Well, the one thing I don’t want to be doing
is all of my competitors’ homework right now.
This is my life, and it’s what I do, and if I have
a couple little tricks that I use… It’s kind of like
a guitar players set-up… they don’t tell you
exactly what they’re really doing.
Fair enough. Another question I wanted to
ask… there’s probably a whole generation
of guitar players out there like me who’ve
heard the legends of the tone of the tortoise shell pick, but have never played
them, and we get um…
I have some. Wanna try one out?
I figured somebody had to have some
somewhere. You know, I see advertisements
for picks made out of materials that are
supposed to imitate that, and I wonder if
there’s a lot of truth to it, because I don’t
really know… I guess that’s the question. Is
it possible to really tell the difference that
Absolutely. One hundred percent, you can tell
What is the difference?
It’s a rigidity, and brightness. Tortoise shell picks
are very rigid. They have a great memory, and
they have a very bright tone. It’s funny, everybody’s searching for that sound. Well, obviously
not everybody… every material has different
molecular properties, different densities, and
they’re all going to interact with the string differently. Do you know my Ultem material?
The Ultex pick. When I first started playing
around with that material about maybe eight
years ago, we got some extruded Ultem in,
and we punched it out, and it was very hard
on our dyes. It had a little potato chip curve
to it, because we had to pound the material
and displace it so much that I really couldn’t
get it to work right. But that sound, and the
way that pick snaps, I think it emulates tortoise shell the best. I took it one step further.
I worked with a friend of mine who was hip
to all the different new polymers and plastics,
and we bought new machinery, because it
does melt at such high temperatures that
standard machines like the ones we have here
would be burned up in six months. The levels
are so high when it flows correctly for a guitar
pick. We actually had to buy machinery to be
able to process that material. That’s how sold I
Is there other stuff out there that’s kind of
similar, or is that pretty much it?
That’s what I’m working with now. I mean,
there are other guys who are using something,
well I’m not exactly sure what … I think maybe
an organic-based type material?
Right. I think that stuff sounds pretty good. It’s
hard. I don’t know if it has the flexibility. I think
with Ultem you really get the cool flexibility,
and the memory. That’s what I’m going for.
I’m starting to put things together… there’s
still so much to learn. Maybe a lot of players
are like me… we’ve sort of been taking the
pick for granted, you know?
I have the opportunity to work with the greatest guitar players of our time. Like I said, I
equate what I do to making paintbrushes
for artists, and there’s brushes for different
strokes, and brushes for different landscapes,
and you’ve got a fine brush, and you’ve got
a wide brush… picks are the same way. You
know, if you want a different tone, it starts
with the pick. If you use a metallic pick, you’re
going to interact with the strings differently;
it’s going to be very bright, like a harsh sound.
If you go for a celluloid pick, it’s going to be a
soft tone. It’s a very soft pick, and it’s going to
give you a more mellow tone.
I used to worry mostly about it being made
out of something I could keep my fingers on
when playing out. That’s become less of a
problem for me over the years, but it’s still
one of those habits. When I look around at
picks that are available, I don’t think first
about the tone I’m going to get, I think first
about whether or not I’m going to be able
to hold on to it.
Well you’re going to love this new pick I just
came out with. I don’t know if you play with
any nylon picks?
Actually, I do… the .88s.
Oh dude, you’re going to love the Max-Grip .88mms. It is like the ultimate grip on a
Sounds good to me. What I really like about
the nylon picks is that you can quickly wear
a really nice set of grooves in it, and really
shape it to your grip. Not a lot of other picks
do that as easily.
Yeah, that’s the flexibility and the memory.
How has the business of making and devel-
oping picks changed over the last few
decades? Is that something you’re inter-
I don’t know that the business has changed
that much. We went through a period where
we got involved with picks like the Strum Rose
picks and picks that went beyond standard
shapes and features. There’s a ton of different
ideas for picks. I get calls once a week—actually,
somebody else takes the calls now. Somebody
always comes up with something… put it on a
ring, do this, do that… but the standard pick
shape, I love. It’s just that now there are so many
new materials out there. It’s about trying to find
the next Tortex, or the next Nylon, or the next
Celluloid. For me, it’s got to be in materials.
The design itself is what’s lasted?
Yeah, I think the basic design, but there are
also tips that can be changed, and other stuff.
It all comes down to who you’re catering to.
Gypsy jazz guys like those big 3 mm chunky
picks, and then you get the rock ‘n’ rollers who
like the .88s
You know, I was joking the other day with
Joe Coffey, saying he could just cut up milk
cartons because his picks are so thin. I’m
not into them, but he really likes that flexibility. It seems like every guitar player has
a different preference.
Thirty-one flavors, man. They did it with ice
cream. I mean how many SKUs of picks do
I have… a thousand? To find the right pick,
you’ve got to just try out as many as you
can. Research the guys that you look up to
and aspire to sound like, and figure out what
What if they’re using one of your pick designs
that you’re not taking credit for, so you don’t
know how to get a hold of ‘em?
(laughs) Then I’m out of luck, I guess… story of
my life (Rodney Dangerfield routine) So has this
Yes, extremely. I think our readers will appreci-
ate it. Thank you again.