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Few questions about using a pick

Discussion in 'Technique [BG]' started by krzym1, Mar 22, 2014.

  1. krzym1


    Oct 4, 2012
    Been playing bass for 2 years with fingers/slap exclusively but I've recently got interested in using a pick. I guess I'm doing ok in slow to moderate tempo songs although some things bother me.

    I'm holding my pick parallel to the strings and when I'm picking I try not to angle it, but the pick crosses the string diagonally (like a pedestrian crossing the street) - so the pick is not angled but moves from down-right side to up-left when passing the string.

    It feels kinda weird - the pick is sliding along the string during the contact - and it seems to me that flea crosses the string perpendicularly using almost exclusively elbow movement. It seems impossible to me to cross the string in that fashion using wrist movement.

    On the few picking tutorials I saw people let only a very small part of the tip of the pick to stick out, but then my index finger is often scrubbing the strings and thats hardly pleasant :p On the other hand, when I let the pick stick out more, the pick tends to scratch my pickups....

    Basically there's no technique that feels right to me so I must be doing something wrong, yet I want to learn playing with a pick.
  2. MalcolmAmos

    MalcolmAmos Supporting Member

    If I pick I use a 3.0 mm Big Stubby. Cost about a $1 to see if that thickness will help. Beyond that Carol Kaye's web site www.carolkaye.com may help. Good luck.
  3. bobalu


    Oct 1, 2004
    above the 49th
    ^^^ + to Carol Kaye's website AND she sells bass picks that I have found to be the best of any I've ever used (I've tried dozens it seems). They just seem to work so well. Cheap to try them anyway. Also, there's another recent pick thread in this forum that will help you (20 different players, 20 different best picks to use! :smug:).
  4. krzym1


    Oct 4, 2012
    Ok, I will definitely try thicker picks as my current one isnt probably even 2mm thick. Sadly I live in europe so ordering picks from Carol Kaye isnt likely to happen ;)

    As for other lengthy pick threads, there are just too many posts justifying the usage of picks, reassuring that they are as good as fingers - it just feels like a waste of time trying to find there any info that would be useful to me in between tons of junk. So thanks for replaying here :)
  5. bobalu


    Oct 1, 2004
    above the 49th
    If you PM me your mailing address, I'll send one to you (Carol Kaye pick). They are quite different than the thick/small Dunlops.
  6. squirefan


    Nov 22, 2009
    Lansing, Ks.
    I've tried to study Leon Wilkeson's (Lynyrd Skynyrd) picking position since I'm in a Skynyrd tribute but I can't seem to get comfortable with the motion he uses. Like you, I tend to have that more diagonal motion, but I live with it because it works just fine. I've become really used to using a pick over the years, but use fingers when it's called for on other music.

    I don't expose much of the pick and I guess brushing the strings with my thumb and finger never bothered me.

    Since I'm a huge Chris Squire fan, I've seen interviews with him about his technique; he actually purposely lets his thumb strike the string along with the pick to create a kind of pinch harmonic. He attributes alot of his sound to this technique.
    Incidentally, I use the same pick he does (Herco .88mm, the silver or gray ones), but I was using them before I found out that he does. They're very comfortable and easy to keep hold of to me.

    So I'd say go ahead and study different players' style, and try all kinds of different pick gauges and even shapes. I have many different ones I've tried.
    The longer you use one you'll get more comfortable with it and find what works for you.
    Like any technique it takes practice.

    Are these available retail, or online only?
    I'd like to give them a try at your recommendation.
  7. Well, the deal is that there's a difference in sound. I personally have a couple of different pick thicknesses and positions for different genres and situations. If you're playing a metal tune with thick, blown out distortion, the diagonal attack is nice because it gives you a kind of scrape that's good with certain colors of gain. If you're going for, say, Live Wire, AC/DC kind of minimal overtone in your picking, then perpendicular is the way to go.
  8. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    3mm is a very heavy duty pick. I believe a thicker pick gives you more control with bass, guitar, mandolin, whatever. But I think you might want to start with something like a fender heavy and see how that feels. Then maybe work up to 1.5mm and higher.
  9. I didn't feel like digging around for a pick today, so I just grabbed a quarter (coin). Worked fine mostly because I only needed it for palm-mute picking sound.

    What I do is just make sure the bass is close to parallel to the ground. Looks goofy, might take some adjustment with your strap and playing technique, but it's the easiest method to stop pick scraping.

    Some players also sharpen their picks to a point using sandpaper. That might help too.
  10. FretlessMainly


    Nov 17, 2010
    Although mainly a fingers player, I've used picks on guitar for over 35 years. More recently, I've used picks on bass on occasion, and I do the exact opposite. I remove the sharp tip with sandpaper and use the side edge of the pick. And these picks are 3 mm or more in thickness. It's all about attack; in a band situation, it's hard to image a problem with extraneous noise.

    When using a pick, I anchor my wrist on a pickup cover and pick between the cover and the butt end of the neck.
  11. I was testing out my various picks: sharp-point 1.0mm, .88mm rounded, a thin pick (those random ones with custom logos), and again... a quarter. It's pretty much just getting a good angle.

    When my bass is angled up 45 degrees, I have to twist my wrist a bit so the pick attacks the strings parallel. Unfortunately, it doesn't feel very natural and I have a feeling it's going to hurt when I tremelo-pick. So I would just bring the neck down instead, to match my natural playing techniques. Personally, I don't anchor my hand down anywhere usually unless for faster picking, as I prefer moving around for different tones.

    Sharpening picks to a point is allegedly for more accuracy, especially for guitar solo-ing. Apparently, some folks play so hardcore they dull the tips on certain kinds of picks. I don't seem to have that problem on guitar or bass.

    Whatever pick you choose is up to you, it will affect tone also - maybe not so readily noticeable on bass. I normally use Dunlop Tortex 1.0mm picks. I prefer thin picks for strumming on acoustic. I have a few heavier picks (2.0mm) that sound full for single-notes, but too bright for me when strumming.
  12. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    Cool, I sort of collect picks. I don't go online and order collectible picks or anything like that, but I buy odd, unusual or interesting picks whenever I'm in a music store.
    I also buy ones with store names on them.

    So something like that would be cool to add.
  13. krzym1


    Oct 4, 2012
    Well, I figured it out that keeping bass parallel to the ground will help a bit but I thought that this will limit my fretting hand. I will try to adjust now.

    I'm unhappy that sometimes my fingers touch the strings because the note gets a bit muted, I'm reaaally far away from using this to get some fancy harmonics stuff ;)
  14. Lobster11

    Lobster11 Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Williamsburg, VA
    I'm in the same situation and struggling with the exact same problem. (In fact, I was thinking about starting a thread with a post almost identical to yours, so thanks for doing it for me!) Here's my own take on the problem:

    I've been trying to stick closely to Carole Kaye's technique -- which among other things emphasizes all motion being in the wrist -- and I find it natural and easy to do when I play sitting down (as Carole does in all of the videos I've seen). With the bass high relative to my body (sitting on my sofa) and in a horizontal position, it's easy to maintain a strumming motion almost perfectly perpendicular to the strings. But when I try to do it standing, with the bass at a normal height, I don't see how it is possible for the wrist motion to be anything but diagonal across the strings.

    The obvious answer would seem to be to shorten my strap and wear the bass higher, but I feel like I'm already wearing it at a "normal," intermediate level (i.e., navel-high). When I play fingerstyle, with the neck angled slightly upwards, this seems like a perfect position that allows me to have my right forearm (elbow to fingertips) in a straight line perpendicular to the strings, ideal for finger-plucking with a straight wrist. But with the bass in that position, it seems impossible to strum with a pick in a motion perpendicular to the strings (using only wrist motion). In order to to replicate my "sitting position" using a pick while standing, it seems like I have to hike the strap way up, which is not only uncomfortable in its own right but makes fingerstyle awkward (i.e., I either need to bend my wrist or hold my elbow up ridiculously high).

    In short, it just seems like the height/angle of the bass that works best for fingerstyle works poorly for pickstyle, and vice-versa. I see lots of players who easily go back and forth between fingers and pick without altering their strap length, but I'm having a hard time seeing how this is physically possible! Needless to say, any advice would be much appreciated....
  15. use nylon picks. they make less clicking noise. I use 1mm Dunlop nylon.
  16. krzym1


    Oct 4, 2012
    I just kind of reduced the diagonal motion by bending my thumb in it's joint instead of keeping it completely straight, although it will need some looking into as it seems to tire my wrist faster, so right now I'm not sure if thats 100% healthy heh
  17. Fergie Fulton

    Fergie Fulton Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2008
    Retrovibe Artist rota
  18. Milk


    Sep 16, 2013
    Montreal, Canada
    I must be one of the rare bassists who use thin picks. Guitar picks, essentially...by guitar I mean...Mine are .73mm (they're Dunlop nylon) I suppose they kinda click but in the mix it sounds fine to my ears. Of course if you want thick and fat sound you should probably have a thicker pick than that. I like it to sound bright. For years I used thick ones (around 2 mm) until I realized I could get the sound I wanted still with a thin one. And thick ones really destroyed my thumb muscles after a while, they plow through the strings instead of bending with them. It's basically once I started doing a lot of fast triplets that i realized thinner was better. As for the angle of the attack, slightly diagonal I guess but pretty much close to perpendicular? My pick doesn't really slide on the string. Seem to me unless you hold your bass perfectly horizontal that would be hard not to pick slightly diagonally though. I pick with an open hand (meaning while the thumb and forefinger hold the pick, the rest of my fingers are outstretched, not closed into a fist, well, not completely outstretched either,r partially outstretched...basically most bassists using a pick I think hold it this way) I seem to get better control of my pick this way. Not to mention a better hold on it.
  19. Timpala


    Nov 13, 2011
    I have played with a pick for 20 years. I use Jim Dunlop Tortex picks. I started out with a thicker green colored pick, then changed to a slightly thinner yellow pick because I was having some wrist issues. I hardly ever use a brand new pick for a show. I prefer to break them in over a practice or two. They will slide a bit better after breaking them in. They also don't fall out of my hand when I am sweating. I have tried a few other brands, but am happy with my yellow Tortex picks. Here is a link to the website: http://www.jimdunlop.com/product/Tortex-Standard
  20. MarshallNole


    Dec 1, 2013
    I have the same issue Lobster and the OP talk about. I play standing up only. The natural motion makes the pick hit the strings diagonally unless you purposefully hold the guitar parallel with the ground, which limits your fret hand range.

    How do you all fix this?