My wife watched my right hand contort itself into odd positions while we sat on our sofa after dinner.
“You look like you have a neurological disorder,” she said and asked if I were OK. I was practicing switching between holding a guitar pick between my thumb and first finger and moving it to be held by my pinky, hidden from view so I could play finger style.
Part of the reason I’ve become obsessed with picks, beyond what I said in Part 1 is that I’ve decided I should learn hybrid picking. There are at least four options: Play with a pick, play with my fingers and thumb, play with both a pick and fingers simultaneously, and switch between pick and fingers by palming or otherwise hiding the pick. I’m not fond of using both pick and fingers at the same time, but the option to switch mid-song is very enticing.
I’ve been switching among my new picks this past week. I already knew I preferred stiff, thicker picks and did not like sharp points. Here’s a summary of some of my other observations.
Thickness. I can tolerate 1.5mm thick picks but anything thinner, even if hard and inflexible, seems thin and uncomfortable to me. I prefer 2.0 to 3.0 mm picks but can adjust easier to even thicker picks than I can to thinner ones.
Shape. The picks I purchased as well as ones I’ve considered but not yet bought come in a variety of shapes. However, they can be broadly collapsed into three categories: teardrops, sharp triangles, and mandolin picks. Mando picks are essentially a rounded triangle shape.
It turns out I love the mandlin picks with their very round tips. Based on marketing by pick makers, so do bluegrass flat pickers, gypsy jazzers, and others. I also find it an easy pick to palm so I can switch from pick to fingers. An advantage is I don’t have to worry about point orientation when I switch back to pick as long as one of the three points is facing the correct direction.
Material. One of the picks I purchased is the D’Addario Casein 2.0mm teardrop shape. John Pearse mades a casein pick for less than half the price but the merchant where I bought my other picks did not carry the Pearse casein Fast Turtle.
Although I am very fond of the mandolin picks, I love the casein based teardrop. D’Addario makes a Chris Thile signature casein mandolin pick (1.4mm). Maybe I would like it even more although it is less than my preferred thickness. Casein picks are designed to be a replacement for tortoiseshell. It is illegal to own or make tortoiseshell from the endangered species that once supplied the material. Casein is a milk protein that when treated can be formed into a similar substance.
However, the reason I liked the D’Addario Casein pick so much probably is because the point and edges are quite rounded. That isn’t the only reason. The casein really is slick on the strings. But in terms of tone, I think most of it is due to point and edge shapes as opposed to the material.
Size. Size didn’t play much into my evaluations. Not all of the picks were identical in size, not even among similar shaped picks. But the variations in size were small. My samples were all fairly standard sized picks for their shape. There is a wider range of sizes available, I just didn’t choose extra small or large ones this time around.
Price. Most of the picks I bought were under $4.00 a piece. The exception was the D’Addario Casein pick which was over $20.
Picks reviewed and individual comments
I’ve included Amazon product links to the new batch of picks I am reviewing. But most of these only come in bags with multiple picks. If you’re lucky, you can get a bag of only 3 but don’t be surprised if the minimum order is 6 or 12. Having extra picks, if they’re the ones you know you will use, isn’t a bad thing. But if you just want to try them out, StringsByMail.com sells most picks singly which will save you money.
The Amazon Affiliate product links found on this site can earn me a commission when clicked.
These are both nice picks even if they are thinner than I prefer. The approximate dimensions for the mandolin triangle (measured by me with a digital caliper) are 1.4 mm thick and 1.10 inches height and width. Many pick makers refer to this by the designation used by D’Andrea which calls this the 385 shape. Height is top to point and width is side to side at the widest spot. The teardrop-shaped pick, (351 shape) measured 1.3 mm thick, 1.15 inches height and 0.95 inches width.
The Americana is nearly the same pick as the Primetone Mandolin pick with the significant difference being the textured grip on the second. Nominally these are both 1.5 mm thick. My measurements are closer to 1.7 mm thick and 1.10 x 1.10 height and width for both. I thought I would like the textured grip better but I prefer the smooth surface of the Americana. These are 385 shaped.
Fender teardrop standard size (351) is about 1.15 x 1.00 inches height and width and 1.0 mm thick for the heavy pick. Fender thins were my favorite when I was a teen but even this heavy pick is too thin for me now.
The casein pick is 2.0 mm thick and the other two are nominally 1.5 mm although I measured slightly more on the Acrylux Nitra Standard (1.6 mm). The casein height and width are 1.15 x 1.00 inches. The Acrylux Nitra is 1.10 x 1.10 inches and the mandolin triangle pick is 1.15 x 1.15 inches. I liked the casein pick a lot and the other two as much if not more than the competition. All have points rounded enough to not annoy me. The teardrops, although not labeled as such, are the classic 351 style. I’m not sure whether the mandolin pick is a 346, but it isn’t quite a 385.
The D’Andrea mandolin pick is 1.6 mm thick and 1.20 inches tall x 1.15 inches wide by my measurements. It is very nice but I doubt I could tell it from any of the other mandolin picks in this survey. It is a 385 shape.