Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

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Adrian Allan
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Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:03 pm

I'm experimenting with using a plastic thumb pick.

I always have had problems keeping a thumb nail and also thumb nails seem harder to replace with artificial nails (do they even make artificial thumb nails?).

Plus my wrist is quite flat, so it's at the perfect angle for a pick (the pucking edge is at right angles to the extended thumb).

Also, unlike the fingers, most people use only the nail of their thumb, so a thumb pick as a repacement nail is not as bad as repacing the finger nails with picks on each finger.

I will let people know how I get on.

So far, the bass is very clear, but a bit too loud (it was too quiet before the thumb pick). If I manage to control the volume of the thumb, I'm hoping for a nice clear bass, something that will particularly help bring out the voicing in Bach.

No doubt some will view thumb picks as sacrilege is a classical context!
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Larry McDonald
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Larry McDonald » Tue Oct 27, 2015 1:47 pm

Hi,
Yes, Chet Atkins. See about 2:40. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNbB6FSwuBA
I don't think it sounds very good, by the way. There is no control over the timbre, plus C.A's. tremolo gets a little unsteady due to the extra tension associated with his posture.
Lare
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Adrian Allan
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:02 pm

Larry McDonald wrote:Hi,
Yes, Chet Atkins. See about 2:40. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNbB6FSwuBA
I don't think it sounds very good, by the way. There is no control over the timbre, plus C.A's. tremolo gets a little unsteady due to the extra tension associated with his posture.
Lare
Thanks for that link.

However, I suspect it is a bit of a red herring, as he is playing outside his usual genre.
I think it may be possible for classical guitar players to exert a lot more tone control with the thumb.

I say this because I know of a few classical players, eg. judicael perroy and jason vieuaux who practically grow claws on their thumb. Can't be any less unwieldy than a thumb pick.
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Dave
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Dave » Tue Oct 27, 2015 7:02 pm

There's a lot of different styles/materials of thumb picks out there too. I've tried a couple a while ago, probably will again in the future. I think "Fred Kelly" makes a line of picks. I do remember using the thumbpick to produce harmonics and they came out very clear and strong.
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Johnny Geudel » Tue Oct 27, 2015 7:09 pm

Larry McDonald is totally right.
With a thumb pick one cannot fully control the timbre, because one cannot use the flesh in combination with the nail.
Moreover, for the same reason there will always be a buzz when the thumb pick hits a vibrating string ( since you cannot damp it with the flesh).
The players you mention can use the flesh however long their thumbnail, due to its form, the thumb pick excludes this.
( I have been using a Fred Kelly thumb pick for the last 1,5 year.)

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Adrian Allan » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:10 pm

Johnny Geudel wrote:Larry McDonald is totally right.
With a thumb pick one cannot fully control the timbre, because one cannot use the flesh in combination with the nail.
Moreover, for the same reason there will always be a buzz when the thumb pick hits a vibrating string ( since you cannot damp it with the flesh).
The players you mention can use the flesh however long their thumbnail, due to its form, the thumb pick excludes this.
( I have been using a Fred Kelly thumb pick for the last 1,5 year.)
Where do you get those thumb picks from? are they specifically for classical guitar?

I understand the disadvantages mentioned, but there may be some advantages for those who, like me, struggle to keep a thumb nail.

So far, my bass notes are ringing quite well (rich, loud and resonant) with a thumb pick, so I will give it a go for a few more weeks. I might even be able to use the flesh for stopping notes if I develop a sound thumb pick technique.

As I said previously, I honestly don't see a lot of thumb flesh being used in the thumb technique of many players, unlike the i,m and a fingers, where flesh and nail is absolutely obligatory for so-called "nail" technique.
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by edwardsguitar » Wed Oct 28, 2015 4:12 am

To make a long story short; yes, and it works well. I have used them in concert when my thumbnail is too short, (which is most of the time) and often people don't even notice. In ensemble situations it is helpful in getting a little more sound out of the guitar. I do miss the option of using the thumbpad for chords, and for different tonal effects. However, now I have also developed a solid technique of playing thumbpad only, but it took time (several months) to develop the feel so that arpeggios and tremolos don't suffer from unevenness. My ear now finds the thumbpad (flesh only) sound more beautiful, but there is not that big a difference in sound between a plastic thumbpick and a thumbnail, or ping pong ball; which is what Jason Vieaux uses for a thumbnail. Many classical guitarists these days use artificial nails on every finger anyway. I use clear "Slick Pick Poly" heavy thumbpicks from Fred Kelley, so that visually it is not too alarming for the guitar audience. :) They don't stock a lot of the clear, but they can usually find some if you ask nicely. I recommend them for people who have thumbnail issues, but still want an aggressive, focused sound for the thumb. It does take a good bit of time to get used to though. There is a slight extraneous sound when the pick first hits the string, but audiences have told me they don't hear it. I think the ultimate is to have a great natural thumbnail, and have the flesh option at the ready as well, but we can't all have Segovia's nails.

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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Adrian Allan » Wed Oct 28, 2015 8:23 pm

Thanks

I agree, and might give those Fred Kelly picks a go.

So you mean the yellow strap ones with the black plectrum attached to it?
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by edwardsguitar » Thu Oct 29, 2015 2:42 am

No, those are the Bumblebee picks. Go to the Fred Kelly website and look for the "Slick Pick poly" ; I prefer the heavy gauge, but I believe they come in regular also.

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Adrian Allan
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Adrian Allan » Fri Oct 30, 2015 5:28 pm

Thanks for all the info you have given

It seems that we both have, or have have had similar issues.

I too have been using the thumb flesh, which as you say, can give a nice tone, but sometimes struggles to compete with the brightness of the finger nails.

I have been playing Invocation Y Danza, and the tremolo section just doesn't have the same impact with thumb flesh, as it is quite an "intense" tremolo.

Do you sometimes find that the thumb flesh doesn't quite do the job properly on certain pieces?
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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by edwardsguitar » Fri Oct 30, 2015 9:30 pm

I don't know how long you've been working on the "thumbpad" only technique. It started for me in Feb. and it's a learning curve that is slow. A callous will form (depends on the person) that can give the sound an edge. The response with the thumbpad and/or thumbpick is very slightly slower off the string, and it takes time to adjust your touch. I find I can get quite an intense and interesting sound with pad only, by playing nearer the bridge. In fact there are many tonal colors available. I'm playing a recital with a flute player tonight and I will use the thumbpick, but it's more of a psychological safety net than anything. I find that as well as retraining my right hand technique (though it's slight), I am retraining my ear to accept a flesh sound in the bass. A work in progress, but it is working. I could write more, but it will have to wait until tomorrow. The nice thing about the thumbpick is you can remove it anytime; and it doesn't crack, break, chip, or shred. :)

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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Maxxhig17 » Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:45 pm

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, as i've been using a thumb pick fairly frequently for piedmont blues style playing. I didn't like the idea of it at first, because I definitely believe it takes away from the palette of timbres you cam get with your thumb/thumb nail, but I think it could work for certain pieces. I'm thinking of trying it on Bach's Bouree in E Minor. I feel it could help strengthen the bass counterpoint for me, as my thumb nail is quite short at the moment.
"I've had three wives and three guitars. I still play the guitars." - Andres Segovia

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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by edwardsguitar » Fri Nov 06, 2015 10:53 pm

It is kind of interesting that many players (esp concert artists) use long artificial thumb nails and ping pong ball thumbnail extensions these days. Long nails in general seem to be in vogue; the classical guitar world is sounding a little edgy lately. :) And I agree with one of the above posts about hearing very few players using the thumbpad. An appropriate thumbpick (and clear, if you can get it) if well used, doesn't seem like such heresy in the modern world, tonally speaking. Segovia of course was brilliant at using both the nail and the flesh, but that's another story. As a practical matter, when playing in concert with a flutist, violinist, or string quartet, etc. the thumbpick does help me compete in terms of volume with other instruments; as I don't use microphones. When playing with other guitarists I use thumbpad primarily and no pick. The two main drawbacks for me are: it's a little slower in response releasing from the string, so there are just a few solo pieces that I can't play at the tempo I would like. The other is I prefer to strum full chords with the thumbpad and not the nail. However, as I mentioned previously, it doesn't break and is easily removed so you can play with the pad of the thumb when preferred; just not on the same piece. Although I suppose you could develop a technique to put it on and off very quickly; I'll have to think about that. There is also the bonus of never having to worry about your thumbnail again. The thumbpick that works best for me is the Fred Kelley "slick pick poly", and even those I file and sand to exactly the shape I need. I forgot to mention that damping bass strings is a little harder as well. The thumb angle is different, (playing more off the side of the thumb) but for me anyway that was an easy adjustment. To sum up; it's not a perfect solution to a thumbnail issue (too short, or whatever), but it is a practical one. One area where the thumbpick actually excels is in pizzicato. I do enjoy not agonizing about nail length anymore for an upcoming concert. I think in the Bach Bouree you'll find the clarity of the bass line will be achieved with less effort using a thumbpick.

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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by dmozell » Tue Nov 10, 2015 3:32 pm

Johnny Geudel wrote:Larry McDonald is totally right.
With a thumb pick one cannot fully control the timbre, because one cannot use the flesh in combination with the nail.
Moreover, for the same reason there will always be a buzz when the thumb pick hits a vibrating string ( since you cannot damp it with the flesh).
The players you mention can use the flesh however long their thumbnail, due to its form, the thumb pick excludes this.
( I have been using a Fred Kelly thumb pick for the last 1,5 year.)
There's a type of fingerpick called the Alaska Pick which mimics the use of nails. You use flesh and pick together. Might be worth a try.

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Re: Anyone tried a thumb pick for classical?

Post by Johnny Geudel » Wed Nov 11, 2015 11:48 pm

Very true dmozell. I have been using the Alaska fingerpicks and they are great ( I have no experience whatsoever with nails), but I don't use them for
the thumb. For the thumb I use a Fred Kelly bumblebee.
All the other types of fingerpicks I tried were of no use for the guitar, neither acoustic nor classical.

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