different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Hello all,

hope it is okay to start a new topic on this. I’ve browsed through mandolin pick topics but haven’t really found a solution to my problems or questions.

And I know, the pick - question is a complex and emotional one, so I hope I can keep it concise ;)

I’ve been playing the Mandolin for about a year now, and my teacher suggested to use the Dunlop Jazztone 207 roundtip pick. We are working a lot on tone these days, and while it was tough for a while, I really feel I am progressing now and like the pick.

But! Here’s question #1: I was recently told by two people at a session, that I really shouldn’t be using the Jazztone for Irish music. They suggested a much lighter pick. I tried it, and find that with the light picks it’s really hard to get the attack right. At the start I often only played one string instead of both, and that happens with the light picks again I think. What I should make of this advice - are thick picks really a no-go? They both seemed to be good players, and I don’t want to be disrespectful by just ignoring what they said. But they also didn’t really help finding an alternative pick.

And question #2: I can’t seem to find a pick that I like for my octave mando. It’s an APC made from Cedar Wood, so has a nice warm tone. The strings on it are D’addario J80. I don’t like the Jazztone pick on it at all. I’ve tried some of my old, fairly light (0.60 - 0.80 mm) guitar picks, but don’t like that sound either. I’ve played my teacher’s Bluechip CT55 and really liked that, but for the octave again wasn’t sure ( and probably didn’t get to try it long enough). And that one is mad expensive, too…

Then I tried the "Hense - Triangle HSK Happy Turtle Pick" Heavy (ca. 1,4mm ) - this is the one I am using right now, I like the big picks and it feels comfy to play and the sound is okay, but I am still not 100% happy with it.

So: any suggestions what to try? What picks do people here use and recommend for Octave Mandolins?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

For what it’s worth I use a .50mm Tortex for playing Irish tunes on either guitar or banjo but when it comes to playing double strings such as mandolin or bouzouki I use a .78mm Tortex as the .50mm picks are too flexible for double strings. I concur with the advice you’ve been given about using roundtip picks, they might work fine for bluegrass but not for Irish music, they’re awkward to make picked triplets with.You need a little flexibility that you don’t get with the heavier roundtips. Of course a lot of this is personal opinion and I ‘ve often made the point that picks are a bit like toothpaste- it’s largely a matter of personal taste. You may find that you’ll need to go through a lot of different pick configurations and gauges to find what’s right for you.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Thick picks certainly aren’t a no-no, they are the norm amongst most of the mandolin players I know. I think you are on the right lines with the Jazztone. Personally I use a 2mm Dunlop Stubby, with the tip re-shaped a little to make it less ‘pointy’. But when you get into thick picks it seems to me that the most important factor isn’t the thickness, or the material, or the outline shape, it is how the thickness is tapered towards the tip. I find a pick with a nice parabolic taper that guides the string off the end is far better than a flat pick that simply has the edges rounded off.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

1mm Dunlop for guitar mandolin banjo etc etc

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Why not stick with the ones you like for the moment, and try soften your attack or lightly palm mute when asked to reduce volume ( I guess this is what they are hinting at ). I use fairly thick picks for playing melody lines and a thinner variety for chord duties to lower the level.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Not sure it’s possible to accurately guess at a hint. Also not quite sure it’s possible to be too loud on a mandolin…

Picks, schmicks. There’s no such thing as the right one. Use the one that lets you do what you want to do and produce the sound you want to produce. I use Dunlop .60 nylons for everything with plucked strings. Why? Because I’m used to them. Shortly after I began playing guitar, about 30 years ago, a neighbour gave me a fistful of them because he had them spare. I got used to them. They do the job. And all the other picks ar the wrong ones, but only for me.

TL;dr Don’t overthink this stuff.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

I play smooth jazz, contemporary Christian and rock on roll on guitar and ITM on bouzouki, mandolin and banjo. I finally settled on the Brain 0.73 (green) as it seems to serve well across all of the above purposes. Yesterday, I went to jazz practice and forgot to bring any picks at all. Brilliant. Break a few more fingernails why don’t I. I’d be in deep doo doo if the hammered dulcimer were picked. When you play that instrument you don’t tend to try a slew of different hammers because good ones are around $45 USD a set. Picks are at least relatively inexpensive.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

You could ask your two fellow session players the reason why they suggested you use a much lighter pick. It’s often useful to find the thinking behind the suggestion, and discuss it with them before making any changes.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Thanks for the comments so far! I’ll just try all of the suggestions over the next while and get back to you!

I broke out in cold sweat when reading about parabolic taper (ah! Geometry? Not my strong suit) but I think I know what you mean Mark. Good to know there are players using thicker picks as well and I’ll keep in mind what you said about shape. How did you reshape your Stubby?

Tootin’ Twang, I don’t mind sticking with the Jazztone for now on the Mando; but I’d really like to find a pick for the Octave as I’m not really happy with any of my picks right now. However, I also admit that part of that might be that I am not practicing as much on the Octave and just haven’t developed a good tone on it… Interesting that you use different picks for melody and chords. That resonates with my feeling that the Jazztone and the likes are not great for strumming the Octave.

Regarding the session advice, they were hinting more that they couldn’t hear me at all; and that’s what I’ve been working on with my teacher as well, good tone that will lead to more volume, I was too shy with the picking so to speak…I think it had more to do with clarity. My instrument (lower range Eastman) doesn’t have that warm, clear sound anyways, and it gets even more muddled if I play shyly with a thick pick. The tone gets clearer with a thinner pick but it makes my right hand technique…lazier? Less precise? I find.

Thus Tony, your point about bluegrass is something I’ll keep in mind as well! My teacher comes more from that kind of a background, so I guess that heavily influences his pick of picks…And my Mandos natural sound might be more bluegrassy as well.

I’ll get trying!

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

A wile ago I bought a thumb pick, a sort of crossbreed between a flat pick and a traditional guitar thumb pick, I thought I could use it by mixing finger picking style with flat picking style in the same tune on my guitar, it didn’t work out for me so I put it aside. Just like you Coco W. I am trying all types of picks, nylon, plastic, wood, heavy, medium, light. Then I came across that weird thumb pick again tried it on my mandolin and on my OM, it’s what I was looking for! The one I am using now is a Herco light, but I ordered some medium and some heavy. I use it as a flat pick of course, it soothes both strumming and melody playing.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

For meself on mandolin I prefer picks that aren’t super pointy, and that are in the .88mm-1.0mm range. I have a Bluechip TPR40 that I like a lot, and I also like 1.0mm Primetones and the celluloid Fender Heavy picks (also in the 1.0mm range) - but for both of those I use the rounded shoulder end, not the pointy end.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

I ‘ve found a Dunlop black 1mm works fine for picking dance tunes on mandolin and bouzouki, and a .60 grey for slow airs, song accompaniment and most O’Carolan tunes. Just lately I’ve been cutting up old credit cards, store loyalty and MU cards for picks - some of them work pretty well. I really don’t think its worthwhile
getting too hung up about the whole pick thing, though

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

The reality is that pick choice is determined by the tone you want, the instrument you play, your pick grip, and what "just feels natural." Given how subjective that list is, pick choice is quite personal, and can change depending on your musical circumstances.

That being said, I would suggest trying the D’Andrea Pro Plec. It’s a thick pick with a warm attack that I like to use on just about every stringed instrument I play, including mandolin and octave mandolin. They are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. I happen to prefer the 351 shape. ( http://dandreausa.com/product/pro-plec-351-shape/ )

Also, don’t forget that you can rotate your pick and play off the rounded corner for a mellower tone, and use the tip when you want clearer articulation and attack.

Good luck.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

I don’t know what plectra I use, some are plastic, a few are wooden, one is silver.

The density and flexibilty’s the thing.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

My favorite pick at the moment is something that I cut out of a hotel key-card using scissors. I also have a special one cut from a Swiss train card that had my picture on it - so my face on my pick. No one wants to borrow that one. It seems I like a different pick for each instrument - even two short scale banjos will generally have a different pick for each. But that is part of the fun of it - trying out slightly different sounds and customizing the picks.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Hey guys,

thank you so much for the continued input, I really appreciate it. The only approach I’ll have to decline is the credit/storecard one, I tried that years ago for guitar and never liked the result. Even though the personal touch with your face on it could certainly have its values in sessions with several pickers, I can see that ;)

Thanks a lot Colin for your answer as well, I really like your playing and sound! I’ve been experimenting with pick rotation and right hand technique a bit the past few days (as well as trying new picks), so we’ll see where it goes. When it comes to my OM I’ll have to change strings soon as well, at the moment I still had the D’addario on it that I bought it with, so I’m excited to see how that will affect the tone.

The pickxperiment continues…

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

I prefer a quite soft pick, one of the big almost equilateral triangle ones, for my ‘zouk, both for handling and the tone. I believe that the late Jerry Garcia used to argue that you can get the same tone with a heavy pick held loosely as with a light pick, but you might then be liable to drop it, surely ?
And I always try to buy them in bright colours that I can see on a dingy barroom floor if I drop them.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

… and the Min’d pick - actually made out of stone.

I remember them being advertised in ‘Frets’ magazine.

Re: different picks for mandolin and octave mandolin

Little update:

So, I browsed the local music store and had near arguments with the local music store dudes. Germany lacking a traditional music scene, you have to chose between the classical stores and the more rock/pop leaning guitar stores, both of which can be patronizing as f**,,e specially when you tell them what music you play.

Dissappointing, but one find still made it into the favourite list for the OM: The Clayton Black Raven 63mm and 80mm - between those two, I’m still undecided which I prefer for strumming/accompanyment.

And I now have many colourdy Dunlop picks - and find, I still like the thicker and less flexible ones. .88mm is ok, but I find that and thinner there is a sort of clicking noise on my strings - is that my bad technique or does that happen when you are more used to thicker picks? The 1mm is okay for strumming the OM as well, and for picking jigs fast. Still think my picking is sloppier with those picks.

Finally, I traced D’andrea picks - turns out you can’t get them in Germany. So ordered from England, the one Colin recommended and also the 346 shape, rounder edge. I really like the 351! it works well for picking faster tunes, while I think it’s nearly as thick as the Jazztone I play the pointier shape seems to help me when picking faster tunes. The rounder shaped one I like to hold, but not so much yet to pick.

What Guernsey Pete says I’d like to try as well: pick hold and size. And maybe even thicker picks - the Min’d ones sound interesting but all the articles on it are really old now, is anyone still using? I’ll try the Dunlop Stubby and just try the different picks for different tune types as well like people suggested above.

It’s turned into a quest :D (no worries, I am not taking it too seriously, honestly! Now, where’s the next pick?)