Paul Hostetter, luthier
plectrum and other instruments
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I like picks. Plectrums: flatpicks, mediators, straight picks, fingerpicks, whatever you call them. They're all tools, and like any other tool, I revel in their individuality, and that every player has different ideas of what works. It means everyone is different, and I find that reassuring.
So I have made a page or two on just flatpicks, with the idea in mind that you can make them yourself.
I've tried lots of different kinds of picks, including commercial ones, extinct ones, ethnic items, and so forth. I usually make my own picks for guitar, although for mandolin, I find a good old Fender medium hard to beat. For guitar I like something a little bigger and harder, and a little different than what's on the market. For laouto (it's Greek to you) I use a risha, which is a little bit like a collar stay.
Here's how a couple of picks came to be, and a few ideas of how to make a pick that works, or how to adapt commercially available ones to make them work better.
Here are some regular picks:
Some of the good picks are merely adaptations of older (or other) ones.
Here is a classic pick, from the pioneers of commercial pick manufacturing, D'Andrea.
It's a nice ivoroid item, referred to in company literature as shape #346. It's a big triangle.
D'Andrea also manufactured a smaller pick, the #351, their flagship design:
It's also known now as the classic Fender pick. Thin,
Can't read it anymore, but it once said:
A lot of people use these picks, and a lot of people have learned you get a real different tone depending on which corner you play with. Many folks prefer the tone you get from the two upper, rounder corners. Here's a Herco company equivalent to the D'Andrea #346:
McCabe's is a real nice music store in Santa Monica.
Compare these three big picks:
Each is a little different. The old Hercos are the
D'Andrea is the same as Fender, because that's who
made them on
The green Dunlop Tortex pick is obviously modeled on
the D'Andrea pick,
but made in Delrin instead of celluloid. Slightly
I like the thickness of feel of this big green pick,
...what I did here was reshape two of the three
points to be
Don't you hate it when your pick falls inside your guitar?
David Grisman did more or less this same thing years ago, and actually got someone (Saga, at first) to market them for awhile under his name. Here's his commercial pick (rare edition in clownbarf) next to one like he started with:
Here it is, laid over a Herco/Gibson large triangle.
The Saga Grisman pick is no longer available, but the
No matter who makes them, they seem to cost a lot, becasue they are fashionable.
You can take any extra-hard large pick and rework it
a lot less money!
point is very important.
(or, politely, confetti, mosaic, or multicolor).
Years ago I was able to lay in some big sheets that are about .085" thick
(something like heavy or maybe a little thicker) that make great guitar picks for me.
This one is right out of my pocket, much used and
The one below has three different shaped points, each yielding a slightly different tone.
John Pearse revived two old D'Andrea designs, the #351 and 352, in a single pick.
But if you blend the two, you get a large version of
If you like picks, you need to find yourself a copy of this wonderful book:
Will Hoover understands picks, and this book is a terrific resource. Keep your eyes open for a copy of this "must-have," it is published by Miller-Freeman, who also publish Guitar Player Magazine. If you can't find it at your local bookstore, get in touch, I have a few extra copies.
I have a page on clownbarf, but it's not for the faint of heart. Click here at your own risk.
And to go to a page about thickness, dressing edges, shaping points, click here.
Where can you get plastic sheet for making picks?
The easy-to-find celluloid is pickguard material which could once be gotten through the usual places such as Stewart-MacDonald, Axiom, Inc., et al. Thanks to recent Federal "hazardous materials" regulations, celluloid is hard to get anymore because of a $20 per shipment fee. Nice thick stuff usually comes in tortoise and ivoroid, and of course in black and white. Some places that cater to the do-it-yrself electric guitar crowd sell other types of pickguard plastic such as pearloid.
More about making picks, about
edges, shaping points, click here.
This page © 2001- 2011 Paul Hostetter. All rights reserved.