Let’s talk plectrums…
When I was about fifteen, tentatively putting together my beginnings of a pentatonic scale and rocking out in my first cover band, I met guitarist John Goldie (in case you haven’t checked him out, do so now! He’s a seriously musical and skilled guitar virtuoso). He visited our school music class and played a blistering set of gypsy jazz tunes.
I remember being shocked by the contrast between John’s light, dynamic chordal playing and the high volume, forceful attack of his single note playing. Not realising that this wide breadth of dynamic can be achieved through good right-hand technique, I assumed he must have been using a plectrum for soloing and his thumb for the chords.
When I asked him if this was true he answered with a mixture of frustration and annoyance (probably at the ineptitude of the question!):
‘All professionals use thick plectrums! A soft plectrum won’t make nearly enough sound and produces a weaker tone. And you can’t control a thin pick! I don’t know any professionals who use soft picks, you have to use a hard one!’
While that didn’t quite answer my question about his dynamic range, it certainly convinced me to use the thick plectrums from then on.
In honour of John’s unambiguous stance against flimsy plectrums, let’s give this idea a name:
The ‘Goldie’ Standard of Plectrum Thickness.
The thicker thine pick, the more awesome thine tone.
Previous to my having ‘received’ the Goldie Standard I was using all sorts of weedy, undernourished ‘yoga’-picks. Here are a some examples from the back of my plectrum drawer:
Suffice to say, I promptly discarded these suspiciously skinny picks, marched to the local guitar store, and bought a handful of the thickest plectrums I could find. For years afterwards my main plectrum was the 2mm Dunlop model:
Then, on my first UK tour, Micky Finlay (guitar tech extraordinaire) produced a big bag of these babies:
What the….3mm?! These Dunlop 3mm’s (the ‘Big Stubby‘) had several advanatages over my previous 2mm picks:
– they’re 1mm thicker, which is an exact 50% increase in awesome (see Goldie Standard).
– they’ve got a handy dimple to make gripping easier.
– they’re transparent when you hold them up to the light (cool).
– i got a big bag of them for free.
Did I mention they’re thicker? Yep, 50% thicker. I was sold and have been using them ever since.
Summary of Thick Pick Advantages (aka Goldie Standard):
1) More mass = good vibrations = better tone.
2) Less bendiness = less ‘give’ = greater technical control.
PS: Check out John Goldie’s Website here: http://www.johngoldie.co.uk/