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To thumbpick or Not to... that's the ???

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  • To thumbpick or Not to... that's the ???

    hello all,

    first post here in the acoustic forum. I recently have "seen the light" and am back playing more acoustic than electric again. And although i practiced alot in 97/98 and got to be a decent fingerpicker, i have lost what little i had and am starting fresh. I am trying to go thru a series of acoustic blues lessons.

    so to the question? I used to do ok with a thumbpick, and i love the sound, the extra attack i get but i am finding it very hard to get used to. It feels much more comfortable with no pick, and is easier overall, especially on strumming upstrokes. if this matters i have to use the fleshy part of my thumb as my nail is not long enough to use. But I like the fact that i can knock out a little lead line as if using a flatpick when i have a thumbpick.

    I understand that it is very subjective whether to use one or not. But should i stick it out and then i will get used to it at some point, although it is holding me back a little technically right now. Or stick with just the thumb sans pick. If i go with the pick how long will it take to feel normal?

    What is your personal preference and why? Thanks and i look forward to yer answers.

    Peace,
    Boutros
    XT Brotherhood

    "one day everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody, when i paint my masterpiece." R Zimmerman

  • #2
    I cut my thumb last year - right where it hits the string - not a bad cut but it was painful picking so I slipped on a thumb pick I had been trying to get used to for the last 3 years.

    By the time the thumb had healed the pick was almost second nature, though I still find that tricky pieces I learnt without the pick still play better without one.

    When I'm playing an altenating bass line I wouldn't be without the thumb pick now.

    Force yourself to do it for a week.
    Never argue with an idiot. They drag you down to their level then beat you with experience.
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    • #3
      I attended a fingerpicking workshop earlier this year conducted by Clyde Walker and Steve Coyle (The Waybacks). Each of them strongly recommended the use of a thumb pick. Those two guys do a lot of Chet Atkins style and Travis picking. At a seminar a few days later that Roy Book Binder was teaching he never used a thumb pick and sure didn't sound like he needed one. Roy is strictly a blues picker. My take on the subject was that if versitility is your objective then a thumb pick is probably a useful tool. For blues picking though its not a necessity.
      "Time is a great teacher, unfortunately it kills all of its pupils"

      Louis-Hector Berlioz

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      • #4
        I've done both.
        The attack and volume are definitely better with a pick. But I don't like (read bite them off) long nails on my fingers. So in order to get an even volume, I either have to use finger picks or skip the thumb pick.
        I actually like the mellow sound of flesh for most songs. However, sometimes when I try bluegrass I'll use picks.
        I find that the pick gets in the way for some of what I do. I not only pick the bass line but I will also strum some chords while picking.
        As for upstrokes, I use my index finger.
        For trilling the note and doing the "banjo roll", I use the first two (and rarely, the first three) fingers (Spanish style). This somewhat gives me the effect of using a flat pick.

        You can catch elements of what I am talking about in the following clip:
        http://mbnet.fi/atimoc/mp3/JerryNT-Sound_experiment.mp3

        Move the cursor to about half way and I have recorded a version of "Rocky Top." This is all recorded with bare fingertips, no picks. Not the best recording and I didn't edit out the mistakes.

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        • #5
          Certainly no right or wrong way.

          Personally, I do a lot of fingerpicking and don't use a thumbpick. It's a matter of personal style. For percussive songs or songs with strong lead fills needing attack , I will use a fingerpick and strum.

          For a mellower and more controlled sound, I'll use mostly my thumb, index and middle finger for banjo-ish rolls. My thumb and index will pick double strings for fills.
          "Rome wasn't burned in a day."

          HCGB Trooper #239
          CD available at CDBaby

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          • #6
            thanks everyone for your thoughts. I look forward to others.

            I am leaning towards giving it ago with the pick for "versatility" sake. Hopefully if i become fairly adept with the t-pick, i will still have no problems w/out one if the song calls for it.

            peace,
            Boutros
            XT Brotherhood

            "one day everything is gonna be smooth like a rhapsody, when i paint my masterpiece." R Zimmerman

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            • #7
              Use the Fred Kelly's Light (yellow delrin)) slick pick. Doesn't bother the thumb much and isn't real stiff. Makes the transition easier. There are other "gauges" but for 6 string this pick will get the job done.

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              • #8
                All things equal , a thumbpicker will smoke a flat picker as a solo act (unacompanied).
                Thumb nail might be good for classica/flamingo , but if you need to do serious single string picking the thumb pick is handy, you have to find one that's right for you though ,or modify like me.
                I don't strum at all with the thumb pick - nil.
                I use 1 2 3 or four of my 'nailed' fingers for strumming or combinations of them, you can get great at that without too much work.
                I wish I had started finger pickin with a thumb pick from the beginning, after about four years with it now I'm ok with it , so it takes some peole a little time.
                After breaking a few nails I realized they don't need to be all that long anyway once you get pretty decent at it.
                Good luck.
                -
                -

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