October 22, 2021

A Deeper Focus – Jien Takahashi

こんにちはピック愛好家! Lover of all things pick-shaped and Japanese, our correspondent Chuck Kirby sits down to talk shredding with neo-classicist Stormheart guitarist Jien Takahashi. いつもありがとう-チャックに感謝します!

– JTD

Hello friends of all things guitar picks! For this instalment of A Deeper Focus, I present you with an outstanding Japanese neo-classical shred style player named Jien Takahashi.

Jien may not be known to many of you, but he is well known in the Japanese guitar community, and will soon be even better known when he completes an exciting project that he is working on with one of Japan’s veteran guitar heroes.  I first learned of Jien upon hearing his EP released last year with his band Stormheart and was immediately struck with his skilful and inspiring playing that is very reminiscent of Stratovarius.

As a matter of fact, Jien told me that Timo Tolkki, Stratovarius’ long-standing guitarist, was a huge influence on his playing.  Currently, Jien is working on a new band project with the great Kelly Simonz as they work on completing an album under the band name Majustice. The Majustice album should be out early next year if all goes well and Jien assures me that it will contain some fantastic playing by him and Kelly Simonz.   I eagerly await to hear it! 

Here is the remainder of my interview with Jien regarding his choice of picks and some details on his selection process.

CK – At what point in your guitar playing career did you really start to focus on what type of pick you were using, and what were you looking for in a pick that would really help you to create your style as you wanted it to be?

JT I have long fingers but I have small hands. Therefore, the stroke margin is usually smaller than that of other guitar players, and it is necessary to somehow obtain a sufficient stroke margin by other means instead of the physical volume. I devoted my high school days to this study.

CK – Tell me about the gauge of the pick that you prefer, and if you prefer a certain shape.

JT – Triangle, 0.77mm. (bass type shape)

CK – Do you have a preferred brand of pick?

JT – Use only my own signature model. Dunlop’s yellow turtle is the benchmark for my signature model actually.

CK – Is there a preferred material that your favorite pick should be made of?

JT – Rough celluloid.

CK – Please describe how you grip the pick and if you have more than one method of grip; how you change the grip to use different techniques, if that’s part of your repertoire.

JT – So sorry, It is difficult to explain in sentences. After all, I have subtly changed the picking method for each section. What I can explain in an easy-to-understand manner is … When I play rhythm guitar, I am always picking like using pinch harmonics. Like Timo Tolkki and Akira Takasaki. But, when I play lead guitar, the pick is almost always parallel to the strings.

CK – Do you use the pick to create special effects such as scraping the strings, or using the edge for tapping techniques, or other unique effects that you like to incorporate?

JT – Sometimes I did like that. Basically my playing style is quite orthodox, 90’s〜00’s Power Metal style. I rarely do pick taps like Satriani, and I actually don’t like tapping.

CK – Some players change strings after every gig, or quite often. Do you put a lot of wear on a pick before switching to a new one, or do you reach for a new one after just a short period of use?

JT – If I see it’s jagged or has a rough edge, I throw it away.

CK – Do you only use one type of pick regardless of what type of guitar, or song that you may be playing? If you use other types of picks, please describe them as well.

JT – In most cases I use my own signature model. But if I play the bass sometime, I use the Dunlop green turtle triangle.

CK – Are you, or have you been working with a particular pick maker to make a pick that meets your personal needs and specifications, or do you simply buy off the shelf in the gauge, shape, and brand that you prefer?

JT – I have a good maker make a signature model, about once a year.

CK – If you order custom picks from a pick maker, do you have special printing applied to your pick such as your name or signature and the band logo if you’re in a band?

JT – Yes, I print the names of my own projects and bands that are in good active status at the time I order.

CK – Many artists are known to have custom printed picks made with their names, band names or logos, and even photos printed on the picks. If you have that done, do you also use those same picks to play with, or do you use those primarily for promotion and to give to fans?

JT – Basically I always use my own signature model. Because if I am using something else, it makes a subtle difference.

CK – How much importance do you place upon your selection of the pick that you use on creating your style and sound and if it’s as important to you as your choice of strings, and other gear?

JT – Absolutely use a thin triangle. That is the most important thing for me.

CK – Do you have any other opinions or thoughts on your picks, or anything else guitar pick related?

JT – Anyway, if people with small hands want to reproduce the sound of people with big hands, they shouldn’t use the same model. Yngwie Malmsteen has a huge hand and a thick pick, so he has a fat sound. So how to get a sound like him with a small hand …? Let’s reverse calculate things. Physically analyze their sound and reproduce it with reference to your own physical specs. Please, you should not use someone else’s signature model. You would be brain dead to do this.  

Follow Jien on his Twitter @JiensOFFICIAL !

Chuck Kirby is a pick collector with a love for the Japanese music scene. A regular contributor to the site, he has amassed an enviable collection of plectrums from some of the biggest names in the game, and is also camera-shy.