Do Drive Pedals Work Better With A Pick?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by socialleper, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. Pick

  2. Finger

  3. Either sounds the same

  1. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    When I listen to OD\distortion\fuzz demos, I'd say 90% of them have the player using a pick. When I mess around with my arsenal of drive pedals at home, I find myself wanting to use a pick more. It seems to bring out the articulation and character of the pedal. The rub is that I don't really like playing with a pick anymore. I'm not a purist or anything, it just hurts my hand, and my playing style doesn't fit with a pick.
    What do you think? Do you prefer the sound of your OD\distortion\fuzz with a pick, with your fingers, or are indifferent.
  2. IMO, it depends on the particular pedal, its settings and the signal chain/contexts. In my particular case, the MXR Bass Distortion sounds better with a pick, the Way Huge Swollen Pickle better with fingers, and the T-Rex Bass Juice equially awesome, but different with each technique.
    lfmn16 likes this.
  3. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    I had been avoiding using a pick with my new Elixir strings & I often play with overdrive on. It's integrated into the Rumble I'm using.
    The first time I pulled out a V-Pick on my SR1800E with those SS Elixirs it sounded like the guy wires of a telephone pole being struck with a wrench. I was well chuffed:

    So yes, I'm going to say a pick attack goes well with O/D, but in this case I only had the overdrive turned up 50%.
    Once you get up to 75% or more, not so much...
  4. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    It certainly sounds different. I generally prefer them with a pick.
    10cc and lfmn16 like this.
  5. Nick von Nick

    Nick von Nick Supporting Member

    Oct 29, 2014
    I might be wrong, but for me (and many others) it seems to have a lot to do with the attack transient of a picked note versus a plucked attack. I've found that when I play with a pick, the initial audio peak from the pick attack itself is more abrubt/intense, which in turn feeds the distortion. My plucked attack has a much smoother transient with a more gradual increase toward the audio peak. Also, my fingerstyle transient is almost certainly affected that I pluck right over the end of the neck (Frets 19/20 on my J-Bass), and I dig into the strings a lot.

    I hope that helps!
    ~Nick "Klaus" G.

    P.S. I hope someone can correct me if I misrepresented anything; my knowledge of acoustics is rudimentary at best.
  6. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Bergantino-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    They certainly sound different, "better" is all about context.

    A pick will always give you a more pronounced transient attack :thumbsup:

  7. socialleper

    socialleper Bringer of doom and top shelf beer Supporting Member

    May 31, 2009
    Canyon Country, CA
    I say "better" only because it feels like there is also a change in the mids with a pick that drive pedals seem to like more. I can bounce a string by digging in, but it still sometimes feels a little muddy. It could be that when I pick it is closer to the bridge, but when I play finger it is right over the middle position.

    I noticed that a lot of bands that use heavily driven bass, like Royal Blood, tend to use picks. The one guy who has a drive sound I love, and uses his fingers live is Leo Smee of Cathedral and With the Dead. I'm basing that on videos of live performances; who knows if he records the same way.
  8. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Bergantino-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    There is absolutely a change in the sound of the mids when playing with a pick: I've never compared them on a frequency analyzer, but fingerstyle is more "closed" sounding whereas a pick is more "open".
    alesreaper9 and zapped777 like this.
  9. MDBass

    MDBass Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2012
    Los Angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Dingwall-Fender-Bergantino-Dunlop-Tech 21-Darkglass-Nordstrand
    Plenty of bands that use a ton of drive on their bass tones play fingerstyle too (Mastodon, Sabbath, Cannibal Corpse, etc.) but overall tone is usually darker than the bands that use a pick.
  10. For me fingers are a lot more aggressive and sound better. The old time I pick is on flat with a bit of dirt for hiphop stuff
  11. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member

    What counts as "better" depends on what you WANT it to sound like. But I do think that, overall and in general, you get a more aggressive attack with a pick with more highs and mids, and most OD pedals seem to respond to those frequencies much more vigorously.
    ObsessiveArcher and two fingers like this.
  12. keatz


    Jan 19, 2011
    If u have a pedal with the right eq points to adjust, fingers can sound just as aggressive. But in general pick ussually naturally brings out all the good freqs for OD. Unfortunately for me, i am awkward as all hell with a pick, so i just use fingers. I can strum chords ok on a guitar but my single picking is horrendous. The pick i recieved from darkglass inspired me to try again, but just didnt have the patience. I can pretty much achieve any tone i want with my fingers anyway
  13. Pretty much for the past 7 years I’ve only played finger style... true that there are bassists I like their tone a lot who pick ( Justin chancellor for one) but sometimes find pick gets too much treble / upper mid for me.. I like my tone smooth and round and hate treble (especially string / fret noise / clang although respect that for some players that’s part of their mix and helps cut through a metal band). I occasionally slap in my band so I guess a few instances where I want lots of grit can use that. Rung out slapped b string will have a much different attack than just plucked.

    Long story short, I love a dark yet not too dark tone so fingers for me?
  14. Both are cool. Anyone who says you can’t get a nice overdriven sound playing fingerstyle has obviously never seen bands like Karnivool or rage against the machine play.
  15. Iamgoodformetal


    Apr 13, 2014
    Picks tend to generate less low end and more upper mids and treble. This corresponds with what overdrive typically does to the signal, so the two elements are complimentary. The sharper attack also plays well. That being said, I play fingerstyle with distortion. It helps to hit the string vertically relative to bass, and use a passing motion rather than pulling and releasing. Basically slapping with your fingertips.
    fleizenkruz likes this.
  16. crapusername


    Sep 26, 2005
    North Kent.UK
    endorsing artist: Dean guitars, Marshall , Rotosound strings
    I find that some pedals work better with fingers over pick.
    I'm primarily a fingerist, but for some songs I need to pick to get the tone right for the song.
    All the stuff mentioned earlier about transient attack is true. The harder front end on the sound from a pick really makes a difference in the right context.
    ObsessiveArcher likes this.
  17. ThinCrappyTone

    ThinCrappyTone Guest

    Oct 1, 2011
    its just a different sound, neither better nor worse
    crapusername likes this.
  18. Hot damn, was that your video? Because I’d love to know what the Overdrive being used was. I’m no expert on drives, but the Dunlop MXR Bass OD I had was nowhere near sounding like that, and that clip sounded close to the few SVT demonstrations I’ve heard.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2018
    MDBass likes this.
  19. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yeah this. If you are going for that sound, a pick works best. If you are going for a slightly driven Jack Bruce kind of sound, a pick is not your friend. So "better" is relative. But it is certainly different and more aggressive.
    crapusername and hrodbert696 like this.
  20. Nanaki


    Dec 13, 2016
    I'd say od, fuzz etc sound clearer when using a pick... Better? that's subjective :)
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