There are tons of articles online and in magazines about the unexpectedly pronounced tonal revelation that occurs when switching picks, and how marked the change in your sound can be by simply switching to a different shape or weight or material. Tonal transformation for 50p. It’s a point that’s been made many times, which does nothing to dilute its legitimacy – changing your pick really is an easy win if you’re looking to change your tone for next to no cash.
So this could be another one of those ‘OMG new pick, total tonal epiphany’ posts, but there’s already plenty of those around, and I actually think it’s a little bit deeper than that.
The pick in question is the Chicken Pick, which just came into stock at Strings Direct. I ordered a ‘tester pack’, which is a tenner, and comes with one each of the 2.6mm and 2.2mm thicknesses. First of all, it’s a great pick, very nicely made, and comfortable to hold. The thickness of the pick belies the ease with which it sits in your hands – I normally find thick picks to be a bit unwieldy, and my previous squeeze, the Dunlop Nylon 1MM, was the thickest pick I found comfortable until now. And it improves your tone as well, which is an important thing to mention in the field of plectrum hagiography.
I was thinking about recording a couple of comparison audio clips for this post, which is when the actual difference between this and other picks dawned on me – I’m actually playing better. It reminds me of the review excerpt touted by Mesa/Boogie on the advertising literature for the Mark IV:
“You know how a great instrument can make you play over your head? The Mark IV gave us this transcendental experience.” Andy Ellis – Guitar Player – May 1991
It’s the same deal. With a thicker pick, like this one, you really have to step up to keep it under control. If you try and play with limp fingers, you get nothing out of it – zero forgiveness. But in the same way as playing thicker strings makes things a bit more difficult, but ultimately more rewarding, the Chicken Pick repays the extra effort required in buckets. I’ve always known the guitar sounds better when you’re really trying, and hitting the strings at full force (literally the first lesson on my first day of music college), but for whatever reason it’s easy to get lazy when you’re playing, which is something I am regularly and supremely guilty of.
The Chicken Pick is fundamentally incompatible with lazy playing, and for that reason it has already shifted itself to be my regular pick.
TL; DR – the advantage is 20% pick, 80% psychological. It perversely plays to weaknesses rather than strengths, and is all the better for it. I’m hooked.