Thumb pick or flat pick?

Discussion in 'Tab, Tips, Theory and Technique' started by Tom Conlon, Jul 16, 2016.

  1. Tom Conlon

    Tom Conlon Tele-Meister

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    Probably an age old question. But just curious, for all you rockabilly, chicken pickin, Travis picking, and country pickers out there, do you prefer a flat pick or thumb pick?

    Personally I've settled with the flat pick for the bass notes and use middle and ring fingers for the melody notes. It's really hard to do but trying to use the thumb pick is like starting to learn to play the instrument all over again.

    Just wondering what you prefer and your thoughts in general.
     
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  2. deytookerjaabs

    deytookerjaabs Friend of Leo's

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    I don't have a preference, but I've had big issues with the tendon/ligaments up my hands/arms although mainly in the joint area at the base of my thumb. Amidst all sorts of other "solutions" I noticed that (after cross/flat picking for two decades) when I was simply messing around with alternating the thumb picks & first couple fingers for single note runs I wasn't in as much pain the next day and that joint was less stressed in general.

    So...I learned to play a new instrument!! I mean, that's what the journey has been and it wasn't intentional by any means. I'll tell you one thing, it's one way to sound fairly drastically different and many of my old tricks didn't work yet I have a huge bag of new tricks I'd never have come up with if I'd not done the thumb picking thing. Even after this period of time though the swing isn't as hard as I could swing with just a flat pick but I'm getting there every day.
     
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  3. Mike SS

    Mike SS Poster Extraordinaire

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    When I'm finger picking on a six string I just use my thumb and fingers. On a twelve string I wear a thumb pick, and steel fingertip picks. Due to the string spacing on a twelve I have trouble getting a good pluck on the upstroke. For other picking situations it's a flat pick and finger tips, which I do not have much occasion to do, but it has happened. I have developed a lot of speed and accuracy with just a flat pick, that allows me to chord and pick out my rhythm parts. I'm not too fond of just strumming.

    If I am playing the bass guitar, it's fingers and thumb only. Never a pick.

    You look like a good guy to jam with.
     
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  4. telex76

    telex76 Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    Hybrid picking for me. Tried a thumb pick and just couldn't live with it on guitar, but use one when I mess with my non pedal 8 string steel.
     
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  5. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I love and use Dunlop EJ Jazz III picks, but I do drop them, a lot lately.
    I'm 59, and I assume my uncle Arthur Itis is visiting.
    I am looking into thumbpicks again.
    I actually learned to play using them.
    The search is on.
     
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  6. Tom Conlon

    Tom Conlon Tele-Meister

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    It's just reassuring to know there's never "one way".... We choose what works for us and get it done!
     
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  7. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    I felt that way with my initial thumbpick foray. That was with a plain ol' National or Dunlop thumbpick.

    But I play a lot of fingerstyle acoustic (no picks at all), and I wanted to use my valuable index finger for more than a pick holder. Partly because it makes sense, partly because creeping neuropathy is reducing the amount of control I have over my fingers, and the ring/pinky is better off not participating. (Because even it's middle/ring hybrid, as I sometimes will do, that pinkie is either pressed to the body, limiting other movement, or flapping in sympathy with the ring).

    Then, a few years after the first attempt, I tried a Fred Kelly pick. Both his Bumblebees and Speed picks make thumbpicking a lot more feasible.

    speed.jpg herco.jpg bumblebee.jpg

    The speed pick (shown orange) is OK. More flexible, doesn't catch as easily. Good if you like the trad thumbpick feel, but want improvement.

    The Herco is my favorite, except it doesn't stay on. I prefer a thinner pick, and the Herco uses the same material for the pick, as the wrap. So, thinner picks fall off. Unless they're glued on. :D Not really. I put a 1/4" piece of clear double-stick tape on the inside of the Herco thumb wrap part. Then when I slip it on, I sort of press it, and twist it in the direction of the picking pressure. That's it. It stays on under fairly heavy conditions, and still comes right off when I want it to.

    The Bumblebee (yellow/black) comes in a couple of standard pick shapes, and thicknesses. But the wrap is always the same, hard and firm. The pick is allowed to pivot slightly, to find it's best attack angle. If you haven't noticed, it's not usually exactly perpendicular to the thumb. This is a 'better' thumbpick, for sure. The only reason it's not my fave is the thin Hercos have a flappier feel, and a 'flatter' approach angle, which I prefer.

    The main thing: both of these styles act more like the flatpick you're used to, than a nasty thumbpick. It didn't take me very long of actually trying, to get it down. Now I use it for anything. I still flatpick most bluegrass, blues, jazzy stuff. But any Travis picked stuff on the electric, and even stuff where I use the thumb on the treble strings... yeah, works for me. I can pinch the Herco with the index, and treat it as a flatpick, pretty close. And then I can just 'let go' of it, and it doesn't fall.

    For what it's worth, I bought a Ken Carlson lesson series (online video download) a while back, and while he's not my favorite style of teacher, he's not bad, and he demonstrates all those classic country licks, all with a thumbpick. Come to think of it, he's the one who finally convinced me to give it another try.
     
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2016
  8. codamedia

    codamedia Friend of Leo's

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    I use both and switch between songs when needed. If I am "Travis Picking" or require the sound/feel of banjo rolls I'll play with a thumbpick. The Herco's "moosie" shows in the above post is what I use.... Heavy gauge. (Hey moosie, I complete agree that their light and even medium thumbpicks don't stay on the thumb. Luckily I'm ok with the heavy ones)

    For almost everything else I use a flatpick, although I don't think twice of dropping the pick altogether and playing with just fingers a la Mark Knopfler.
     
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  9. Bigpernz

    Bigpernz Tele-Meister

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    I use a flat pick and fingers for that stuff. I tried the thumb pick when I was younger cause I thought it looked cool but I struggled with it too.
     
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  10. Doug 54

    Doug 54 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thumb
     
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  11. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    I think that hybrid picking is a great skill to have.

    I have never been able use a flatpick, but I did, of necessity learn to use a thumbpick when my thumbnail developed a long-term fault .

    I've also recently been working on thumb-fingerbrush techniques to emulate country "bum titty" style flatpicking.
     
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  12. thebowl

    thebowl Tele-Meister

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    I either use a finger pick or no pick, when I am playing country stuff. I only use a thumb pick for bottleneck. I need to figure out the flat pick versus no pick thing. I guess it it depends on whether there is a true alternating bass line (no pick), versus some fills using upper strings.
     
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  13. -Hawk-

    -Hawk- Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    Hybrid picking seemed to come naturally to me. I use it for more than just country stuff. Thumb picks seem to stabby every time I try them. Feel like I lose control over my touch.
     
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  14. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    That's exactly my feeling, with traditional thumbpicks. The ones I list above fix that. The Herco probably the best.
     
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  15. screamin eagle

    screamin eagle Poster Extraordinaire

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    I use a flat pick, but Paul Pigat has told me a couple of times that there are things you just can't do with a flat pick. When I try he says, "Ya well try that in combat conditions." He says there are just some things that you need your index finger for. I often see him using a thumb pick as if it were a flat pick (pinching it with his index finger), but when he needs his index finger it's availble.
     
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  16. Modern Saint

    Modern Saint Tele-Meister

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    Hybrid for me.

    Been experimenting with Thumbpicks just to try.
     
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  17. Tony Done

    Tony Done Friend of Leo's

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    These work well if you want to use a thumbick like a flatpick:

    http://www.jimdunlop.com/product/zookies-thumbpicks
     
  18. bazmusicman

    bazmusicman Tele-Meister

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    Because of a problem with my grip I'm finding it harder to hold onto a flat pick.
    I have and do use a thumb pick, but I find it a bit of a challenge, so I came up with my own Idea of a flexible thumb pick.

    I took my normal flat pick and super glued a part of a rubber band onto it to make a loop like a thumb pick. With a bit of experimenting with different length's and thickness of rubber band's I made them to fit over my thumb without being too tight or too loose.

    This method give's me a bit of both worlds..........a flexible flat pick/thumb pick that doesn't turn around when playing fast chord work/picking and can't be dropped.
     
  19. Califiddler

    Califiddler Friend of Leo's

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    Neither. When I fingerpick I usually use just the flesh of my thumb and my fingernails.
     
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  20. moosie

    moosie Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    That's unique. :)

    I thought I knew were you were going with 'pick' and 'super glue', and was ready to read about a disaster.

    I can see not dropping it, but how does the rubber band keep the pick from turning in your hand? I have trouble with that sometimes. Neuropathy, again.

    Got a picture?
     
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