Harmony Central Forums
No announcement yet.

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


  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • 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.

    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.
    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.
    It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.
    I can please only one person per day. Today is not your day. Tomorrow isn't looking good either.
    One large difference between science and religion is this: In science, if the facts don’t fit the theory, the theory is tossed out. In religion, if the facts don’t fit the theory, the facts are tossed out.
    HCGB draft-dodger


    • #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


      • #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:

        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.


        • #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

          Obligatory Myspace


          • #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.

            XT Brotherhood

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


            • #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.


              • #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.