I’m sure every banjo player has changed to a different thumb pick more than a few times. I am constantly dissatisfied with mine, but not willing to make the change to a different one. I’ve finally taken the plunge and changed the shape of my pick by cutting it down and sanding it.
In my quest for the perfect pick I tried Dunlop, National and Golden Gate to name a few, but not one of them had all of the elements I wanted in a pick. I like the bright sound of the Dunlop picks including Dookies, shell or the white thumb picks. The National mediums fit my thumb just right, which outweighs the brighter tone of the Dunlops. The National is also a little shorter which helps me not hit the head of the banjo.
The reason for not modifying the pick is simple: I wanted to be able to have a perfect pick available at any time and not have to worry about shaping it just right. I thought I could adapt to a pick, but in reality it is probably smarter to just cut it down a bit and accept the fact that I am going to have to custom shape every pick I use.
When I started playing the banjo I tried to customize a thumb pick, but
I really didn’t know what I needed. The new shape just didn’t make a big difference for me, so I went back to the standard picks. Now that I have learned to pick much more cleanly and consistently, the change to a better shape has made a big difference. I can hit the inside strings with more of the pick surface which gives me a better tone, and the pick just feels more comfortable.
Earl Scruggs cuts down his pick and shapes them, so I guess modifying a pick from its factory designed perfection is not a crime. How can one pick design be perfect for every person? It can’t. I am lucky, the Nationals that I like are almost perfect, I just needed to round off the tip a bit.
So, go ahead take a chance – try a new pick or, … wait …., go crazy and re-shape your picks.