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Since I learned quite a bit from the guitar strings thread, I figured I would start this thread too. I didn't think it made a whole lot of difference what strings were used, but I was mistaken. I also think it doesn't matter what pick is used, but maybe I will be mistaken here too.

so...

What kinds of picks do you guys use?

I use jazz III, big stubby 2.0mm, dunlop gator .96mm up through dunlop gator 2.0mm

I have others too, but these seem to be the best. Are they too thick?? They don't move very much when they hit the string. It's more like I hold them at an angle and they force the string down while passing over it. Should I get lighter gauge picks or is this the correct technique? I have tried playing with a light gauge a few times, but it feels awkward. Well anyways, what picks do you guys use?

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It very much DOES matter what kind of pick you use.

There are a multitude of different picks out there. The material that they are made of will affect your sound, as will the thickness.

Thinner picks usually produce a more articulate or snappier sound. Thicker picks produce more of a "thud" if plucked hard. If a thick pick is only lightly strummed, you're more likely to get a smooth, rounded sound. A thin pick strummed lightly will be sharper and brighter.

Usually.

Again, it also depends on the material the pick is made of. I have a wide variety of picks laying around for when I record, and I use what's best suited for the kind of sound I'm going for. If I want very tight and articulate beastly palm muted thrashy stuff, I usually go for my trusty .76mm pick. It's stiff enough to not bend when I don't want it to, but also thin enough to bend when I DO want it to. Dig?

If I want a smoother lead tone (think Petrucci), I always head for my 1mm+ picks, anything 1mm and over. I also use these if I want a more glassy clean tone.

There's no real science to what I do; if it sounds better with one pick, I use it for that style. Hell, you might find the complete opposite of what I've found, but there are certain rules to be learned regarding picks.

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I find that the 1.14mm Extra Heavy Dunlop Tortex ones work best for lead; these are "Sharp" i.e. the tip is more of a triangle, and really helps when I'm trying to do speed leading (which is hard because I'm really bad at it after only 3 months of practice!).

0.60mm Dunlop Tortex mediums work great for rhythm, especially if you're trying to strum really fast. I prefer 1.0mm Tortex for this though, because of the noise the 0.60mm picks make. Thinner picks pass through the strings easier though, which you want when doing this kind of stuff. I have used the 1.14mm ones too, but you MUST rotate them and use a ROUNDED edge or the pointy tip will get caught more and dump too much energy into one of the strings it hits (like I said, I love these for lead). It's also really, really hard anyway; I used the extra heavies to test my amp after soldering in some new stuff (I'm not done yet!), wound up playing the rhythm from Thrash the Plank really fast, the extra heavy flew right out of my hand 3 times (not to mention I couldn't play it at ALL) before I picked up a medium and found out it's braindead easy.

A lot of players I talk to say they like medium or light Celluloid. Personally I hate the damn things (ditched my crappy Gibson picks ages ago); but they're softer, they pass through the strings easier. You can play faster with them, but you can't dig as hard as you can with heavy or hard (metal, bone, delrin) picks and thus your attack is limited (similar to how you can play faster with light strings, but you can't get the same brightness/volume as with mediums or heavies).

Honestly I picked up heavy picks to turn the difficulty up to 11 and force myself to handle the pick properly (you're not supposed to squeeze it in a death grip); but I found I really liked them far better than mediums, and wound up moving into extra heavy territory. I did try copper (pennies, including copper-zinc pennies); it drags on the strings, feels bad, but might work if I polished it down smooth. 2mm metal picks do exist; I would rather do a 1.14mm bone pick for my next experiment (sized/shaped like the ones I use now, but with unbleached bone).

Edit: Uh yeah. There was a point but.. pick up a bunch of stuff -- Celluloids, delrins (tortex), bone or metal or pennies if you can find them/want to hurt your strings a little (PENNIES?)-- and play with it. Use what you like. (also a 1983 penny is pure copper, a newer one is copper plated zinc).

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Since I learned quite a bit from the guitar strings thread, I figured I would start this thread too.

You sound like you don't know much about guitars ;) I don't know much about playing, haha...

We really need a wiki on this stuff. TS probably has something for this, I don't know.

You would be surprised at how much a guitar is almost but not entirely unlike a lump of wood with strings attached. Low-end guitars (Epiphones for example) come with crap electronics, like tone pots that go from 0 to 10 REALLY FAST such that everything above 2 on the dial is full tone. Fret wire (the metal things on the neck) has a huge impact on tone and FEEL (string bends? Vibrato?) depending not just on how it's seated (i.e. if you can wiggle it and it's obviously not right), but also on if you POLISH IT SMOOTH AND SHINY. The nut has a huge tone and tuning impact, try graphite if you have a cheap plastic (NYLON?!) nut and you'll understand ... bone has an even better tone but more friction (tuning is easier on graphite).

Here's a list of things I can do to a guitar now...

  • Intonation adjustment - Adjusts string length at the bridge. Pitch comes from string length and tension (tension affects speed of sound in a string, hence the wave length and thus pitch of a sound formed). The tuners adjust tension. Tension open gives you an E, but tension at 12 might give you an Eb if the string is too long, or E# if it's too short. By moving the bridge saddles, you can set the string length and thus correct the intonation so that every fret position rings the correct note. I use a strobe-on-string tuner to tune, but have to use a chromatic tuner to intonate (NARW).
  • Truss rod adjustment - Dangerous. Easy, but dangerous. The neck should, under tension (tuned, minus the G string, which you can loosen), have a certain bow to it. Pin the low E string at fret 1 and 17, and at fret 7 you should have between 0.005 and 0.015 inches of space (a playing card is 0.011 inches) between the fret wire and the string. Because of how a string vibrates, the neck needs this slight bow to avoid collision with the string during playing (creates buzzing) at proper action. Note: This is a simple matter of turning a truss rod nut an eighth turn one way or another, and then retesting. Too much distance without letting the neck settle for a day will break it (keep it under half a turn). If the nut doesn't want to turn (it wants to turn in one direction, if not both), don't force it because it will snap the rod and now you're looking at a huge and costly repair that might just cost more than your guitar.
  • Action adjustment - Raise the bridge up and down to raise string height. On a Gibson (epiphone etc), use these specs. I use 2 1.0mm dunlop picks at Fret 12 to gauge low E (1.98mm), and 2 0.60mm dunlop picks for the high e' (on a Les Paul electric). From the top of the fret wire, of course.
  • Nut replacenemt - Crack the existing nut off with a hammer, scrape off the glue, shim up or file down the new nut (see action adjustment at the nut on the prior link), and put it all together. I can't file/shape my own nuts yet but I need $100 of tools first....
  • Electronics - Come on, I do my own amp tech work. I can solder. More importantly, I can design circuits for my guitar to affect the tone (super bright "telecasting mode" on my Les Paul Special II for example, using a bypass similar to the one Fender uses in the Telecaster and a resistor to simulate the difference in windings), and replace pots/pickups/switches.
  • Fret polish - Easiest thing ever. Take a piece of emery cloth (black stuff, it's super fine sandpaper) and buff your frets smooth and shiny. String bends never been easier when the string glides instead of dragging.

Stuff I'm working on, but can't do yet because it's risky/hard/artisan/luthier stuff... probably learn some of this on $10 spare parts (hell, nut blanks cost $5)

  • Refret - Remove existing fret metal, replace with fresh fret wire. It's a complex process involving fret leveling and dressing, shaping, crowning, and a lot of careful attention to the fingerboard to repair any damage. A last resort repair really.
  • Fret leveling and dressing - When you tap in a fret it might be deeper than another fret, so the other fret is higher. Not good, strings buzz. To fix this you level the frets with FILES, and then you have to go about shaping the crown back on, and smoothing it out with a fine sandpaper, and then buff it with emery cloth. Something that needs to be done, should have been done at the factory but often isn't.
  • Routing - Yeah, I'm not drilling holes into the guitar body to add more electronics, sorry.
  • Shape a nut - A blank comes as a rectangular block of bone or graphite, which you file into the shape to fit the guitar. Yeah, ok, too much work.
  • File a nut - After shaping (or buying a pre-shaped nut), you have to file the string slots into the nut. Not really hard, but I need a $75 pack of tools to do it. I want to do this, I have a different method of filing than pre-slotted nuts use that I want to use.

Then there's relicing and body repair and all kinds of stuff I don't really want to deal with.

The thing you'll find is that the amp, strings, pick, and playing style all contribute to what you hear. The guitar itself contributes too; no two guitars sound the same, even as far as some low-end Squiers and Epiphones sound great and some high-end Fenders and Gibsons sound like junk just because of characteristics of the specific block of wood used. On the guitar, you can change pick-ups or strings or go down to changing the nut material; but you could do as simple as just polishing frets, adjusting string height, intonation, truss rod, and once you set it up right it sounds better and plays way easier.

Amps aren't much different, we swap resistors from 68k to 10k and throw 0.022uF caps in to replace like 0.100uF caps and suddenly a cheap amp sounds like a quiet Marshall. I actually like playing with amps better (you can die doing this), but guitars aren't too terribly complex either. Learning to play one is the hardest part.

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I have done a truss rod adjustment before. The frets were buzzing so I bent the neck up a little bit so it formed more of a ) than a | My action is really high though. I have not been too pleased with my guitar. Crappy bridge trem. Why the hell do they put trems that suck on perfectly good guitars? I wish I would have known when I bought it.

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I have done a truss rod adjustment before. The frets were buzzing so I bent the neck up a little bit so it formed more of a ) than a |

Eeeee, the relief should be slight; you need precision tools to measure it (hey, a playing card counts!). If you need that much adjustment, check out your frets and see if they need leveling. This is pretty tedious, but doable; you need to take the strings off, flatten the neck (truss rod), and then use a perfecly flat block of wood (ruler etc) to level across 3 frets. If the wood block rocks over the center fret, then one of the other frets (or both) is low; if the center fret can't be touched, one (or both) of the other frets is high. "low" and "high" don't really much have meaning... the key term is "level" because they all need to be the same height.

Fixing such a problem is costly, or difficult and dangerous. Maybe $100 for a fret leveling and dressing job if you're lucky.

My action is really high though.

So fix it. Is it a Gibson type, like Epiphone or such? If so, you can use two 0.60mm picks or something else that's 1.2mm to gauge distance between fret 12 and the high e'; and two 1.0mm or a 2.0mm or something else about 1.98mm thick for the low E.

My action used to be really high too; I wound up lowering the action back down FIRST, then lowering the pickups (yes, I was buzzing on them!) and truss rod adjusting. It still buzzes a little but that's because I need to fret level; overall though it buzzes much less while being much lower than when I got it!

I have not been too pleased with my guitar. Crappy bridge trem. Why the hell do they put trems that suck on perfectly good guitars? I wish I would have known when I bought it.

Most trems suck. I hear the trems that ship with Fender models are good, to the point that Fender redesigned the trem at one point and found it nowhere near as good so switched back. Most trems you get on Les Pauls suck and just throw it out of tune. Some Ibanez guitars have excellent trems.

If your bridge trem seems pretty solid and it's just throwing your guitar out of tune it might actually be the nut. If you have a plastic nut I recommend you switch it out for a graphite nut (or bone and use silicon lube i.e. Nut Sauce, but that eats through nitrocellulose so if you get it on the finish it sucks), trem or not. These actually keep the guitar in better tune anyway, because when you tune you don't get a little extra tension behind the nut, and then do bends and get a little extra under the string (and a de-tuned string), and then bend behind the nut... too much friction on the nut (plastic, nylon) does that, and you can imagine the hell this plays when you're yanking the strings with a trem.

In the worst case, you can usually get a fixed bridge for whatever you have; some players don't care about the trem (I do my vibrato by hand, it's HARD compared to using a trem and thus restricts exactly what fanciness I can do), but some use it as an essential part of their playing style. I will probably not add trems to guitars that don't come with them (like the Sheraton I want), but keep them on ones that do (like the Strat I want).

What kind of guitar do you have?

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Here's a quick guide to Ibanez trems:

RG series:

Anything that's an RG5xx and up will have a fucking AWESOME trem. Better than an Original Floyd Rose in stability (but maybe a bit stiffer than an OFR).

RG5xx and up all feature the Edge trem (in some variant, Edge Pro, Lo Pro), one of the best you can get of any guitar manufacturer.

RG4x and below all feature the Lo-TRS, a much cheaper and less worthy trem (some are junk, some are decent). Ibanez has now renamed them to "Edge Pro III", so don't be fooled by an Edge Pro II or III, they ARE NOT A REAL EDGE. They will not work like an Edge.

On the S-series, if you get a guitar made after the advent of Ibanez's ZR-trem, you'll get a ZR on almost every S model save for the REALLY low end ones. The ZR trem is amazing, many prefer it even to the Edge series due to the fact that the ball bearings make it so that the string tension is not what's holding everything together (break a string, and all of the other strings remain perfectly in tune on a ZR).

If you get an older S, then the same rule applies as with the RG. S5x and above will have an Edge, S4x and below will have a TRS. There aren't a whole ton of old S's around anymore, despite the fact that the ZR has only been around a few years. I've seen far more used S's with ZR's than old TRS S's.

I can't tell you anything about Jackson/ESP/anyone else licensed trems, except that they all pale in comparison to the Edge and ZR.

Just as a related note, if you're confused as to the way Ibanez names their stuff, it's really actually very very simple.

For 6 string guitars, they usually use 3 numbers. The first number in the set indicates the model level. It starts from 1 and goes up. As each number goes up, so does the build quality. Starting with 5, it usually means that the guitar was built in Japan. 4 is usually Korea, and anything lower Indonesia (though this is not always the case).

The second number in the series indicates the pickup configuration. Here is where gets really tricky. A 2 in the second digit indicates a Humbucker/Humbucker configuration. A 7 indicates Humbucker/Single/Humbucker. A 6 indicates a Humbucker/Single/Single -- EXCEPT when the 6 is followed by a 5 in the last digit, that is a Humbucker/Single. The final digit (except in the previous noted case) indicates whether it's a trem or a fixed bridge. A fixed bridge will end in "1", whilst a trem will be "0".

For example:

RG520 - Japanese built guitar with a Humbucker/Humbucker config that utilizes an Edge trem

RG470 - Korean with a Hum/Single/Hum config utilizing a TRS or Edge Pro III trem.

RG565 - Japanese with a Hum/Single config with an Edge trem.

RG621 - Japanese with a Hum/Hum config and a fixed bridge.

A lot of info, I know. And the sad thing is, Ibanez isn't the most consistent with its own naming schemes, so the rules don't always apply.

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Here's a quick guide to Ibanez trems:

RG series:

Anything that's an RG5xx and up will have a fucking AWESOME trem. Better than an Original Floyd Rose in stability (but maybe a bit stiffer than an OFR).

RG5xx and up all feature the Edge trem (in some variant, Edge Pro, Lo Pro), one of the best you can get of any guitar manufacturer.

The Edge Trem is a Floyd-Rose derivation, made to evade licensing requirements (you have to pay Floyd-Rose to make a trem like theirs). The Edge Zero is also derived from another trem Ibanez makes that uses the SAME design but with ball bearings instead of a knife edge; the original actually has better durability because the knife doesn't dull out over several years of use, why Ibanez changed this is beyond me. But yes, they do play much better than the original Floyd-Rose and hold tuning extremely well.

The only reason I know this really is because the Zero is used on the E-Gen... which I'd like to have really, but nobody carries it. I can probably find the Herman Li signature version for like 3 times as much :| Too bad it won't make me play like Herman Li eh?

Edit: Ah, right, because it's the Ibanez S, not the E-Gen, when it's not his signature model. Silly me. And oh cool, the Ibanez S uses the ZR, good.

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Les Pauls come with tremolos now?

No, people add Les Trem and Bigsby trems to them, or a handful of others (I've seen 5 different ones), and practically anything other than a Stetsbar pretty much throws tuning off immediately. (Mind you someone is trying to add a Bigsby to their Dot... WHY?)

The Floyd-Rose and ZR really are awesome in that respect.

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If you want to play super fast, definitely use thicker picks. Like 1~3mm. When you're playing that quickly it's more like you're "massaging" the string than picking it, so the more rounded ends of thick picks are better for that.

See, I disagree completely. For rhythm, thin picks are dreamy (but not TOO thin, .70mm or around thereabouts is the sweet spot), because with heavy picks you have to exert more effort to get the pick to pass through the string. Mind you, I'm talking about rapid alternate picking, not just downstrokes.

For leads? Yeah, thicker picks are usually better because you have more control over that.

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the original actually has better durability because the knife doesn't dull out over several years of use,

The hell it doesn't. I had to resharpen my knife edges last year.

Also not sure what you mean by "made to evade licensing requirements." The edge series IS licensed from Floyd Rose (Ibanez pays patent licensing fees or royalties), and they say so right on the trems.

-steve

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The hell it doesn't. I had to resharpen my knife edges last year.

Also not sure what you mean by "made to evade licensing requirements." The edge series IS licensed from Floyd Rose (Ibanez pays patent licensing fees or royalties), and they say so right on the trems.

-steve

Interesting on the licensing. I heard it was a derivative that doesn't need licensing.

As for the knife, the S series et al uses an Ibanez ZR, rather than an Edge Zero. The ZR uses a ball bearing system, while the Edge Zero uses the ZR design but with a knife. The ZR, consequently, doesn't need sharpening due to the lack of a knife edge.

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I gots me an Ibanez RG270G, is that good to rock out with? ;)

I have liked using "medium" or thinner picks when I want to do some flimsy strumming. I've started using thicker picks because I read Jerry Garcia liked them for a more round, warm and sustained sound.. I'm not a Grateful Dead fan, though. Heh. I can't play lead to save my life, but I like to think a thicker pick gives more of a sound I like there. I've only really tried plastic picks, I have to admit.

Listen to the differences in sound with different picks, record yourself and compare.. ugh, that sounds complicated. Just try different picks out and go with what feels best for you. It is worth it to experiment.

--Eino

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Bluefox, once again, stop pretending like you know what you're talking about...

Anyway, I use Dunlop Jazz III picks primarily, I also use Dunlop Tortex of varying thickness once in a while, and my favourite pick would have to be my Cymbolic Brass pick (made of brass...). The brass pick is really interesting and gives a great sounding character to anything you play with it, it's hard to get used to at first, but I really like it now.

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Why don't you stop pretending like I don't? The only thing I've faulted on in this thread so far was the licensing issue with the FR-derived trems; and that was a legal issue, not a technical one.

The point is that you just copy and paste text without knowing anything about it. And half the time you paste shit that nobody cares about. I don't know if you're trying to appear intelligent or what, but it's failing.

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The point is that you just copy and paste text without knowing anything about it.

I copy and paste text far and few between; and when I do it normally comes with a citation. Typically a link to Slashdot for some stupid shit in current events, but occasionally I'll yank something off Wikipedia or something to settle an irritating argument.

Typically if you see me rambling fluidly in what can only be described as 'bluefox style', it's coming out of my own head. And I don't talk about shit I don't understand (you watch close enough you'll see when I'm working on topics I don't grasp fully; I'll omit bits of information around stuff I'm shaky on, instead of filling it with whatever bullshit I can make up like some people do).

I'm amazed so many people accuse me of cut-and-pasteology but nobody actually bothers to account for where said text comes from; I get accused of Wikipasta a lot too but nobody actually manages to run to Wikipedia and find the block of text I just spouted. It wouldn't work too well anyway; you can't find what's not there.

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