Welcome to the Shredblog!
This is a place where we will be dispensing guitar technique knowledge, as well as practical tips and ‘How To’ guides to certain parts of the electric guitar in relation to it’s study.
Picking technique is so vastly important. That is a fair statement to say – however beyond picking technique itself, what about the actual plectrum?
The plectrum, or guitar pick, is the point between you and your strings, the frets, fretboard, neck and body of the guitar.
It’s arguably the cheapest tool in the stockade of every guitar players practice space. However, the thickness of this incredible tool, as well as the material and shape can determine our success or failure as guitarists in terms of translating what we hear in our minds and what is actually being heard by our ears.
One of my favourite things to do in the studio is to change up what pick I’m using. From a 1.15mm ‘Jazz 3’ style Tortex Dunlop pick, to a custom tapered 3.5mm-2mm resin pick made by Winspear Instrumental.
They both serve unique and varied purposes and you should definitely have a few different picks like this to play with depending on what genre or technique you’ll be fundamentally training.
Typically, thick picks are great for not needing to grip as hard. That means less tension for your picking hand, and it means that you get a bigger tone out of your strings. However, you might run into something called ‘Chirp’ which is the literal sound of the pick hitting the string – an immense attack that creates an ice-picky tonality that can work great for blues and for really digging in during a melodic solo, however for fast metal riffing it’s atrocious.
Sure, it’s a matter of taste, but it can be very distracting to have an immensely massive chirp to a riff!
The solution is simple: use a thinner pick! You can buy so many plectrums out there of various sizes and shapes, and what is great is that a lot of them retain the same profile in regards to tapering – with the only adjustment being that you can buy them at various thicknesses.
That in and of itself is very helpful for one to get used to a certain profile but then be able to pivot from using a pick as a riffing tool (like a 1.00mm) or as a lead guitar solo utensil (2.00mm and up).
Finally, a word on picking harder. If you have an enormous pick, like the Dunlop Flow 4.00mm, you can still pick incredibly hard with it and it will start to bloom your note. What does that mean?
Bloom is the sound of overwhelming your pickups with your input and attack of picking – it seems to push the pickup hard and it gains a kind of harmonic overtone that picking softly or delicately will never produce. It is a really exciting thing to hear bloom done well, especially in an emotive melodic piece, because it really is yet another level of dynamic added to the part that ‘speaks’ just as much as your note selection!
To learn more about picking and feel, check out our lessons on Developing Feel and Alternate Picking Fundamentals!