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What you don't know about Plectrums


Amazon.com: Jim Dunlop Tortex Standard .60mm Orange Guitar Picks ... At left is a
.6mm Tortex which is our favorite plectrum
for bringing out the piano-mid-tones

We noticed in a lot of YouTube demos that Brett Kingman did for us the two low wound strings (E-6th and A-5th) sounded excessively rounded, lacking piano mid-tones and bite.  Eventually Brett told us he used a heavy plectrum and then it came into sharp focus … that plectrums are the primary drivers of TONE and pickups won't give their best when the plectrum is not right.

Since we want prospective customers to hear our pickups the same way we hear them and describe them on our website we asked Brett to use a Dunlop Tortex Medium pick.  He quickly acknowledged that his sound improved when he made the change.

Strings should do more than oscillate from side to side, they should also quiver or shake in order to produce harmonic overtones.  We know for a fact that heavy picks do not induce quiver or shaking and therefore do not bring out the tone that strings are capable of producing.  We believe that medium gauge plectrums that have flexibility are the best for twang and harmonic overtones.  We like Dunlop Orange Tortex or similar, even old fashioned medium Fender imitation tortoise shell celluloid picks sound pretty good. 

Agate, stone, glass and shell are not the most toneful plectrums because they do not induce quivering to the wound strings.

Also picking technique is important, try to encourage a snap as the pick leaves the string.  This snap sets the string quivering and since all the harmonics are produced by this quivering the resultant sound will be rich with harmonics.  This snap is essential to produce harmonic overtones and Twang.  Achieve this by holding the plectrum parallel to the strings and engage the plectrum with the string only at the tip.  Engage too deep and it will be like holding it at an angle or using a heavy pick.

When you push the string sideways with a heavy inflexible plectrum or hold any plectrum at an angle it is released without causing a snap and the attack is softened and dulled by the absence of harmonics.  Using a flexible plectrum in the right way causes a snap which sets the string ringing with harmonic overtones and varying degrees of twang and piano-mid-tones, even with humbuckers.