Pointy picks or normal tip - does it really matter?


#1

Do you feel that picks with points on them make it easier to play fast, no matter what your level of skill is, or do you think it’s all down to personal preference?

I haven’t made my mind up and I have tried every single pick shape in Dunlop’s catalogue. I sometimes tend towards pointy picks but then when I play with something like Tortex Sharp, such as those pictured below, I find they grab on to the string too much, especially on the wound strings, and slow me down. They sound great when picking through.

Jazz III XL tips are good but sometimes I go back to a regular tipped pick and find it rolls off the strings with very little effort.

I’m wondering if anyone here has done any kind of research into whether it matters if a pick has a point on it or not and if that makes it easier to play fast with, or if it’s just personal preference?

I’m not scientifically minded or anything, but maybe the mass of the pick tip has something to do with it?

I’d be interested in reading your comments.


#3

I’m using the Dunlop 2mm Primetone at the minute. It’s pretty good and glides off the string nice. I’ll see how it goes for the time being.


#4

I used Jazz-sized tortex picks for years, Jazz IIIs for years before that, and Dunlop Stubby jazz sized picks before THAT… but recently switched to Fender heavies after getting a mandolin and realizing that my usual jazz picks made tremolo picking nearly impossible on the mandolin’s double courses, but that the exageratedly round mandolin picks were actually silky-smooth on the strings.

I don’t know if there’s anything real to that or if it’s really a product of the double courses and not applicable to a single string, but it SEEMS like a rounded string tends to catch on the pick less.


#5

Good conversation. I feel like I can pick about equally well with different pick shapes. I prefer the Dunlop Ultex Jazz III right now. I feel like the pointier shapes tend to have a more definitive release and a brighter attack than a 351 shape. The big thing for me is that the standard shape is more apt to drag on the wound strings when I play making a litter “zipper” sound sometimes. I find the Jazz III helps me with that.


#6

Did you ever experiment with a mandolin pick on Guitar, or even the rounded edge of a pick?


#7

Only briefly. Neither felt natural to me.


#8

I strongly prefer a pointy pick, but now that I’ve developed my picking a fair bit, I feel like I can manage a regular pick much better now than I could when I was starting out. I’m almost tempted to say that pointy picks work sort of like the “stylus pick” gimmick, basically encouraging you to develop better control/precision regarding pickstroke depth.


#9

Do you switch between picks, @Frylock?


#10

I like to play a regular pick once in a while just to make sure I’d feel comfortable using one in a pinch, so I’ll occasionally grab a “regular” Tortex, anywhere from Orange (0.60mm) to Purple (1.14), though lately I’m liking the Blue (1.0mm) the most. But at least 90% of the time I’m playing a black stiffo Jazz III XL or a 1mm Ultex Sharp. I never did try those “triangular” sharp Tortex picks with the straight sides, but I can see how they might be more prone to “catching” than picks with convex sides. I like the Tortex T3 as well, but I don’t use them as much as the Jazz III XL or the Ultex, mainly because the sound of the attack on the Tortex is duller.

I’d probably recommend regular Tortex 0.60mm or 0.73mm to a beginner, and then once they get a little more ambition about trying to play fast stuff, transition to T3 in those thicknesses, and then try thicker picks as they get more confident with their precision.

That said, a couple of years ago I gave a young relative a bunch of picks to try, and even for strumming she almost instantly gravitated to the 1.4mm Ultex Sharp.


#12

I agree with you on Ultex; it’s the best material that Dunlop have made picks with IMO.

Now, the best thing about the Ultex Sharp, and the TIII picks, is their tips appear to have a little bevel on them which makes them slide off the strings better. The Tortex Sharp are simply just sharpened and don’t have a bevel until you start playing with them for a while.


#14

Guthrie Govan reckons a pointed pick can make a big difference. He found that teaching. He also thinks a stiff pick is faster and more accurate. Others argue a softer pick causes less resistance and is easier to get ‘through’ the string. Many people favour softer picks for strumming.

I suspect a pointier pick is better the more that you edge pick.

Pat Metheny says there’s hardly any picks he can use. Other people don’t care much.
Larry Carlton, and think Robben Ford both use the butt end of a Jazz III. They say it gives a better tone. That seems a bit daft to me; why not just use a thicker pick like a 2mm Dunlop and then you’ve got the point too? I was surprised myself how flexible and twangy Jazz III’s are. Eric Johnston’s Jazz III is slightly more flexible than the standard version. Reversing the pick would probably work best with a minimal edge picking style.


#15

I like a rounded tip 2mm for faster stuff. Pointy tip gets to much traction
And I suck at edging

But for hybrid picking I like the petrucci with a point.

Strumming n funky stuff I like a standard fender medium

I have been experimenting for a while now and Im finally pretty comfortable with those choices.

The purple pick and the 205 both feel great but sound night and day different


Didn’t realize this thread was so old


#16

It allso depends on the sound you want and how you hold the pick; angel towards the strings and grip strength.
Since i study on Martin Millers technique lately i switched back to de JazzIII and try to have the loose grip like he does.
I am staring to get the right feeling now and the Jazz III works great for that.

I would def recommand a stiffer pick with a loose grip to get the best overall control, especially for crosspicking stuff.
For (metal )strumming maybe a thinner pick will work and sound better.


#17

Used the Jazz pointy picks for a while; found they didnt suite the YJM stuff I was chasing. Switched to the 1.5mm purple Dunlops, perfect but I wish they could retain thier smothness, I seem to be going through more picks per string change these days!

I sometimes sand the used picks on my desk with a sheet of paper to smothen them and get a bit more from them.


#18

I always see the pros being very specific about what picks they use…and it is yet another thing I have never given much thought to.

I have done 99% of my playing with a yellow Tortex lol. I tend to use the same one for years etc

I do have some Yellow Ultex that I havent taken out of the pack yet lol.

What might I be missing by using the yellow tortex?? I dont use a lot of edge picking angle

Are the other basic choices mainly the Jazz III and then maybe the Delrin 1.5?

Im a REAL “set it and forget it” guy. If the Delrins or Jazz3’s are going to wear down it might just be a waste of time for me lol.


#19

This is good feedback from a lot of experienced people!

From these responses, what I’m gathering here is that the specific answer to the original question is no, there is not a particular pick shape that helps or hinders fast playing. I think this is why we are often tempted to say that certain things “don’t matter”. And I think we should avoid this temptation because it’s similar to the old “play the way that works for you” advice which was always super unhelpful. We already know lots of ways work - that’s not telling us anything we can use. What we need to know is how those lots of ways work. That’s the non-obvious part.

In other words, it may just be that different pick shapes require some technique changes that some people do instinctively but that not everybody figures out. And this is where preferences develop, to the extent that some people can’t play if you give them a pick they haven’t figured out.

What’s the “technique” for degree of point?

That’s a good practical suggestion. What do we think of that?


#20

That would make sense - a sharper tip gives you a more pronounced “edge” the more you increase the degree of edge picking, and a little more for the string to bite on and release off, whereas a rounder tip, at increasingly sharp angles of edge picking, wouldn’t really catch the string and wouldn’t give you as clear an attack.

I’ve been doing a LOT of jumping back and forth between different size, shape, tip, and thickness picks, trying to find out what works for me. I think, well, one, practicing with different pick thicknesses seems to help, and while I think these days either the Jazz-sized Dunlop Tortex 1.0s I’ve primarily used the last couple years, or the slightly larger Dunlop Flow 1.0s (both of which have sharper tips) may be my favorites, practicing with the Dunlop Flow Petrucci 2.0s (which have no flex at all) seems to have been good for my technique.

I haven’t picked up a rounded tip pick in a while, but I’ll try to remember to grab a Fender Heavy from out of my pick jar tonight.

One thing I will say, though, is that I think the shape of the pick tip really matters. The Dunlop Flows have a sharp, but very smoothly rounded edges, tip, and as the name suggests these seem to flow agross the strings very well. I have a couple Winspear picks (which actually I love the 2mm-4mm tapered shape, it makes for an extremely comfy grip) that have more of an angled off tip which seems to “scrape” the string a little more, and even the Jazz-sized Tortex 1.0s I like have kind of a punched-out, squared off edge. The rounded edge does seem to make a difference, even on a pointy pick, doubly so on harder materials like Ultex.


#21

I do think the type of pick matters to the grip, and to the sound you want to hear. For edge picking a pointy pick will give a better sound in my opinion.

I have heard and seen fast playing with thin pointy picks as well as with thick more rounded picks. So i cannot say that it matters to the speed which pick you have. I myself can’t pick fast at all with thin picks.
For my playing and motions i make, thick picks with a more pointy tip works best. Picks like the Jazz III or the Dunlop Flow Petrucci or the Red Bear Bigg Jazzer. I als also like the Dunlop Jazz 205 which sounds a bit smoother, like the Flow, but is smaller and has a less beveled edge.
I also realy love the Blue Chip TAD 50 i have, it sound so good and almost no wear at all, but it is a bit too much beveled for my taste and they are very expensive; dropped it between the seats on my couch, still unable to find it back for 3 weeks now; it is a mystery…


#22

I am using a Fender heavy at the moment. I used a Fender extra heavy pick for years, but I can’t seem to find them much anymore. I have also used an Eric Johnson Jazz III pick quite a bit in the past. I didn’t really notice any difference as far as speed goes. I do notice a little difference in tone when I use different picks. It seems like if I play a certain pick for awhile I sort of get used to it and it ends up sounding and feeling pretty much the same. I mostly prefer the standard Fender shape since that is what I am the most used to ever since I started playing. Great thread…I am enjoying everybody’s feedback.


#23

This is exactly it for me. Especially for attempts to use a very shallow pick depth onto the string, a “conventionaly” rounded tip pick will tend to merely “push” the string away rather than catch and release, unless there is zero leading/trailing angle. I tend to pick with a “leading edge” attack maybe 30 degrees off of “flat”, and when I attempt high speeds with a shallow pick attack, the attack comes off muffled sounding unless I use a pointy pick.