March 12, 2021

Ode To The Djentlemen

Written by noted pick collector and low-tuned advocate Lawrence Chaventre, this piece deals with guitar picks for djent, extended scale instruments and tech metal. If you consider standard tuning a jumping off point, read on.
JTD

Follow Lawrence @l_chaventre

We tend to see plectrums covering all types of music and are not necessarily genre defined. A blues player can easily use the same plectrum as a rock player. Extreme genres, however, require a more selective approach to the gear used than other than subgenres of metal. These no-holds barred, all-out apocalyptic sounds need some heavy duty plectrums in order to keep up with the sonic assault that comes from these players.

Be it a multi stringed instrument or one that is drop tuned, lowering the pitch in music is fraught with complications. From muddy lows to tinny treble frequencies, no amount of dialling an amp will help the player achieve the attack they are after. To help retain the percussive sounds that are synonymous of these genres, active pickups, noise gate effects and multi scale instruments all work together.  Often overlooked, the plectrum itself can instantly improve clarity and reduce unwanted sounds for either a guitarist or bassist. No matter its thickness or shape, in an instant, changing the plectrum can help. This guide proposes some to help you.

Acrylic
A readily available alternative to Tortex in the boutique plectrum world. This material is very durable and can withstand a lot of punishment from all but the most relentless of players. Bringing in some much needed treble and attack, the all important chug is restored. Acrylic can be fairly bright and requires a degree of control, since the dreaded chirp of the plectrum is amplified.

Thermoplastics
Thermoplastics are the next tier up to acrylic, as they take all the points of that favoured brightness and attack but adds even more punch and definition. Certain materials – PEEK or Polysulfone (PSU) for example – are capable of accelerating bass response or much needed treble response. Bassists should look no further for that scratchy distortion tone than that offered by these plectrums. 

Stone
Stone is similar to acrylic as it is close to an unbreakable plectrum that one can get. Be it an agate or a jasper, these picks slice through strings like butter. Perfect for intricate work on multi scale guitars and lead solos. Stone plectrums can be harder on your strings, and so you may be changing them more often. Stone is more than capable of handling bass strings, but if you are highly aggressive, consider thermoplastic.

Wood
Wood is not a material one would associate being used to amplify certain sounds. Perhaps the weakest material of all its longevity is questionable, however, certain woods are perfect counterparts to their harder material cousins. Blackwood, maple and ash are dense woods capable of providing much needed attack and focus to the sounds that guitarists and bassists lose as they detune.

Experiment
Every player’s ears will help them decide which plectrum will help them achieve that all desired tone and no matter what tuning you may be using, these plectrum materials will help you shift your sound to the genre that you are aiming for. As the genre evolves and so do the instruments, plectrums will follow suit, and no doubt we shall all find ourselves at the gates of Thall.

Lawrence is a left-handed extended range player, multi-linguist and pick collector. He runs The Music Linguist, a networking group for translators, interpreters and linguists who specialise in the music industry. He also considers 9mm a bit on the thin side.

Insta: @the_m_linguist