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Author Topic:  No picks
Andrew Tucker

 

From:
Colorado, USA
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2020 5:40 pm    
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I’m new to pedal steel and been playing for a year with a guitarist background. I seem to be more accurate with my picking using fingers with no finger picks. From a technique and practicality standpoint, is this bad or are there others that have success with this method?
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Rick Abbott

 

From:
Indiana, USA
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2020 5:55 pm    
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Been a fair amount of discussion about this. You ask a good question:

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=327798&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

Follow threads, they go to new and interesting places!

Welcome to Steel, it's a great addiction.
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Bill Hatcher

 

From:
Atlanta Ga. USA
Post  Posted 13 Feb 2020 7:43 pm    
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can be done, but the steel guitar string tension requires a bit more exertion than a standard guitar with light strings. if you use nails...they are going to worn down pretty quick. ask me how i know. Winking i use alaska piks and fred kelly freddom picks...two of each. they let you actually touch the string for damping. i do not use the metal type picks.

tommy emmanual plays with no picks..and he attacks the heck out of the thing. if you have that kind of power with no picks..then you will have no problem and you will get a nice big sound. let use know how you do.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 1:49 am    
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Andrew, when I was new to pedal steel I discovered that (with negligible exceptions) everyone used metal picks, and I figured that if I wanted to get the sound that had attracted me to the instrument in the first place I should do the same, unless there were some sign that I was destined to become an extraordinary player, which there still isn't! Smile

They took a lot of getting used to, even after I'd found out how to shape them. As supplied, they don't work and you have to bend them to suit your needs, but of course at the beginning you don't know what those are. It's a tough loop to break into. If you can, get Jeff Newman's Right Hand Alpha course. You don't have to use his picks.

Starting from scratch as a non-guitarist was a big help, I admit - I brought no existing skills to distract me.
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Franklin

 

Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 2:40 am    
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Hi Andrew,

I often record without picks. I say play the instrument however is easiest for you to grasp...Buddy Emmons also recorded some songs without picks. I unfortunately can't point you towards which cuts...

This is from Chris Shinn's solo effort...He was in a pop band that was one of the first videos on MTV's list when they launched.....

No picks were used and this is one of my favorite recorded tones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=devUG_IBNAc

Paul Franklin
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Michael Stephens


From:
Northampton, MA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 2:57 am    
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Check out Daniel Lanois' pedal steel playing. Pretty sure most of it is w/o any picks.
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 3:46 am    
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as many have mentioned, it's a style and execution , its not a right or wrong. For Steel and Dobro I do use picks, I can play SOME things without them but prefer not to, especially in a "live" setting . Picking attack volume is reduced but the overall tone is softer, smoother , maybe less shrill .

I recall seeing Gene Fields ( GFI Steels) playing with no picks all the time, he sounded and played great !

Now oddly enough, on guitars I play with no picks .

Its a style you develop.
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Jerry Overstreet


From:
Louisville Ky
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 6:26 am    
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You don't say if you use a flat pick on the guitar, but some guitar players who also play steel do.

Our dear departed friend Boogie Sherrard did so. He used a flat pick in the conventional grip with T,I and the other fingers bare. He played big grips etc. this way.

Once you get comfortable getting around on the steel, you might want to experiment with finger picks.

Bill mentioned Tommy E. and his bare calloused digits. There's no more percussive player than he.
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Alex Stewart


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 6:32 am    
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I started PSG nine months ago after playing guitar for 55 years...I'm 67. I had already made up my mind that I couldn't get used to finger picks after trying them off and on with guitar through the years.

But then I had the same thought as Ian above stated. Finger picks are the sound we are most used to with PSG, although some choose not to and are really good at it. I decided to just *try* the damn things and after two weeks it felt wrong to play without finger picks. I was totally amazed at how quickly I got used to them.

Maybe just give it a try.
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Slim Heilpern


From:
Aptos California, USA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 6:33 am    
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Whatever works. For me, I decided to endure the initial pain and technique hurdles associated with learning to play with picks because I found it helped both with attack and sustain (since I don't have fingers of steel). I believe you can get a longer sustain (in combination with the volume pedal) due to the louder initial attack.

After almost four years, they're starting to feel comfortable Smile.

- Slim
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Erv Niehaus


From:
Litchfield, MN, USA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 8:58 am    
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I'd advise you to try some thin gauge Dunlop picks. They're more user friendly than the heavier picks. Very Happy
Erv
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Thomas Sabatini

 

From:
Ohio, USA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 9:36 am    
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I play 6 strings with a thumbpick and three fleshy fingers. I did the same for a bit with PSG but quickly found that my arm was beginning to ache. Save yourself and adapt. You'll adjust quickly, despite the initial annoyance.
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Dennis Montgomery


From:
Western Washington
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 12:13 pm    
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I made the decision when I began to seriously learn Emmons E9 (I downtune a step and play a 12 string so actually extended D9) that I didn't want to devote months getting comfortable with fingerpicks so I play without them. That said, my thing isn't speed picking, learning classic licks or wanting to sound like the big dogs. I like arranging songs for solo pedal steel so I can play the underlying chords and vocal melody at the same time...this takes a thumb and 3 fingers approach. I guess I could always bite the bullet and put on a thumb and 3 finger picks, but I'd rather spend my time playing rather than getting used to those metal claws Laughing

The biggest challenge I have without fingerpicks is playing with a light, even touch across the strings so I don't snag the thicker lower strings too heavily making them pop, while the thinner higher strings are too quiet. I get a little better every day though Winking
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Kevin Fix

 

From:
Michigan, USA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 3:52 pm    
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I would use picks. I think you will be more satisfied. To me attack and tone would suffer without them. I use JF finger picks and a Blue Herco thumb pick. My finger picks follow the contour of the tip of my fingers. You will probably find out that 95% of us use picks.
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Larry Dering

 

From:
Missouri, USA
Post  Posted 14 Feb 2020 4:59 pm    
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I play 6 string fingerstyle guitar with only a thumbpick and bare fingers. On pedal steel, dobro and lap steel I use fingerpicks. I can play without the fingerpicks but prefer not to for the same reasons as others, tone, attack and sustain.
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Mark Draycott


From:
Princeton, Ontario, Canada
Post  Posted 15 Feb 2020 4:25 am    
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Here is a good example of a steel player using his fingers.
I always like the sound of this solo by Kim Deschamps


https://youtu.be/Tws8YIGDyl0
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Dennis Montgomery


From:
Western Washington
Post  Posted 15 Feb 2020 9:10 am    
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Mark Draycott wrote:
Here is a good example of a steel player using his fingers.
I always like the sound of this solo by Kim Deschamps


https://youtu.be/Tws8YIGDyl0


I really liked this and will definitely check out their "Five Days in July" album. Don't know about their other songs yet, but this one definitely reminds me of what 80's REM might have sounded like with a pedal steel player.

For anyone who wants to skip to Kim's solo (with the camera actually on the pedal steel player for a change!) go to the 3:00 mark. Some excellent close ups of him playing with at least 4 fingers on his right hand.

Thanks for posting this! Very inspirational for those of us playing without picks Smile
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Check out Mutiny in Jonestown's music at: https://mutinyinjonestown.bandcamp.com/

Check out the Mutiny in Jonestown progressive rock album that has Fender 400 pedal steel on every song at: https://mutinyinjonestown.bandcamp.com/album/the-daemons-mock-me-while-i-sleep
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Bill Miller

 

From:
Gaspe, Quebec, Canada
Post  Posted 15 Feb 2020 9:26 am    
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Bear in mind that pretty much everyone finds picks take some getting used to. The awkwardness goes away as you settle in to the instrument. Clearly there are examples of players who play without them and at times it may even give a preferable tone for specialized situations. Nonetheless, I'd be willing to bet that more than 95% of all pedal steel ever played or recorded was done so with the use of picks. It seems like having the ability to use them, at least, would be an asset.
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Fred Treece


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 15 Feb 2020 9:47 am    
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How you wear picks is as important deciding to wear them at all. I could have never gotten on with fingerpicks without finding a pair that could slide up far enough on the distal joint so just a tiny bit, like 1/8” or less, of the blade extends past my fingertip. That way it feels to me like playing the strings with fingertips and not metal claws...

Thumbpicks - no problem, been wearing them forever on 6-string. The shape of your thumb joint has everything to do with what pick feels comfortable. I am jealous of people with “outie” thumb joints, because mine is straight and the pick hits the strings at an angle. (I tried Zookies and hated them). But even when playing steel bare-fingered, I still wear the thumb pick for a more even attack with my calloused fingertips.
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Jacek Jakubek


From:
Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
Post  Posted 15 Feb 2020 10:43 am    
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I think it also depends of what music you play: You can can get away without using picks if you play more laid-back, quiter, folky, singer-songwriter type stuff.
But if you play with a louder band with full on drums and electric bass, maybe a loud electric guitar player too, you will have a difficult time cutting through the mix without using picks. (But then again, in the awesome Blue Rodeo clip posted above, it gets pretty loud at the end and the steel player seems to cut through OK without picks.)

I struggled with picks for years and eventually gave up using them altogether. But then, when I signed up for the Paul Franklin Method, I watched Paul demonstrate how to shape the blade of the finger-picks to properly suit your picking angle for maximum attack...After that, I was back to using picks with a vengeance! (That one video alone was worth the price of the PFM course for me!)

Still, even with the blades shaped like Paul recommended, I felt uneasy sometimes when the picks would come loose, or worse, get snagged on one of the strings (Dunlop finger-picks suck!) I discovered by accident that by wrapping a single layer of "3M Micropore" surgical tape around each pick, they felt super secure and NEVER came loose, even with the crappy Dunlop picks! Seriously, try the 3M Micropore tape (around the thumbpick, too) it works!

Now, with my picks shaped like Paul Franklin recommends and the 3M Micropore tape to secure them properly, I can pick like a boss...All I have to figure out now is which strings to pick, not how how to pick them! Very Happy
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Bob Carlucci

 

From:
Candor, New York, USA
Post  Posted 15 Feb 2020 12:58 pm    
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When I started out, I was like a LOT of others.. I was going to develop my own style without using fingerpicks... Whatever I had to do to avoid using, and getting used to Them .

So many new steel players simply think they can never get used to them..

You can, all of us did..
Learn to play with picks first, THEN later on learn some stuff without them..
Without fingerpicks so much of the nuance will be lost believe me. Put the picks on, wear them when playing, sleeping, working if possible, watching TV , every place you can and don't take them off.. When I started I slept every night with them on.. Couple of short weeks, and they felt perfectly normal.. You can do what you want, but for most players, going without picks would be limiting.. bob
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Tom Knowles

 

From:
Ontario, Canada
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2020 12:19 pm    
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No picks for me either, although I don't disagree with what the pro-pick users say.
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Dave Hopping


From:
Colorado, USA
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2020 7:53 pm    
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No fingerpicks is real hard on the nails and doesn't sound very "chimey"....But a little woodshedding sans fingerpicks gives some useful perspective and new ideas about picking groups,so I take a bareback ride every so often. Winking
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Mark McCornack


From:
California, USA
Post  Posted 16 Feb 2020 8:21 pm    
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I’ve played both ways. When I was young, I played exclusively without them. The thing that moved me over to fingerpicks is that fingernails BREAK, often at the most inopportune times. I’m discovering too that age takes a toll on the strength and fragility of nails. They seem to break a lot more these days. Used to be able to drive a flathead screw with them suckers Very Happy .

The biggest hurdle for me switching over was that I used to do a lot of string blocking with the fleshy tip of the finger. Can’t really do that any more. Bummer, that! Metal on metal is a lot less polite was to stop a string, but I am so used to picks now it feels awkward to play without them.

Either way works, and both have advantages and disadvantages. Do what makes you want to play the most. If picks discourage you enough to walk away from the instrument, by all means play ‘au natural”.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 17 Feb 2020 2:00 am    
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Interesting what Mark says about blocking. Obviously a soft finger does a nicer job than a hard pick, but if you practice pick-blocking you can get the stopping of the previous note to coincide with the attack of the next, which gives a clean result.
You can damp a string gradually with a bare finger, but with a pick you have to be decisive.
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