound.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,DrWord
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 03:04 PM

Hey (guest) Justin!
YES!!! try them (but you can skip the fingerpicks IMHO :)
but by all means follow up on the stuff these 'catters have suggested--including checking out previous threads.

personally I love the extra-heavy Golden Gate, though the generic lighter ones do work. When I am rich I want to try the BlueChip.

keep on pickin'

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: AlbertsLion
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 05:39 PM

I use a plastic thumb pick only, preferably Dunlop. I find metal too harsh and finger picks impossible! Personal preference.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Leadfingers
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 07:23 PM

Once I got past the Dum Ching bit , I was shown the Thumb and one finger , then added the other fingers , and found Jim Dunlop metal picks - Thumb Pick plus three ! They come in various weights , anf suit me fine . but like all these things , its down to personal preference .
If you have access to Kinder Egg chocolate , the plastic case the toy comes in is ideal for a set of thumb and finger picks plus a couple of plectra .

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 10:38 PM

Metal thumbpicks are a little cumbersome but do give brighter tone and volume. I use to use plastic for comfort but now I use metal fingerpicks in a .13 gauge for flexibility without sacrificing volume, but I use a plastic thumbpick. Really made a difference . . . i can now be heard in a jam. Also, the more you can press them down your finger with less pick hanging out the more control you'll have. Jus the metal tip past your fingernail is all you'll need. Any more your asking for clutter . . . picks get hung up in strings and you lose control.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: JenBurdoo
Date: 04 Feb 15 - 11:25 PM

Hm, I wonder if I should try a pick. I like the idea of stronger sound. Can it also help with control of which strings you're plucking, because I'm having trouble sticking to the bottom four for regular chords?

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: breezy
Date: 05 Feb 15 - 07:20 AM

Picks enable you to play gently.
I have spent 40 years with them.
Its knowing how to adapt them to your fingers. I've been through the lot and am now very content .
I wouldnt be without them.
I keep them safe.
The best ones arrrrgggh ................

P M for further details
btw Which country are you in ?
This expert is based in Herts UK

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 05 Feb 15 - 07:41 AM

I agree with Breezy - I can play equally as well, perhaps even better, using thumbpick and finger-picks as I could when I used a thumbpick and nails/flesh. It's a matter of practice and perseverance.

I keep my picks in a boc that lives in the guitar case, and I have three sets, so loss of a set isn't Armaggeddon AFAIC. it's just a case of being organised.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Backwoodsman
Date: 05 Feb 15 - 07:56 AM

Boc? BOX!

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,Bignige
Date: 05 Feb 15 - 01:03 PM

As someone said above depends on the characteristic of the tune or song you are playing sometimes the softer feel of skin is ok, sometimes for a better attack the thumbpick is necessary. Personally I use a Blue Chip thumbpick a Reso JD L, got a slightly longer blade which I like. Did use Dunlops all plastic, but got fed up with them breaking at the bend. If you listen to Tommy Emmanuel he advises muteing with the palm of you picking hand on the louder heavier stuff, I would recommend this>

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: PHJim
Date: 05 Feb 15 - 09:10 PM

I like the Herco Flex 52 Blue Nylon Thumbpicks. I buy them at Steel Guitars Of Canada, since it's the only music store I've found that stocks them.
I get acrylic gel nails applied at a local nail salon. When I played Scruggs style banjo, before the old arthritis slowed me down, I used National finger-picks.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: JenBurdoo
Date: 05 Feb 15 - 10:20 PM

I just tried using the backs of my fingers to strum and was surprised at the sound. So I cut out a crude pick from an old rewards card and experimented. That seems to be the solution to not hearing the music on recordings (I have vague delusions of posting on Youtube someday and have been messing about with a webcam). How hard is it to switch between thumb and pick; are you pretty much stuck with learning one way or the other?

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: breezy
Date: 06 Feb 15 - 05:02 AM

with a thumb pick it allows you to twiddle yer fingers.

some players hold a pick and manage to twiddle their fingers, but if only they had used a thumb pick in earlier years then they would be even better players, hey Richard T , you hearing this ?

To Play 'Claw hammer ' you need to free up all your assets

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: PHJim
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 04:01 PM

Many folks who play with thumb and finger picks can get a flatpick sound by picking down with the thumb and up with the index finger. Don Reno or Rev Gary Davis did this.
Many guitar players hold a flat-pick in their thumb and index and play with their middle and/or ring fingers. Many Tele or Rock-a-billy players use this method.
There are thumb picks that are flexible enough to use as flat picks when you need that sound.
Many folks alternate between the two styles, but play in a conventional way. Some have figured a way of palming the flat pick while they use their fingers.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Amos
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 05:17 PM

While I can Travis pick with my thumbnail, my preference is for the convenient Bumblebee thumbpick, which doubles as a flat for strumming but is an adaptable picker's thumbpick.

They are produced by Fred Kelly and can be bought through Amazon.


Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Mark Clark
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 07:21 PM

As olddude said, metal thumb picks are best for bluegrass style banjo. The best thumb pick for guitar is the Fred Kelly Slick Pick. They're available in three "weights." These are essential for thumbpicking (Merle Travis, Thom Bresh, Buster B. Jones, et al.) as you can't achieve the technique without a thumb pick. Fingerpicking styles that are closer to classical style can be done with or without a thumb pick. Geoff Muldaur (discussed in another active thread) for instance, plays beautiful fingerstyle guitar with his bare fingers.

      - Mark

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 08:17 PM

Whatever opinions as to 'Best' are put forward , it all comes down to personal preference ! I was absolutely CRAP with a flat pick on guitar until I had been playing Mandolin for a while . Its ALL down to that TERRIBLE NASTY WORD - Practice !
Try EVERYTHING you can get hold of , at home , and filter out what you don't feel comfortable with . And not just for five minutes !

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Leadfingers
Date: 09 Feb 15 - 08:24 PM

And Breezy talks sense - Always admired his picking !

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Rumncoke
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 09:07 AM

I did not like picks until I realised that they could be softened in hot water and shaped as to fit easily and also to get the angle right, so that the tip strikes the string flat rather than just catching it on one edge.
Once correctly shaped they made playing for long periods less physically demanding, reducing strain on the joints of the fingers and encouraging daily practice.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Brian Peters
Date: 10 Feb 15 - 09:46 AM

I don't think it's been said yet that a thumbpick tends to alter the angle at which your hand addresses the strings, making it more side-on. Unless you play a lot with a bare thumb and have a tough lateral callus, without a pick you'll be using your thumbnail, which will throw your hand over so the fingers approach end-on. So switching between the two approaches can give problems.

I use Jim Dunlop medium on my thumb (for guitar).

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: banjoman
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 04:57 AM

Brian - agree with what you say about changing the angle of attack. I overcome this to some degree by using either a shaved down pick which puts the picking surface as close to the thumb pad as possible. Other idea is to use a metal pick again bent to cover the thumb pad. have also tried some new picks which fit over thumb & fingers and are flat to the thumb. Not very good as I found them restrictive.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: breezy
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 07:07 AM

gee thanks Terry, what a nice thing to say.

Will let you have a speed pick to try next time we meet up, It'll take less than 5 minutes, Oh you have one already , welcome.

happy new era

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,Tunesmith
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 02:39 PM

Breezy said:
"some players hold a pick and manage to twiddle their fingers, but if only they had used a thumb pick in earlier years then they would be even better players, hey Richard T , you hearing this ?"

Take it from me, Richard Thompson can play - beautifully - with a thumb-pick! ( he can also play beautifully with his teeth, I'm sure).

When approaching a song/tune Richard will adopt the playing method that - for him - bests suits the song.

Be that, bare-finger, thumb-pick/fingers, plec, plec/fingers) hybrid).

And, that the place ALL players should shrive to be!

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: GUEST,Bignige
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 04:33 PM

Agree 100% Tunesmith. There should be no likes or dislikes, if you practice the various techniques enough you eventually become proficient at them all. As the great Tommy Emmanuel says you're either willing to put in hours or your not. If you do these little preferences evaporate.

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: breezy
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 05:56 PM

Which thumb picks do you use then nigel ?

I've learned that one can pay big punts for one thumb pick.

Nigels dont play Guitars !!!!

Subject: RE: Tech: Thumb picks
From: Bee-dubya-ell
Date: 11 Feb 15 - 06:34 PM

I probably tried every thumb pick on the market before being turned on to Fred Kelly Speed Picks by an Autoharp player. I've used nothing else since. I use 'em for guitar, banjo, Dobro, and Autoharp.

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