The Spectra Of Plectra: Take Your Pick

big stubbyLemmie tell you a little story about plectrums. I used to always – always – use a Jim Dunlop Jazz III pick. It was my go-to pick no matter what I was playing: electric, acoustic, bass, 7-string, metal, blues, jazz. And it served me really well. But then one day I found myself in a foreign country on an unfamiliar guitar with an unfamiliar pick and I felt completely lost. Oh and it was during a lesson with Paul Gilbert, which is a real good way to feel intimidated, no matter how great Paul is at making his lessons seem fun and relaxed. A little while later, I went to a Marty Friedman clinic which was a hugely influential night in my development as a guitarist. Lemmie explain.  

One of the things that really stuck with me that night was that Marty didn’t bring a guitar with him. All he asked was that the store hosting the clinic had to provide two guitars that sounded really great and stayed in tune. He didn’t specify anything to do with make, model, action, string gauge, pickups or anything. Just that they should sound awesome and remain in tune while doing it.

guitar buffet picksThe other thing that made a huge impact was when he explained that he didn’t even have a preferred pick. He just used whatever he had. His reasoning was that he never wanted to be thrown into a jam situation and have to worry about feeling uncomfortable with the guitar, the pick or the string gauge. Thinking back to that lesson with Paul Gilbert, this made total sense. I was so used to that Jazz III that without one I found that I was focusing a lot of my energy on making sure the pick was doing what I wanted it to do. (Paul showed me a trick where he rubbed the pick on the carpet until it wore down into a fine point, which got me through the lesson with tone and ego unscathed).

Ever since that Marty Friedman clinic, I’ve found myself breaking free of the single-pick-type thing. I still use the Jazz III as my go-to pick, but even then, sometimes I use the regular one and sometimes I use the Eric Johnson model. For bass I like to use the Jazz III XL Nylon. And for acoustic strumming I might dig out a Fender Classic Celluloid Confetti. For my Strat I tend to use the Dunlop Ultex Jazz III if I’m playing fast neoclassical shred, or a Dunlop Nylon Max Grip if I’m playing Richie Kotzen style bluesy rocky stuff. And I find that for melodic instrumental rock stuff I gravitate towards the Clayton S-Stone Sharp. And just having all of these different picks for different specific musical applications means that I’m using them all the time, and therefore becoming used to all of them and none of them at the same time. So if I’m playing – for example – Yngwie-style and all I’ve got in my pocket is the S-Stone, I’m not thrown off. And this approach has already helped me out in numerous jam situations, with friends and on stage.

This is a sponsored post for Guitar Pick Buffet. I’m asked to do sponsored posts all the time but I almost always turn them down because I’ll only write them about products and services I believe in. And Guitar Pick Buffet is a very cool service which allows you to create your own variety pack of picks – either to try out a bunch to figure out which one is for you, or to just have a bunch of different picks on hand so you never fall into the ‘I can’t play – I’m not used to this pick!’ hole. And they offer a Guitar Pick Of The Month Club where you’ll receive pick variety packs in the mail every month.