I picked up three Herdim picks, which are nice. I also got three Clayton cork grip picks. I do like these. The cork side goes next to your thumb and the point is bent inward a tiny bit. It is a bit thinner than I've used lately but works nicely with the new dulcimer.
They have arrived and look very pretty but, as anticipated they are rigid. I can discern no difference in the sound that they make individually but that may change over time. Their dimensions are identical and they are polished. I would imagine that experienced players would adapt and use them properly but, for now, the more conventional picks, Dunlop Tortex, Herdim, Everly Star, Gibson etc make a nicer sound when I play. Nevertheless, I will persevere. I like this "dulcimer stuff". It's good, isn't it ?
Robin, thanks so much! Your descriptive word for this sound, "flatfoot" is perfect.. I can close my eyes and see someone dancing in old leather shoes on the wood floor...
Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
When putting simply the word "picks" in our site-wide search engine, it pulls up a veritable feast of pink adventures to enjoy exploring:
I wrote a blog post a few years back describing my own fickle adventures with picks as well:
Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
Like Robert, I make my picks from various plastic lids and containers. (I cut them into a big kidney bean shape.) They are big enough I have lots of points of contact so can have a very loose hand to hold one. Unless I'm strumming the daylights out of something and I hold tighter. :)
one of the Moderators here :)
Keep a song in your heart!
updated by @robin-thompson: 05/15/18 08:53:57AM
The harder the wood the better. Harder wood can be sanded much thinner and played longer before the tin edge at the tip wears away. Maple is good, myrtle also (nearly as hard), and I really like bamboo splits from a culm that is big enough that you don't have to deal (much) with the curved surfaces. Bamboo, of course has a lot of silicon in it, which makes it particularly tough.
Oak is hard enough, but not pretty. Walnut may be pretty and tough, but the thin edges wear out quickly. Hickory, Birch, Ash are also good.
On guitar and mandolin I use small hard hard picks made of Tortex, a material which gives a sound similar to the traditional tortoise shell picks of the past. One gets a big sound from a hard pick. I tried stone picks, wood pick, and even coins, but discovered I want a little bit of flex in the pick. The problem with using a really stiff pick is learning to roll the thumb so that one can play softly.
I have never wanted to play dulcimer loudly. I have noisier noiemakers for that, resonator guitars and five-string banjos. That's why I like a more limber strummer or my thumb for the dulcimer.
But by all means experiment. Discover what sounds good to you. In artistic circles, this is what's call "finding your voice."
Wooden "picks" called 'strummers' were fairly common in the Olde Dayes of dulcimer and well into mid-20th century. Robin Clark in Wales uses one periodically as do I and several others I know of. He found an old video of someone (Nettie Presnell??) playing with a strummer.
I make my own strummers from a variety of hardwoods -- maple, chestnut, yew, oak, bamboo, myrtle, etc. I have a Lignum Vitae noter, but not a strummer. The strummers I make are about 3-4" long and 3/4" wide -- roughly index finger size -- and are generally used with broad sweeping motions mostly. Thickness varies from 1/8" to a feather edge, averaging about 1/16".
I also have a pick made from Vegetable Ivory. When I was out in the Pacific I picked up a number of Ivory Nut Palm nuts, and carved picks from them. Most went to dulcimer and uke playing local friends out there.
I really should settle for one pick and practise more. Unfortunately, I allow myself to be distracted and when I am not reading different books about the dulcimer and watching YouTube videos I find myself moving in the direction of eBay to see what is on offer.
Tonight I found wooden picks. Being married to a Thai lady it was a given that I would buy a Thai Sindora one. I decided on two very hard woods - Lignum Vitae and Ironwood - as two others.
Is anybody able to give an opinion on these, please?
This is a link to a British website which has these on sale.
I can easily understand how your American forefathers used quills, leather and wooden noters as plastic was not available to them. Having read a lot about noter/drone playing I am surprised that I have found no mention of wooden picks and the woods used to make them.
I would imagine that wooden picks were used and that somebody here will know about them.
Now, I really must get that thing out of its case and apply myself.
I've settled on large, straight-edged, thinish triangle picks as my favorites for dulcimer. I also drill a hole in the center to improve the grip. I'm mostly a strum and noter player and like the slapping sound a thin pick makes on the strings. This works fine when playing with others.
But most my playing is alone and for myself. So usually I use the side of my thumb to brush the strings fairly lightly. A sweet and mellow sound. It isn't hard to brush in both directrions, so all the interesting rhythms are possible.
And I always know where my thumb is. Not always true with picks!
I managed to get to a local music shop. I picked up 17 different picks. None of them are fancy ones, but I got a variety of weights. I do seem to like the heavier picks a lot better. I'll probably keep adding to the collection and figure out which ones are my favorites.
I have arthritis in my picking thumb it is hard to hold a plain, thin pick comfortably for very long...
Have you tried the PykMax? I would think this would be perfect for you! It allows you to loosen your grip completely without dropping the pick.
Within a minute of playing with mine the first time I ordered 3 more. It's a super comfortable picking system.
I have arthritis in my picking thumb it is hard to hold a plain, thin pick comfortably for very long. Have tried a bunch of picks but the one I now use is the best for me that I have found. It is called a Mojo Grip from PickWorld. Delrin picks in various thicknesses in a rubber sleeve that covers the top 60% of the pick.
The rubber keeps the pick from being slippery. It also provides a thicker pick which I find easier to hold. It adds some cushioning which seems to help.
I believe you can order just the grip part separately to slid over your favorite pick.
It works for me but they say "your mileage may vary."
I use a variety of picks, but my "go to" pick is a Herdim three point pick. After that I use a V-pick but not the Bing ultra-lite. I use a different shape and it come is red as well as clear. Over the years I've used picks cut from plastic milk containers, margarine containers, Cool Whip tops, and credit cards. I've also used thin strips of wood and leather as well as turkey and goose feathers. I choose the pick according to the type and style of music I am playing. There really is no right or wrong pick. It is just what works best for you.
"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."
I planned to try the picks with the cork circle.I really haven't had much of a problem with a pick flying off. This is just setting the pick down on my desk or table. It blends right in! The first picks I got were camo colored and I can find those anywhere. I can be looking right at the clear acrylic one and not see it. Never considered that particular problem but I think I may have to stick with picks that have a little color to them.
One of the ways to keep a pick from flying off and getting lost is to tether it to a ring of leather or other soft material that you slip on one of your fingers. Even a slice of a finger off an old glove would work. Some people crochet them or make a ring of beads strung on elastic cord. If it goes flying it won't get too far!
Jan Potts, Lexington, KY
"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." Henry Van Dyke
I like very thin, flexible picks. They produce a very responsive, lively tone. The tone from using thick picks is very dull in comparison. I discovered the joy of thin picks over 4 decades ago and have been using them ever since. 'Nylon' thin picks produce the best sound and usually last for years before breaking.
Thought I should like this nice article from Strumelia's blog, for reference.
I did try a credit card pick, which seems to work better than the light ones I have. The trip to the music store will have to wait until the broke down pickup runs again :( Our mechanic's wife had surgery yesterday and it doesn't look like he will make it out today.
Thanks for the response! Every little bit of information helps.
1. Regular flat picks; with the exception of the Herdim "Thumb-Flat Pick" -- basically an ordinary sized flat pick with a thumb-sized loop. IMHO the best of both worlds -- the loop keeps the pick from flipping away.
2. Heavier than light. Beginners tend to use too light of pick; but with experience shift to a heavier pick and more control for less "pick-click".
3. See #1
4. Credit cards, thin wooden 'strummer' type plectra.
5. Don't buy packages of picks online -- buy dozens of singles from your local music store. Different weights, sizes, shapes, etc. eventually you'll settle on a half dozen that you use all the time.
I've seen a few discussions about picks, but they seem scattered about on the forum. I thought it might be useful to have a discussion just about picks (or even why you don't use one.)
Regular picks versus finger picks?
Heavy picks versus light?
Any brands that you especially like?
Any non-commercial picks that you prefer?
What's your suggestions for choosing the right pick?
I grabbed a pack of Ernie Ball thin picks to start out with, but I am finding them much too light. I've got another brand ordered but will probably get a few more kinds to try.
updated by @notsothoreau: 05/15/18 12:33:24PM