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Getting 'pick tone' without using a pick

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by bhass, Apr 14, 2009.

  1. bhass


    Oct 21, 2008
    England, UK
    I really like pick tone, however in certain songs, playing with a pick is quite hard for me on them. I can do them, it just isn't comfortable. I know I should improve my technique, but I need a short term solution as well.

    While I am still improving my technique, what pedals can I use to replicate a pick sound using fingerstyle? Compressor maybe? I am poor so I don't have the cash to experiment with buying different stuff.

    I am using a Fender P-Bass with flatwounds. Trying to create that Roger Waters sound :)

    Help would be appreciated.
  2. fightthepower


    Jan 7, 2008
    San Diego
    Steel Leather I think is suited to this application. Hopefully someone else will chime in about it, but in the mean time do a search on EHX Steel Leather, and see if it sounds like what you're looking for.
  3. Grow your fingernails.
  4. You need more attack to get that 'picked' sound. The best way in the longterm would be to adapt your fingerstyle technique to get the sound you want. But in terms of effects I can't see anything but a compressor helping. Just dial in some attack. If you want recommendations on compressors, check out Bongo's reviews; they helped me alot.
  5. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    Before recommending any pedal to compensate for any technique, I would first suggest:

    Continue working with a pick, it's really not a bad skill for a bass player at all. :ninja:

    Thumbpick: I used this for awhile years ago as it made it a little easier to play sets both fingerstyle and with a pick as needed.

    Fingernails: Not a good idea with roundwounds, but you said you used flats and so try either thumb or index or both and see if that helps (that's what I do anyway).

    Finally, if you have to have a pedal I would probaby suggest this or at least a knockoff of it:


    You can play with the upper frequencies and maybe find that "click" you are probably looking for.

    Hope some of this is helpful. :)

    Good luck!
  6. JohnDavisNYC


    Jan 11, 2008
    Brooklyn, NY
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar, D'Addario
    practice with a pick?

    i know, i'm a jerk... but there is only one way to get a pick sound...

  7. get some fast fret, and use it regularly, that'll give you a brighter sound. if you're using a passive bass, turn the tone all the way up.
  8. HogieWan


    Feb 4, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    I just wanted to chime in a clarify that the attack setting on a compressor doesn't add attack to the sound, but sets the length of time the compressor waits to clamp down. I just didn't want anyone to read the above and get confused


    using a pick is not that hard, but you do have to get used to it.
  9. My bad, thanks for the confirmation. I'd go with the practice with a pick idea in that case.
  10. honestjohnny


    Nov 24, 2006
    Dial up the treble and high-mids, play near the bridge.
  11. bhass


    Oct 21, 2008
    England, UK
    I thought about getting the Steel Leather, but isn't it an 'Attack Expander'? Isn't that kind of the opposite of a compressor? Would it be better to get the Steel Leather than something like a Soul Preacher?

    Yet again, I'm confused :smug:. Do I need an 'expander' or a compressor?

    Thanks for that. It's not that I don't play with a pick. I play with a pick all the time, it's just that for certain songs it isn't very comfortable. I need a short term solution just for now, so I can play them songs. I am still going to try and improve my technique so I can feel comfortable with a pick :bassist:

    I started fingerstyle (who doesn't?) but when I heard the tonage that Pink Floyd stuff has, I just wanted to play with a pick. I have been playing for a year and half of that was trying to use a pick. I guess I'm just a slow learner.

    Thanks everyone :)
  12. kevteop


    Feb 12, 2008
    York, UK
    A year's not a long time when learning an instrument. Keep practising! :)
  13. An attack expander is what you want. The "pick" sound is generally a sharp attack with an emphasis in high-mid frequencies (at least that's what I get out of it). A compressor will take away from your attack, and smooth out the spikes in your dynamics. You want the opposite of that. The steel leather (and also the old Boss EH-2) will basically work the exact opposite way, applying a spike to your dynamics whenever you cross the threshold. That is the only way I know of to simulate a pick sound without plucking the strings with something like a pick or your nails.
  14. Knifedge


    Jan 24, 2009
    I was in a similar situation with a few songs I had to learn many years ago. I changed my plucking hand's position a little so that instead of plucking the string perpendicular to the string itself, I struck downward towards the string and creating a much sharper attack (at a bit of an angle to allow for my finger to run off the string), thus imitating what a piano hammer does to a string when it hits. It's more of a strike than a pluck. I then change my hand position slightly to ease off and pluck when needed. It is not the perfect pick sound, but I did get it to the point where people actually asked if I was using one. It does take practice to incorporate that into your hand technique.
  15. RCCollins

    RCCollins Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    San Diego, California
    Steel Leather does "pick sim" very well. Other effects that get close to this would include the attack setting on an Ibanez PD7
  16. JanusZarate

    JanusZarate Low End Avenger Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA, USA
    I'd suggest trying different picks. Often, it's the pick itself that is making the playing uncomfortable.

    Not all picks are created equal. It shouldn't be too hard to find a shop near you which sells single picks. Buy a decent assortment and play around with them. Find one that's both comfortable and achieves the sound you want. You might even find that you need two or three different picks (one for each sound you're going for).
  17. Gasman

    Gasman Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2007
    South Carolina
    There is no one who sounds like they are playing with a pick but actually plays fingerstyle. Just people who fool themselves into thinking they do.

    Before anyone gets too upset by this statement, realize that I used to be one of these people. The simple fact is you can't replicate the attack of a pick with your fingers, period. It took me years to come to this realization, and once I did, I realized I had a whole new area of playing I had to learn. So what did I do? I stopped playing fingerstyle for nearly a year and played exclusively with a pick. After that time, I can't say I'm the best pick player, but I am quite "comfortable" (for the OP) playing with a pick now and do so for nearly half of everything I play.

    My advice... get a few different styles and thicknesses of picks, and go to the woodshed. Don't waste your time with a pedal or effect- it won't work well for you and is way more expensive.
  18. greenboy


    Dec 18, 2000
    remote mountain cabin Montana
    greenboy designs: fEARful, bassic, dually, crazy88 etc
    I use a pick


    I use my nails and do a high-Q (narrow band) parametric boost at 1.6, 2.0 or 2.5 K Hz, depending on the sound I'm after. Sometimes it sound pretty authentic, other times I don't care because I'm not necessarily after the sound of a pick so much as I am after the envelope that an obvious sharp transient provides.
  19. i beat the hell out of my strings.. closer to pick tone, but a lot of stress on my fingers. totally worth it.

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