Tag Archives: finger picks

Murphy HenrySo now that you know not to share your picks, let me remind you that, generally speaking, those little pointy fingerpicks are not going to be your best choice. (And thanks to Steve for the idea for this blog!)

Steve had read all this talk on Banjo Hangout about these pointy fingerpicks and how good they were, and he thought that he’d try them out. Naturally my first comment when I saw them was, “What are those?” My second comment was, “I don’t think they will give you the sound you’re looking for. They tend to produce a rather thin sound. You’re already getting a really good sound with your other picks. And you’re not having any problem with your tone or your ability to play.”

And after he played one song using those pointy picks my third comment was, “See? I told you so.” He took them off. And put his old ones back on.

Now, there may be some good reasons for using the pointy picks. Like if you want to play with a really light touch, or perhaps if you’re playing in the melodic style, or maybe if you like a tone that isn’t particularly Earlish or hard-core bluegrass. But if you’re looking for a big fat bluegrass sound, you need a fingerpick that has more area with which to strike the strings. (IMHO, of course!)

After all these years I’m still using my favorite old-style Dunlop fingerpicks, the kind with three holes and a longer blade than they are offering now. I use the heaviest gauge, 0.025. (I think that’s right....) I know old Nationals are all the rage (or at least they used to be) but those never felt good on my fingers. Ditto a lot of the newer picks, especially those made of heavier metal. They just don’t work for me.

But fingerpicks are a very personal item. Experiment around and see what you like best. Give yourself time to get used to a set and see how you like them. But then, stick with that set! Constantly changing fingerpicks in hopes that THAT will cure all your ills and make you a better banjo player is a pipe dream. And stay away from the pointy picks!

Murphy HenryShort blog today, folks. Just back from picking all afternoon with David McLaughlin (banjo), Marshall Wilborn (bass), Red Henry (mando), Chris Henry (guitar), and moi (fiddle, and a little banjo after David left). And still need to find time to watch last night’s episode of the Marty Stuart Show featuring Eddie Stubbs as the genial announcer which I videotaped (RFD channel).

Okay, so here’s my Word to the Wise: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT let anyone borrow your fingerpicks. I’m talking about the set of fingerpicks you use all the time. Most borrowers will take the picks and, without thinking twice about it, bend them to fit their fingers. And even if they don’t bend them, their fingers could be bigger and will stretch them out. So when you get them back (IF you get them back!), they will no longer feel right on your fingers! You’ll have to go through the shaping process all over again.

If you’ve not had this happen to you yet, great! You can’t imagine how much you will notice the smallest change in your comfortable, well-fitting picks.

So, what to do? Carry a spare set of fingerpicks that will be your “loaners.” If someone asks to borrow your picks, give them these.

And, by the way, you should also be breaking in a spare set of picks for yourself. This is for when your thumb pick breaks or for when you lose your fingerpicks.

So at the very minimum you need three sets of fingerpicks in your banjo case: your regular and favorite set, a spare set, and a set that you can lend.

Thanks to Chick for suggesting this blog. Of course, the fact that he had loaned out his best set of picks and had them bent all to pieces and was having to reshape them gave him a good excuse for missed notes at his lesson!