Clark JM Jazz Mandolin
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"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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June 10, 2010 | Deconstructing Mandolin Picks

JM_Pick.jpgWith the recent introduction of our JM Pick Shirt Sale (shameless plug), we've been thinking a lot about picks lately. Despite flirting with a couple newer picks out there like the V-pick or the new Dunlop Americana series, we always find our way back to the JazzMando Proplec 346 pick. The five different features of pick resonate with our needs. Mass seems perfect, that weight and thickness is light enough to manipulate and robust enough for some good tone pull.

It's safe to say that a majority of mandolinists (outside of the classical purists) prefer a rounded triangle, although a lot of guitar converts will use the standard 351 shape and turn the pick to the rounded corner for more string and less click at the point of string contact. Another factor is the bevel of the pick. More gradual or rounded edge will also offer more of the string sound. Think a harp sound where the fingers draw the sound out of the instrument.

Of course there are exceptions. Those who inject a lot of tremolo into their playing may very well go lighter than the 1.5 mm thickness, some even as thin as a 1.0 or .70 gg. It's a tradeoff between pick flexibility and tone control.

Acetate is our favorite pick material. The dense construction yields a range of harmonics that complement the instruments we play. The acrylic of the V-pick gives too much of a "chirp," which can be minimized by adjusting playing technique. We've tried the new Dunlop Americana picks in the two sizes, but have returned to the JM pick simply because of the harmonics it can pull out of the string.

Understand, there is no such thing as an ultimate pick. Finger sizes are different, the instruments vary, and player's style preferences and ears are even more diverse. Experimenting is the only way to discover your own answer, and it may morph over time. Don't be afraid to try something new; it's the least expensive thing you can do to change your playing.

Be sure to read our archive article Top Picks from some more insights into how these individual characteristics play out in actual sound quality.

Top Picks
Guitar to Mandolin
Starting with good tone.
Thinking tremolo.
What makes a jazz mandolin?

Posted by Ted at June 10, 2010 8:37 AM

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