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When I started playing acoustic guitar about a year ago, I felt most comfortable with medium gauge picks.  Thins were clearly too flimsy and heavys just seemed too stiff.  But as time went by I started experimenting with various picks and began to get comfortable with heavy (and even extra heavy) picks.  

I'd finally settled on the big Fender triangular extra heavy picks when I saw an Ad for Red Bear picks and thought I might give them a try.  Just got three Red Bear picks in the mail today (a couple of C-Heavys and an Original).  They are incredibly stiff but I assume I'll get used to them if I keep at it.

I'm guessing that the stiff picks might be good for speed picking because I would think that less flex means you set the string in motion and move on more quickly?  I'm not doing anything too complex or fast yet, just trying to connect the chords with bass line runs and what have you.  

I'm sure asking about pick preferences is like asking what's your favorite flavor of ice cream, right?  Everybody's got their own individual preferences.  But am I right that the heavier picks, whatever the manufacture, will ultimately lend themselves to faster flatpicking?  

And what about tone from heavier gauge picks?  It seemed to me that my Red Bear picks sounded better on my Gibson J-50 than they did on my Martin 12-fret dreadnaught.  I've only been playing them for a few hours, so perhaps it's just my imagination, but seemed like the Gibson tone benefited more from the heavier pick than the Martin.  Perhaps because those big 12-frets have so many overtones?

All you experienced flatpickers please help me out here.  And I know Steve Blanchard, one of my favorite flatpickers from the Great Northwest, is on the FG network and I'd especially love to here what he has to say.

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Hi William - I'm a bit behind on this discussion but have spent time on similar quests for the optimal pick. I've been really happy  with Dunlop XL Jazz III series. Make sure you order the XL version since the standard series requires Munchkin-sized fingers to actually grab. The XL Jazz III also has lots of relief in the printing so they are easy to grab and hold onto. Most of the time I play a Martin D-35 with D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Custom Light strings (.011-.052) in the purple package. This pick is definitely stiff and has a nice sharp edge so it doesn't sound chunky like you are picking with a piece of chalk. You can also turn it a few degrees along both radial and rotational axes and get a variety of sounds.

Best regards,

Brian Fuller

I use a small triangle blue chip .87 mm (35) pick. No flex is good!!! If your pick flexes, it flexes differently because the strings are all different gauges more/less tension.
Clay, I'm curious: you find that the 35 Bluechip doesn't flex? I just got a KS 40 and it seems like a great pick, but even as small as it is I feel a very slight flex to it.
That makes total sense. I like the picking technique you have on your video too, about having very little tip exposed outside of your fingers. I couldn't get anywhere with the methods I'd seen before, people telling me to "dig in deep." My speed, accuracy and tone have definitely improved since watching your video! Can't thank you enough - I'm finally starting to keep up with my jam friends. Hope to see you at Newgrass in 2011...

Well, it's been about 10 months since I posted this discussion item and I sure do appreciate the suggestions and opinions that everyone has shared.  I have been using a Wegen TF120 for several months and I really like it.  I like the size and grip, the firmness, and warm clear tone it produces on my Martin flat tops.  I'm more of a strummer than a picker, so that affects my pick choice for sure.  I may move up to the TF140 for a little more stiffness, but probably will stick with the Wegen TF for the foreseeable future.  


But I'll still try new picks from time to time and I'm sure I'll eventually move on to another pick as my playing skills evolve.  My teacher and friend, Steve Blanchard, says that a good picker can play with anything---even a coin.  I think that's very true.  It's helpful to have the right tools, whether it be guitars, picks, or strings.  But in the end, great musicians make great music because they have something to say in their music not because they have great gear.  


Thanks again for all your great comments!

I had a Red Bear and used it for 2 or 3 months, then got frustrated and went back to a Martin medium pick, but had trouble holding onto it, like it kept slipping out of my grip. Then I bought a Wegen 140 after a friend recommended it. I've been picking with it for about a month and have definitely noticed an improvement in my speed and accuracy. I'm picking tunes like Fisher's Hornpipe, Temperence Reel and Whiskey Before Breakfast, finally up to speed with my jam friends. Yay!
I find this as well, Warren.  When I'm singing folk tunes, just me and my guitar, I find I have to find a different (quieter) pick other than my Red Bears or else the guitar is overbearing.  I also find nylon works best for this.  I sometimes wonder if I'd be better off with a smaller bodied guitar for singer/strummer stuff - maybe a 000 or 00 size :)

When I first got started, I got one of the Steve Kauffman Homespun tapes where he recommended a medium pick, so that's what I've always used.  However, now that I am reading these posts and trying to really improve rather than just strum and noodle, I'm going to step up the Wegen bluegrass pick - considerably heavier.  My concern isn't with single-note runs, so much as with strumming.  I've messed around with a Fender Extra Heavy and I can't make my D-28 ring like I can with a medium gauge.

I'm still using the Wegen TF-120.  I have yet to find anything that produces a better tone on my Martin acoustics, and the last so much longer than standard picks do, they're worth the price.  

I started playing electric guitars in an alt-country band and I use the Wegen on these guitars, too.  It takes some time to learn how to use such a heavy pick on an electric, but I find that I can lighten my touch and they work just fine.  Having a stiff pick like the Wegen actually allows me to have more dynamics (soft to loud) by varying my attack which has worked well for me.  I feel more in control with a pick like the Wegen.

But to each his own.  Like I said in the beginning---it's largely a matter of personal taste. 

I got my Wegen Bluegrass Picks and started using them - and I can really see the difference - very happy I made the switch!.  With the beveled edge, this forces me to maintain the correct grip rather than the way the medium pick was moving in my fingers.  Secondly, I realize now that the medium pick was twisting when I made my way across the stings, something the Wegen simply will not do.  It is both cleaner and faster.  I am also keeping my pinky posted to pickguard  consistently now, which I did not always do with the lighter pick.  All in all, a superior product for flatpicking.

The one area I'm still working on is the strum pattern on Gospel numbers like "Old Crossroads" or "Mansions for Me".  I can't get the up - down pattern going unless I lift my pinky and free float.  Downstrokes exclusively are not a problem - the pinky stays down, but anything that requires and up-strum is still not working unless I break contact with the pick guard completely.


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