We’ve been working on this one all year, and frankly it was a f**k ton of work. Way, way more than we anticipated when we thought, hey, our product should, you know, say something about how to choose a guitar pick. Instead, things got out of hand as usual and we gave it the whole Cracking the Code treatment of objective frequency comparisons and musings about the physics of pick and string interaction.
To that end, some of the interesting things we discovered is that Edge Picking™ is one of the fundamental effects in guitar pick function. Many differences in pick performance and tone production between pick designs only show up when you introduce and/or change the edge picking you’re using. This includes differences in frequency response due to point geometry, material choice, gauge, and probably other things, all of which are muted to nonexistent when you play picks flatter against the string, with lower-degree edge picking.
For example, the frequency difference that results when you increase or decrease the amount of edge picking you use is the same as the curve that results when you increase or decrease a pick’s gauge while keeping your degree of edge picking constant. They are, in a sense, modulating the same effect on the string, whatever that is! In our chapter on Edge Picking, we offer some musings on what that might be, including modifying picks to have asymmetrical leading and trailing edges to see what effect this has on the sound. We would like to thank the estimable @tommo, who reviewed our vector math for accuracy and was responsible for clarifying our analogy with billiards balls — which we nixed, grazie mille! — and straightening out our use of loaded terms like force, momentum, and energy. Hopefully we got it all right.
The long and the short of it is that our core instructional product is rapidly becoming (if it isn’t already) the most comprehensive introduction around to picks and picking technique for new and experienced players alike. It now has a proper introduction to the principal tools of the trade. And we’re glad to have finished it.
ok so here you are essentially talking about the tone of the picked note? if u say “frequency” we might start to think of the actual pitch??
makes me think of this from Y.R.O. where Paul is going along playing the perpetual motion piece and it has a fuller tone and then he hits the lick at 1:38ish and it gets really thin sounding, which is cool
I used to hear the same “tone change due to obvious pick angle change” thing in some of Troy Stetinas early teaching material
franky hannon also used to get a sort of signature pick sound, like :40 to :48 here.
Whatever it is Ive never had that lol. for years i used Tortex yellow which I suppose to too smoothish to get this type of abrasive scratchiness?? im currently using Jazz3XL which seems pretty smooth to…for instance I cant get a decent pickscrape sound
Yes, sorry, by frequency response I mean what guitar players will casually call “tone”: the range of harmonics present in the resulting note. The video chapters go into explicit detail on this, throwing up the harmonics on a spectrum so you can see exactly what guitar pick “tone” looks like, and what parts of it go up or down when you change picks and edge picking. It should be pretty clear when you watch it. That’s the hope anyway!
yeah, “frequency response” was pretty clear…but that 2nd quote of just “frequency” could be seen as a bit vague. (but I think we know what u meant lol)
Ahem, the correct phrase is ‘technical terms’,
Wow! Loving this stuff - superb work!
I’ve been experimenting with different shapes and designs for the last few years - my current fave is a 1.1" hexagonal pick - made from 0.8mm sheet plastic. It’s superb for forearm rotation stuff. Lasts six times longer than a normal pick! (well coz there are 6 tips on it )
Of course the biggest impact on the tone is where the pick hits (how close to the bridge), but I’m sure that is covered as well! I look forward to reading this work soon!
The biggest impact on tone is the player. Not the pick, amp or guitar. Picks are a feel choice. You could identify Steve Vai playing with a quarter. The little differences made by picks are arbitrary at best. Maybe exaggerated by great players. Much like amp or guitar choice.
I’ve never liked the “tone comes from the fingers” trope either. Tone comes from what you think sounds good. If your fingers can create what sounds good to you then you’re way ahead. If not, then you’re left searching like the rest of us.
I think this answers the issue of getting different sounds when playing a rake. No edge picking gives a really loud rake, and then you can lessen the strength of the sound with degrees of edge picking.
Thank you and CTC team for the update
Totally agree about the abilities of the player of course. But I would not count out the differences in sound you get from pick point geometry and edge picking. When you play a rounder point pick and dial in some edge picking, the difference in tone can be radical.
Andy Wood is a stone cold master of this. You can see in the edge picking chapter that he can play the same line with low degree or high degree edge as he pleases, with super different sounding tone, and every bit as much accuracy.
I thInk the reason more players don’t recognize the effect that edge picking has simply comes down to skill. Most people just don’t have that level of ability. Whatever degree of edge picking they have is because of their setup which they don’t know how to change. This is related to the other chestnut that “everyone picks differently”, which doesn’t have to true. If someone’s technique chooses them, and not the other way around, that’s an education issue. We’re hoping to change that with all this new stuff we’re releasing.
Your picking location on the string does exert a strong effect on tone, and we took pains to dial it out in all our tests. In fact you can see in some of the magnet footage the little tape markers I placed on the strings so I could replicate the picking location as closely as possible. Any remaining differences in tone you then hear are due to whatever we are testing, be it edge picking, gauge, and so on.
Especially when you combine higher degree edge picking and heavier gauge with a rounder point pick geometry, those tonal effects can be dramatic even with no change in picking location on the string.
You are probably quite right. Steve Vai himself has said that Eddie Van Halen walked to his studio one day, picked up his guitar, plugged it into his amp, with his settings and when he played, he sounded 100 % Eddie and not a bit Vai. That’s when he learned that it really is the player, not gear that makes the sound. Still, this new material makes me think that probably he had his own pick instead of Vai’s.
Anyway, thank you CtC for a very revealing and comprehensive treatment of picks. It also revealed to me that this is the one thing in guitar playing that doesn’t need any modifications. I settled a long time ago to Dunlop Delrin 500 1.5 mm and haven’t looked back since.
So is picking a three step process, (1) chirp, (2) slide down the edge, and (3) snap off?
Fourth step: release, which seems to also involves some sliding. Or so it seems, based tests we have done. The trailing edge / release edge of the pick appears to exert a significant tonal effect, because when you remove it, edge picking tonal effects are diminished.
I meant (2) the string slides down the [leading] edge, snaps off the pick [what I think you mean by “release”], and whips around but doesn’t hit the pick again. I guess this could be filmed with a fast enough camera…
I guess I just have to read the Primer!
I know what you meant, but I’m saying it does contact the pick during the release. Because when you chop off the trailing edge of the pick the sound is radically transformed. Unless there’s another reason this happens. Which I’m totally open to discovering. We provide some guesses in the analysis, and as always, we could be wrong!
Ah, I see! It is actually pretty trivial to detect that second contact on the “back edge” (I’m sure you have terms, but I have to learn them) by putting some aluminum foil there and electrically detecting the impact of the (grounded) string, it would look pretty interesting on a sampling oscilloscope, for example. (So one might have a 1MΩ resistor bringing the foil up to 1.5V [AAA battery], and then just watch the plot of the pick’s voltage over time.) Of course a camera would work too, if it is fast enough. But cutting the back of the pick off, that was smart!
Just finished watching the Pick Design portion of the update and I have to say you guys have done it again!
Thanks for such awesome, detailed work with regards to learning more about guitar playing.
I’ve been a die-hard Jazz III player for about 15 years, but have decided to experiment with the 351 and 346 styles to see what kind of sounds they can add.
Excited to get into the Pick Grip section next!