playin' around…

…making noises #5…

picking up – slowly…

Now that the instruments are “up and running”, it's the man behind them that's causing real problems – I'm definitely out of practice. Only took a few months to fix the old Dekley, but it will sure take a lot longer to fix this old steeler.

illustration Still got my old picks, but although they fit quite well and have the right shapes and all, those fingers are a bit slow. Oh well, can't be helped — they're the only fingers I got on that hand, so they better shape up and speed up and take control of those strings.

Fellow steelers may notice the somewhat unusual shape of those picks – they're straight. Nothing to worry about; they're shaped to go with my picking-style and work just fine.

illustration Same old picks shown from another angle. They're kind of double-pointed to go with my somewhat unusual picking-style.

No use telling me how to shape and wear my picks, or how to pick for that matter. I have tried all ways and shapes and landed on a “mix” that suits my right hand – has done for around 20 years now, and I'm not about to change the basics of that “mix”.

slightly unorthodox…

When I started playing steel – thirty some years ago – I shaped my picks more or less as was recommended by more advanced players of the instrument, and played as they did. Still can use regular picks and play “normally” if/when I want to, but don't like the produced sound and restricted range for long. Thus, I pretty quickly switch back to my more unorthodox picks and picking style.

I am actually very interested in how other players do it, and most of all why, but my hand is so comfortable with my own way now that I will only try out something else if I simply can't get the desired effects within my existing “mix”. So far that hasn't been a problem, but who knows…

For a start I prefer an “open hand” picking-style with more or less straight fingers and picks angled sideways towards the bar, snapping the strings with the tip or both points of those picks with my fingers acting as springs, and mainly blocking with my palm and fingertips. Here my straight picks let me open up and cover a 10 to 14 string PSG quite nicely, something I make good use of.

I also pick quite a bit up and down the neck in order to modify the tone/sound, which I find much easier with straight picks than with bent ones. That the picks don't cover the fingertips also makes blocking of higher string with same fingertip easy. All in all straight picks work just fine for me even though some do find them odd.

I'm not too picky about the whole “pick and block” issue though, and pick and block whichever way I feel produces the desired effects. I raise and lower my hand to control which part – point(s) – of the finger-picks that shall hit the strings, and straighten or bend my ring and pinky finger depending on how I want to block.

Picking is more or less based on reflexes, so I can't explain in more details how my right hand and fingers work together. I played guitar with almost straight metal picks for 10-15 years before starting on PSG, and that has surely shaped my present picking-style.

picks and picking-styles…

We all have our preferences for type and shape of picks, and how to pick. Some don't use picks at all, preferring to pick with their bare fingers. I do use my ring- and pinky for striking strings occasionally, but that's about it without picks.

What's important is that the picks are comfortable to wear and that it's easy to hit the strings right with them – squarely and with no edge-scraping sounds. Regular picks are rarely any good right out of the box – at least not to me, so one has to shape them first.

I prefer thick, a bit springy, stainless steel picks that stay in the shape I give them so they stay firmly on my fingers. I then shape them as shown earlier – straight double-pointed with a slight bend backwards near the actual tip, and file them thinner up to a few millimeter from the tip, leaving “a bulge” at the tip.

After that I polish them well at the “a bulge” and a little further up where they will touch the strings, and leave the rest unpolished for optimal grip on my fingers.

Think the “bulging tip”, that pulls strings while it slides over them and endless ways I can can hit the strings with it, is the main “secret” behind my very personal picks and picking style.

Usually takes weeks to shape, file, and polish a stainless steel pick-set to perfection, and quite a few end up in the bin because I make mistakes that can't be corrected. Having good picks is a must though – they're an extension of my fingers while playing, so I don't mind spending time on perfecting mine.

slowly does it…

I am playing pedal steel guitar for the fun of it, and not much else. A few hours practicing now and then is all I have time for, so I'm not in a hurry to reach a certain level.

Devoted steel guitar players may protest wildly, but there are more important things in life than playing steel guitar – whatever those may be.

Now and then, when my hands and strings are warm after having practiced for an hour or two, my playing isn't too bad – at least it doesn't sound too bad to me. That sort of tells me that I haven't forgotten everything from years past, and that's a relief.

sincerely  georg; sign

Brooksville 26.dec.2010
30.dec.2010 - revised slightly.
18.jan.2011 - added GFI-picking image & corrected typos.

27.dec.2012 - inserted/clarified "stainless steel picks".

last rev: 27.dec.2012

playin' around…

…the human mind is a strange matter, better avoided…
— Molly 'the cat'

today's menu…

…hope you like the dish…
— Georg


Florida Steel Guitar Club
- December 2010.

Mike Sweeney at Legends Corner
Nashville - March 2010.

a BenRom and a Dekley
London, Canada - March 2010.

Some pretty regular picks – not like mine though.

zirconium bars

A black Zirc-bar doesn't sound better, but it feels slightly warmer in my hand than a white one.

…2010 - 2012