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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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These Red Bear picks, like many competitors I'm sure, are trying to mimic Tortoise shell picks. They are considerably thicker than the Fender Extra Heavy I've been using for the past few months. The Red Bear picks also have a more pronounced bevel than the Fenders.

The two picks definitely produce different tone (and require a different type of attack) whether strumming or picking, and the feel is also radically different. I'm going to keep using both the Fenders and the Red Bears for awhile and see if I can suss out the best characteristics of each one. I've found that when dealing with new approaches or products sometimes what seems awkward initially later becomes more natural and even preferred.
Hi William,

Thanks for the nice words in your post. I use TS picks about 1.35mm. Gary Wagner makes my picks from antiques. I also experiment with heavier picks up to 2mm. I like the tone that heavier picks give me and I play on the shoulder of the pick. I've been playing on the shoulder for about 12 yrs. or so. My TS picks are the profile of the Fender 451 pick...it's the size of a jazz pick. I don't leave a lot of material showing so I get through the string fast. Since I love playing rhythm, these picks seem to give me the best of both worlds.

Whatever your pick thickness, it all boils down to slow and painstakenly "educating" your hands on what exactly you want it to do. Flatpicking is a language, so it is very important to decide what you want to say. If your left hand has the melody and it's imbellishments sorted out for the particular song, the right hand will get faster by default. After you do the basic same thing all the time, your hands will get faster at what you want them to do. I can play any song I do using either a thin pick or a quarter...makes me no difference....but I prefer a middle of the road thickness to maximize tone and attack. I hope that helps. As always, all my best.

Yes, you were very helpful, particularly your comment about focusing on flatpicking being a medium for saying something. What a great thought.

I'm reminded that some of the my favorite writers (like Billy Collins, for instance) use plain and simple language to communicate an incredibly subtle and meaningful vision. His sentences crackle with intention and clarity.

So having something to say is where it all starts. Otherwise, it's just technique for the sake of technique, whether it's writing, flatpicking, or whatever.

Thanks for the insight, Steve.
What I have been looking for in "the perfect guitarpick" has always been:

1) Tone
2) Speed and comfort
3) Durability

I found all three when I tried the TP1R from Blue Chip. http://shop.bluechippick.net/categories/TP1R/

I too, started with medium picks from Fender or whatever brand was available. I soon discovered a 1.0 mm pick was the best thickness for me. After that I also discovered that I prefer larger picks. I have tried several picks, heavier than 1 mm but I have never liked the tone I get from them.
I have just recently purchased a Blue Chip (TAD 60-1R) pick as well. I have a couple friends that let me try their picks and I must agree with everyone that this is one wonderful pick. I have used the Red Bear pick as well and would like to share this recent experience... I recently had a Red Bear pick and it broke while I was playing (I may have owned the pick for a year, but it was not abused or exclusively used), I contacted Dave Skowron of Red Bear Trading Co., Ltd. and inquired if this is was unusual. He got defensive and appeared annoyed that I did not recognize that the pick was a consumable and said, "Right on the web page it says all this Jack". Oh yes, he offered to receive the pick and evaluate the breakage after he makes this clear, "But you didn't buy your pick from me. I wonder why you are even asking me since you bought it from somebody else. Let me ask you this, Jack, how long did you expect it to last? A lifetime? ". Oh Please, this guy represents Red Bear Trading Co., I for one don't appreciate this type of condescending customer service. I don't plan on buying another Red Bear Pick anytime soon.

I am very sad to hear that. I haven´t had any contact with Dave Skowron so I can´t either defend him or agree with you. I have had a lot of contact with Matthew Goins of Blue Chip picks though, and he is the best guy on earth to deal with!
I'll second this comment. Blue Chip picks are brilliant & Matthew a pleasure to deal with - he even does a lefty version!

I have a left handed Blue Chip TAD 3R 40 pick and I find it a great pick to use, no scraping and quick on the strings. The only problem is that the tone is quite bass-y which is great for lead picking or Mandolin but not so good for rhythm playing.

I started this thread because I wanted to hear what people had to say about the merits of using heavy picks versus lighter gauge picks. As a relative novice guitar player, I just wondered why it seems so many of the top players use really heavy picks. I appreciate that people have favorite brands of picks and I expect folks to weigh in on brands that they like or dislike based on how well the product works for them.

I'm sure we've all had bad experiences with products and it's fine to say so. But I don't think this forum is the proper place to vent personal frustrations in the manner that Mr. Kohler has done. I respectfully ask that we refrain from bashing individuals or companies based on one personal experience. I don't know who was right or wrong in the interaction between Mr. Kohler and Red Bear, but it would be nice if we could stick to the technical facts: bought a pick, it broke, the company wouldn't replace it. Enough said.

Let's not get personal, okay?
Thanks for the helpful comment, Kerry. I'm hanging in there with my new Red Bear picks and getting used to them. These picks have more mass than the Fender X-Heavy's I've been using and I can definitely hear a difference in the tone. On some guitars, they seem to work better than others.

I like the rounded corners of the Fender picks better than the sharper corners on my Red Bears. Seems to me the rounded corners also contribute to a difference in tone.

I hear people talking about the bevel they prefer on their picks. The Red Bear picks have a sharper edge than Fenders. If I wanted to put a sharper bevel on the Fenders what would I use to do that---just a standard file from a hardware store or do I need something finer? I thought it might fun to experiment since the Fender picks are not very expensive.
Hi there. Well there are tone issues, for sure, and that's the most important reason I use heavy picks. It's sometimes a challenge with them not to get a ticky-ticky sound. There's another reason I use them, that is, I feel I have much more control when I use a heavy pick. With a softer pick, it's harder (for me) to control the actual moment when the pick goes through the string. Especially with rest strokes. You punch a rest stroke into the guitar and a medium pick will just wrap around your thumb. Now of course you can fix this by changing your technique.... also, I play on all the edges of the pick; that is I rotate the pick around quite a bit (mostly using my thumb joint). Again, I have more control if the pick stays put shape-wise. That's my $0.02, for what it's worth! Then there's Steve Kaufman... he plays great and doesn't use heavy picks. So there you go.
Another thoughtful comment. Thanks, Kathy.

I agree that a firm pick gives me a sense of better control. As I continue my development as a guitar player, I'm sure my pick preferences will change, but for now, I think my Fender X-heavys in the big triangle shape are what I'm going to use.


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