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Picks and Abrasion

By April 23, 2019 June 13th, 2019 News

Unfortunately for us guitar players, abrasion is a fact of life for most materials that guitar picks are made from. And that means your favorite pick’s character may change as you use it. In fact, you might not even like a pick fresh out of the bag, but at some sweet spot in between fresh and worn. Welcome to the struggle!

The effect of abrasion appears to be an interesting intersection of two phenomena: surface texture change and geometry change. Come along with us as we investigate the many interacting effects of these changes, both positive and negative:

Tone-wise, materials like nylon and celluloid develop a rough texture as they abrade, and this roughness excites harmonics in the treble region of the frequency response. Mechanically, abrasion also makes the edge thinner, and this appears to amplify the harmonic excitement effect. A nylon pick, the Jazz III becomes scratchy as it wears away and its edge also becomes thinner. Not only does this reward you with a wear pattern uniquely suited to the angle of edge picking that you use, but it also produces a more treble-infused sound that’s very easy to hear when you line the two picks up back-to-back like this.

For more analysis of guitar pick design and function, head on over to the Pickslanting Primer and check out the awesome new section on pick design:

Choosing A Pick

With so many options available, how do you choose?


It’s almost two hours of tests, comparisons, and sometimes unexpected conclusions that puts a little objectivity behind some of the common experiences we all have with arguably the most important tools of our trade.

Top Comments

  1. Just got through watching the new “Pick Design and Function” chapters, and the frequency response curves in the various comparisons were neat. Thing I found most interesting was the abrasion chapter. Might have to grab some of those Ibanez Elastomer picks to experiment with. And glad to see the Buck Rogers themesong make another appearance. :wink:

  2. @Troy Hi from Italy! Yesterday I saw your last video on youtube about picks abrasion and I found it really interesting. Now I’d like to share with you an experiment I did some months ago.
    I bought the Ernie Ball Prodigy picks 1.5 mm and I didn’t find them confomrtable for my plating because of their sharp extremity even if I like the fact that they don’t consume. So I used a nail file to make some adjustements (see photo).
    The first thing I noticed was that there was no friction between the pick and the strings at all, every pick stroke was effortless. I find this very positive but on the other hand this exaggereated filing eliminated all the high frequencies of the pick stroke and forced you to play with an obliged angle of 45°. I play metal so this is not a problem for me and I can get the high frequencies with the distortion, but for other styles or using a clean channel this may be unfavourable, or maybe you can find a very warm tone for slow and atmospheric arpeggios, it’s up to you!

  3. Hi Troy, long time no contact :slight_smile:
    While enjoying the video series on all things picks I couldn’t help but notice that you are mentioning a couple of times that you are not sure about the exact physics and science behind some of the tonal effects. If you are interested in digging a bit deeper on that aspect I can very much recommend a guy named Manfred Zollner. He is one crazy german professor who spent most of his spare time the last 15-some years in the lab figuring out what exactly the physics behind electric guitars (and strings, pickups, amps, speakers, mics, …) are . His results are captured in a series of books. “Physik der Elektogitarre” consisting of 3 volumes that add up to thousands of pages of deep scientific stuff on these topics. Awesome! At this time I believe the books are still not translated to English, which is a shame, but he is also running the Gitec Forum website ( that offers translations for some articles and chapters. Anyways, I know this guy and I’m sure he’ll be glad to provide his scientific insight on any questions you might have.

  4. I think a download of the version of the Buck Rogers theme song is called for. Troy’s arragement (especially the guitar tones) is AWESOME!!!

  5. Avatar for Troy Troy says:

    Here’s a Soundcloud link. Full mix, backing, and lead/strings/synth. I don’t think we have built any song download capability for the actual platform, ironically enough. We’ll put that on the to-do list.

    Edit: Threw in some Marty Friedman / Li-Sa-X Speed Racer. Always liked that one.

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