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Flat Pick Question

17 Mar 01 - 02:54 PM (#420021)
Subject: Flat Pick Question
From: GUEST,marty D

I don't THINK this topic has been discussed before, but anyway I'm more interested in what current Mudcatz'njammers think.

What's the RIGHT weight of flatpick to use for D.Watson, Norman Blake, Merle Travis, Tony Rice style playing?


17 Mar 01 - 05:04 PM (#420074)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Midchuck

You have got to be kidding. Please tell me you're kidding.

Go here and search under "pick" and "weight" and such. The flatpick list has been operational for just five years, and there may have been a week go by without a debate on that question, but I can't remember when it was. You can find enough opinions on the issue to provide you with several weeks reading.

My own personal preference - having in mind that I only do lead flatpicking alone in the kitchen, and when I play "out" it's rhythm backup (albeit with some fancy bass lines now and then) for singing or fiddles, etc. - at the moment is a Fender California Clear medium. But when I'm tired, but still need to make a lot of noise, I fall back on my prior preference, the Clayton "Gold" .94, with holes drilled for better grip.


Link fixed - JoeClone

17 Mar 01 - 05:08 PM (#420079)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Midchuck

Well, I screwed that up. Try again

go here


17 Mar 01 - 05:10 PM (#420082)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Bluebelle

Generally, most flatpickers like a thicker rather than thin (or flimsy) pick, with Clayton Golds (.85 to 1 being the average thickness) being the choice of many. One exception is Steve Kaufman, who prefers a very thin pick. Much depends on what sound you are trying to achieve and whether you are playing lead or straight rhythm or rhythm and throwing in licks. For rhythm, I like Clayton Gold .80 or .72. For lead, I will use a Martin .96 or even a Clayton Gold 1.20. I use the aforementioned when I'm jamming at festivals or fiddler's conventions and usually outside.

My favorte pick is a 1.05 tortoise shell pick, which gives me just the "pop" that I want when I hit the strings. They are, however, spendy ($35) and difficult to come by because they are illegal to sell (not illegal to own).

It all boils down to, with what mm of pick you are comfort able and the sound you want to achieve. My suggestion would be to experiment with different thicknesses. Except for the tortoise, the other picks mentioned are cheap and it won't break you to buy several different kinds and thicknesses for experimentation.

I hope this helps and doesn't totally confuse you.

17 Mar 01 - 05:44 PM (#420098)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Bedubya


One thing to be aware of when talking pick gauges is that different picks are made from different materials. Manufacturers only grade picks by thickness, not stiffness. A "medium" pick made by one company may be the equivalent of a "medium-heavy" in another. I broke a bunch of strings a few years ago because the music store was out of the D'addario picks I was using and I bought Dunlop Tortex of the same gauge. I assumed they were pretty much identical since they even use the same colors to identify the gauges. WRONG! They are about 20% stiffer (by my unscientific calculation). I was already using as heavy a pick as my playing style would allow and strings started popping left and right. It took me a month to figure that one out. Now I use the Tortexes (of a lighter gauge) because they have the stiffness without feeling like you're playing with a man-hole cover.

17 Mar 01 - 09:09 PM (#420190)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Bluebelle

Don't know about Doc, Norman, or Merle, but TR uses real TS.

18 Mar 01 - 11:35 AM (#420422)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: GUEST,marty D

Sorry Midchuck, but I assure you I wasn't joking. There are probably thousands of sites I haven't yet discovered, and as I mentioned in the 'vanishing Guest' thread, I don't have as much access to computers as some. Aside from that, I much prefer the conversational tone of Mudcat to anything else I've discovered musically on the net. Plus there's a kind of 'please and thank you' around here that I don't find at the psychology sites I also visit.

So much information! If tortoiseshell is illegal, how do you get it? Is it really that much better? Thanks all.


18 Mar 01 - 12:48 PM (#420454)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Willie-O

You take it off a tortoise. (Don't.)

When I started recording my guitar playing about seven years ago, I was a confirmed 1 mm (Dunlop nylon textured grip) kinda guy. The producer/engineer convinced me that a heavy inflexible pick, at least when I'm playing it. (and I do play fairly fast and loud) tended to dig into the strings too much and yield harsh unpleasant results. I went to 88's for awhile. Now I use a .73 Tortex (JDunlop), and I'm a much happier person...mellower.


18 Mar 01 - 01:22 PM (#420468)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: John Hardly

Another factor to consider, Marty D,

At least two of the fellows you mention in your initial inquiry, in addition to Dan Crary, Scott Nygaard, Joel Mabus and many others are using the upper, more rounded corners of their picks, not the point.

19 Mar 01 - 01:14 AM (#420703)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Rick Fielding

Hi Marty. Hate to be the first one here to tell you, but Merle never USED a flatpick!

Good question though, and once again you'll get a variety of answers...all correct, for the folks that "do it that way". Bluebelle's obviously experienced, and has some good info, but he may not be aware that "Clayton Golds" are hard to find in many areas. Dunlop nylons are usually found everywhere. Tortex, as well.

My advice is just as subjective as anyone's. I've been flatpicking for many years and have changed brands and thicknesses more than I've changed underwear (well, almost). To complicate matters I have "outdoors", "indoors", "rhythm" and "lead" picks, cause I simply haven't found one that "does it all". I like a lot of "dynamics" in my playing, and for that I use slightly lighter picks than if I was only playing single line leads. Tortex '73s seem to be the best "compromise" pick for me. (Like Willie) If you can find them you might try "Reefer picks". Once again, these are regional and not often found, but who knows? YOUR region may have 'em. They're very thin, but very stiff. I bought a lot of them a few years ago, and save them for special occasions.....the problem? They break after three songs!! Turtles don't break......unless we humans do the breakin'.

A couple of things to keep in mind though..John's reminder about using the "round edge" (I don't, but I FILE the point round) and Midchuck's "hole" for easier handling if you're new at it, or simply like it that way.

Good luck

19 Mar 01 - 11:20 AM (#420857)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: jofield

Oooo...pickers obsessing on picks...just my style. I discovered Clayton Gold's awhile ago, and they seem the best to me since tortoise-shell became illegal. (I went into an acoustic-instrument store outside Boston about two years ago and casually asked if they ever got in any tortoise-shell picks. I was nearly thrown out of the place...but I digress.) I only play the "rounded triangle" shape, and in the Claytons, I mostly use the .80s, but I picked up a couple of .94s just for variation -- I like them both. Now in Paris, of all places, I came across a beautiful, very stiff, glass-like pick -- translucent with a rainbow design in it -- by PickBoy in 1.20 mm. This is a bit heavy for me, but it was the only size they had. PickBoy has a website, which does not show the rounded triangle in their "Rainbow" line. I actually exchanged e-mails with someone at PickBoy, and it looks like they don't make that one any more. What a shame.

19 Mar 01 - 11:22 AM (#420860)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Fortunato

You mean there are other flat picks beside a Fender medium?

Maybe I should look into this.

regards, Fortunato

19 Mar 01 - 11:36 AM (#420871)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: GUEST,Matt_R

I've used the same pick for the last 3 years. It's a thin, grey pick. I don't think it's a very known company, and I paid 10 cents for it. Actually, I have 4 of them, but I only ever use the one. The other, though they appear exactly the same, can't equal this one. I've lost it so many times over the these 3 years, but I always find it again before too long. And it shows no sign of breaking, even with my often violent strumming, flatpicking, and pick scraping. I know we can all agree on certain guitars we've owned having a soul...but what do you think about picks? Because my little pick has more soul and heart than pieces of plastic 10 times it's value in dollars...

19 Mar 01 - 01:11 PM (#420961)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Bluebelle

Rick Fielding is probably correct, in that it may be difficult to walk into your local guitar shop and find Clayton Gold flatpicks. It is, however, possible to find them from one of the online vendors, i.e.,,,, I'm sorry, but I cannot remember, from which vendor, I ordered mine.

Yes, Fortunato, flatpicks have come a long way and there are other choices besides Fender Medium. Just as there are other strings, now, besides Black Diamond, which I think only came in Medium.

19 Mar 01 - 01:39 PM (#420995)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: GUEST,Matt_R

BTW my pick/soulmate is a Jim Dunlop, nylon, .60mm.

19 Mar 01 - 03:05 PM (#421049)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Rick Fielding

Bluebelle, you hit that one right. I just asked at my local (the 12th Fret here in Toronto) and they weren't familiar with them. They suggested that the company probably doesn't have a Canadian distributor....but I'm I e-mailed a friend in Washington and he's going to send me a couple of 88s.

Damn I'll try anything new....I guess that's why I have a box with about 2000 picks in it!



19 Mar 01 - 06:54 PM (#421179)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Armen Tanzerian

I agree: the best flatpicks available now that turtle picks are illegal are the Clayton Golds.

19 Mar 01 - 09:53 PM (#421250)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: John Hardly

If we're talking favorites;

Clayton thicker golds--as versatile as a pick can git. when new they do that wounderful thhhhnnik and when they achieve their natural polish they just go Pmmmmmmm

JD Jazztone 207 Thumb-chuncky, thick, roOound-n-funky.

Tortex-"I tried the purple and it was toooo plain, I tried the green and it was tooooo snick-clicky, I tried the blue and it was juuuuust right" --goldilocks

Tim "The Toolman" Taylor pick---Fender fake tort-shell extra heavy clipped with fingernail clippers and sanded satin edged with ultrafine wet/dry sandpaper.

Oh, how I love a good pick.

19 Mar 01 - 11:51 PM (#421298)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: DonMeixner

I use white Tortex Flat Picks that come to a definite point. They are very thick, like a quarter, and they are blistering fast for banjos.

My Dad once made a Jade flat pick for a friend who thought it to be perfect, very stiff. He was a cross picker and liked the heavy weight of it. Very pricey tho'.


20 Mar 01 - 02:01 AM (#421322)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Seamus Kennedy

Tortex yellow long pointies. I use 'em on the guitar for lead and rhythm, and for mandolin and tenor-banjo. Good crisp clear sound, and when the point wears down and becomes rounded, I file 'em pointy again. I also buy them by the hundreds, and have done for the last 5 years. It's annoying going into a store and when I take my money out of my trouser pocket to pay for an item, 10 or 12 picks fall on the counter. I leave on or 2 as a tip.

Good pickin'


20 Mar 01 - 08:18 AM (#421430)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Rick Fielding

Ha Ha! Seamus. I know the problem. I'm always pullin' flat picks and finger picks out of my pockets before i get to the change for a newspaper. Can be a conversation starter in Variety stores.


20 Mar 01 - 08:29 AM (#421438)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Mooh

Though I experiment quite alot, I always come back to the Dunlop Gatorgrips (at least that's what the shopkeep calls them), the ones with an alligator on them. Purple ones, .71mm, more or less medium weight picks. I switched to them about 10 years ago from Fender mediums. Once in a while I'll use a lighter one, but not often. That's for guitar.

I use the 1.14mm for mandolin, though I use dull point for reasons I haven't figured out yet.

I've got a box full of picks of a thousand shapes, sizes, and composition. I give alot away, but somehow they seem to breed.


20 Mar 01 - 08:35 AM (#421442)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: John Hardly

Mando picks

Golden Gates--big as a dinner plate but round and fast

"Dawg" Picks--esentially ultra polished Golden Gates but they are so polished that if you use the normal, hard, chunk attack, expecting the same resistance when pick meets string (that you are used to) you will throw your arm out at the shoulder!

20 Mar 01 - 01:35 PM (#421716)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: John Hardly

Y'know Rick, Jed, Catspaw and some of the real guitar players around here could write a book (or at least a sizable pamphlet) on pick tone, so I know this is a coals-to-newcastle offering, but I can't help but offer;

When one is asking about the picks that some guitar hero uses, implied by the question is "how does one duplicate the tone?".

There are at least two factors that are at least AS important as the choice of pick and which corner of the pick the guy uses;

1. In a continuum from Dan Crary, who is a "bridge player" to Joel Mabus who plays even a little north of the sound hole, the tone is considerably different.

If you imagine the extreme of "plucking" you could do in the very middle of the string (over the 12th fret), the string is at it's most flexible. The other extreme would be just at the bridge and the pick really "strikes" more than plucks the string. The more "striking" attack achieves the more "bell-like" tone, the more "plucky" the attack, the more "woody" and "jangly" the tone.

2. This is more arguable--
Where or if a guy "anchors" affects the tone. It does so in that it affects where a guy might strike the string as in the above example, but it also affect the part or amount of the soundboard that is deadened.

Dan Crary anchors on the bridge which theoretically deadenes the soundboard the most. Joel Mabus anchors with a pinky which will have a less dampening effect, and Doc "floats", presumably least dampening, all things being equal.

20 Mar 01 - 01:45 PM (#421724)
Subject: RE: Flat Pick Question
From: Songster Bob

Tone is in the fingers, as they use the pick, so heavy/light/thin/thick/tortex/plastic/tortoise all have so many permutations (particularly tortoise, since, as a natural product, there's lots of variation in strength, density, stiffness, etc., even among picks from the same species). Folks are even trying cow hoof, deer antler, and non-threatened tortoise species.

I find that I use my tortoise picks only on mandolin, and Fender mediums for guitar. But I'm not a Norman Blake/Doc Watson/ Dan Crary flatpicker (and, parenthetically, neither was Merle Travis, who used thumb and fingers, not a flatpick, so far as I know), so YMMV ("Your mileage...."). I know that if you want to do the single-note style of playing, rather than the full-strum rock-god rhythm style, you need something from medium on "up." Those thins just don't make it.

Of course, on electrics, it doesn't matter so much, it seems.

Bob C.