18. December 2022
Tone, timbre, ring, and sound, are some of the terms that are usually used to refer to the sound waves produced by your guitar and amp.
Music doesn’t understand restrictions. So, one way for you as a guitarist of expanding your repertoire of guitar sounds is by asking yourself simple questions:
We will cover these aspects and discuss some specific examples of guitar picks and guitar techniques and tones.
As a guitarist, you should not only reflect on your practice and skill improvements but also look for ways of increasing the amount of totally different sounds your guitar (in your hands!) is able to produce.
Imagine the wide palette of different sounds and effects that you would need to learn 30 songs from different genres.
The advantages of mastering ways to change the sound of your guitar playing are countless:
In other words, you will be a better guitar player.
Think about the “chain” of connected elements that is present when you play guitar. I like to reverse it and start from the sound source:
It starts with your guitar amp and amp settings and continues through the cable (from a specific brand and specs) and your particular effect pedals. After another couple of cables, your guitar pick-ups, circuitry, wood type, and guitar strings will play a role in the tone too. What comes after that? The guitar pick and your picking hand. Note, that also your fretting hand will have an influence on sound (string pressure).
If you replace just one element, the sound will change.
The good thing here is that this is 100% measurable by recording the guitar. So everyone at home with a mid-class microphone can start noticing the differences. Of course, then, the microphone and audio interface will play a role on tone too!
Now you know what to “adjust” to allow you to make the same guitar passages sound differently.
Go again through the complete sound chain. From all the mentioned elements, guitar picks have three main advantages when your goal is changing the tone:
Sure, using another guitar or replacing one of your pedals will have a much higher impact on tone! Nevertheless, something as simple as using another guitar pick can create appreciable differences that you will hear and enjoy.
Guitar picks can be reduced to 4 main qualities: Material, Thickness, Shape, and Size.
These qualities define the “personality” of the guitar picks to at least 80% and they affect how guitar strings vibrate. In consequence, the different guitar string vibration patterns are different.
Some materials like Nylon produce warmer, mellower tones. Others like Tortex, create brighter sounds.
The material can also influence grip and flexibility.
Pointy guitar picks have more attack and produce brighter tones. Rounded guitar picks are especially useful for soft release and warmer tones. In techniques like strumming, rounded picks will produce less pick noise.
Thin picks and some medium picks are very flexible. This quality can produce a very characteristic “snappy attack” that is not possible with very thick picks.
Of course, everything is interconnected: Flexibility also depends on the material and shape! Thickness affects grip and guitar pick noise too.
The larger the pick, the more “mass” it has. Picks with high mass will produce warmer, darker, and fuller tones. Small picks tend to be much less flexible and have a more aggressive attack.
As you can see, you have to consider all factors together. A Tortex pick is able to produce warm tones, it needs to have the right shape, thickness, and size. On the other hand, the same happens to Nylon picks: A very pointy medium-sized Nylon pick can produce brighter sounds than the average less pointy Tortex guitar pick.
Let’s compile three ideal examples:
An ideal guitar pick for thick, full, and dark overdrive or distortion sound could be made of Nylon. It should have a sharp tip for note control and at least 1.5 mm thickness. The larger the pick, the thicker and fuller the tone.
One specific example of this could be Jazz iii XL or Rombo Diamond. The last one uses variable thickness along its body to increase its total mass and create even fuller tones with high bass in the background.
Strumming is especially easy to perform when the tip of the guitar pick is rounded. To achieve even warmer tones the ideal strumming pick should have enough mass. The material Nylon, in combination with a medium thickness and the already mentioned rounded tip, will help reduce the pick noise.
Depending on your preferences you can use medium thickness or heavy thickness. The last one is more difficult to master but will reduce the pick noise substantially.
Clear and defined guitar tones are produced by pointy pick tips. Ideally, the surface of the tip is polished and has a beveled edge.
Most guitarists prefer small picks for these kinds of tones. Sweep picking, alternate picking, pinch harmonics, and other advanced lead guitar techniques are much easier to perform with such picks.
Depending on your preferences you can then choose different materials: Tortex will increase the attack and create very bright peaks, while Nylon will produce a fuller sound with more bass. Other materials (celluloid, carbon, wood,...) will behave differently.
Rombo Jade is the perfect candidate for speed, control, and attack.
Do picks change your guitar tone? Definitely yes!
Not only the tone is affected but other aspects like flexibility, grip, pick noise, attack, or control will be affected by the guitar pick too.
Sound changes will remain as a way of adding some color and dynamic to your music and guitar picks can help you here. With a very low budget and little time, you can experiment and add some fresh input to your daily guitar practice.
The most convenient way of trying many different guitar picks in just one session is by trying a variety pack containing many different guitar picks. Here you can find ours!
10. December 2022
A Guitar Pick Variety Pack is a set of at least three different guitar picks aimed to contain different shapes, sizes, materials, or thicknesses of plectrums.
There are other common names for this type of guitar pick set, like “Try out Mix,” “Guitar Pick Mix Set,” or “Guitar Pick Box.” Some variety packs are focused on specific guitar areas like a “Heavy Gauge Variety Pack,” thought to be used by advanced players or “Beginner’s Variety Pack” containing medium and thin guitar picks.
On guitar picks, qualities like thickness, shape, size, and material play a pivotal role in the guitar tone, sustain, grip, or pick noise.
Therefore, it is not only about the personal preferences of the player but also about the techniques you want to develop. Your hands do an arduous job, give them the proper tools they need.
Think about it: The guitar, strings, amp, cable, and effects pedals are all pieces of the guitar gear that play a role in tone. Surprise: guitar picks too!
Use a rounded thick nylon pick and you’ll get mellower, darker, and thicker tones. Use a pointy medium Tortex guitar pick and your tone will be as bright as you can imagine.
It only takes two seconds and the cost of a coffee to change your pick and increase your tone spectrum. Larger tone repertoire means larger versatility.
Music is about staying dynamic, and monotony kills dynamics. Therefore, your most logical step as a guitarist is to find ways of expanding your repertoire of tones and techniques. This happens with practice and the right guitar gear.
Music theory, speed exercises, precision exercises, and warm-ups all have one thing in common: They focus on improvement, repetition, and perfection.
However, performance is not everything and sometimes we should focus on the joy of exploration.
The greatest ideas happen when we achieve a “flow” state, also known as the “zone.” This applies to guitar too! So, why not relax for a day, test some new pieces of gear, spark some creativity by playing around some guitar phrases, and then see what happens without planning too much and having the pressure of achieving one specific performance milestone?
Chose 4-5 different picks, turn on the amp, and give yourself a two hours break by enjoying the music you are playing now.
PS: Don’t forget to turn off your phone!
Try to perform your speed exercise with a large, worn-out, thin guitar pick. Let’s say 0.35 mm.
You will face one of these three scenarios:
As in every discipline, using the right tools is the key to success.
“Modern Guitars” are attributed to Spanish musician, Antonio de Torres Jurado. He was a luthier, and in the mid-1800s, he began creating the style of guitar that would rise to all modern guitars.
Imagine then how immense the number of available guitar techniques that had more than a dozen decades to be developed is. From strumming to hybrid picking, palm mute, sweep picking, or down picking, all these techniques have different requirements, and different requirements can be fulfilled with different tools.
In our article, “7 essential guitar pick techniques,” we have summarized some of the most common techniques.
Sure, the average guitar player owns a red Stratocaster with 09 strings and plays classic rock.
But what about the rest of us? The 7 strings shredders, the acoustic unplugged fans, the indie effect experts, the experimental music lovers, the metal-heads, the bassists using picks, and the jazz/bossa relaxed musicians out there?
We all deserve to have a choice according to our requirements.
Personally, I like to play bass with a medium pick (Rombo Prisma), and I love the warm tones of Rombo Horizon for guitar reverb phrases on my telecaster. However, when I feel like using the thickest metal distortion ever, I choose Rombo Diamond.
Different guitar pick shapes, sizes, materials, and thicknesses create a widely broad tonality and usability ranges that I need to keep my motivation up!
Did you use the same guitar pick for the last 20 years? Well, it’s never too late to get a little bit of fresh air and try something new.
Even the riff you have played 1000 times will sound different and you might notice that there are some nuances on “pick feedback” that can make your sound more fun and interesting.
What is the worst that can happen? In the worst case, you will discover a guitar pick that you prefer more than your usual! Go take that risk :-)
Guitar players have a lot of things going on in their heads: the next gig, one unfinished song composition they started some weeks ago, the speed rates of their last practice, and more.
A Guitar Pick Variety Pack is a great gift for beginners, intermediate, or advanced players. Guitarists love trying new gear because it is a way to spark some creativity and explore tonalities.
A variety pack is a super affordable option for a small, but elegant gift to make a guitarist smile and feel excited for the next practice day.
There are many different gift options from Rombo:
If only one of the guitar picks is chosen as the new favorite one, your friend will be thankful for life!
REASON SEVEN - Reflecting on your guitar tone and level
Even if you don’t like the picks included in the variety pack, they will have a positive effect on your playing.
You will reflect and confirm why you had chosen your current pick in the past and what the advantages of it are. You will reflect on your guitar tone and the nuances of guitar pick feedback and pick noise.
These experiences accumulate, and after years of exploration, you start having a sixth sense of “feeling” your instrument, your preferences, and music in general.
What do you do with your new picks? Well, if you don’t like them, give them to a friend that could need inspiration!
From the reasons above, we can take away a clear lesson: It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an advanced player, the advantages of trying a Guitar Pick Variety Pack are always there.
Why beginners profit from Guitar Pick Variety Packs:
Why intermediate and advanced players profit from guitar pick variety packs:
One example is our own guitar pick variety pack containing:
- 1 Rombo Classic | 0.45 mm
- 1 Rombo Origami | 0.75 mm
- 1 Rombo Prisma | 0.8 mm
- 1 Rombo Crisp | 1 mm
- 1 Rombo Waves | 1.25 mm
- 1 Rombo Horizon | 1.4 mm
- 1 Rombo Diamond | 2 mm
- 1 Rombo Jade | 2.3 mm
It is not only thickness that is everything. In order to make these picks more understandable for you, we have created four metrics: Attack, Flexibility, Tone, and Techniques. Here an example:
With this information, and in combination with the description of the pick and the technical drawing, we give you a very precise picture of the qualities of our guitar picks.
We also have a specific set for beginners with the “Beginners Guitar Pick Gift Box”:
And a specific set for intermediate/advanced players.
A Variety Pack is not only an excellent gift for your musician friends, but also for yourself if you are looking to explore tones, develop specific skills, or just need fresh air and try new guitar gear.
Different qualities like shape, thickness, or material, make guitar picks very different tools for different requirements. You will learn a lot in the process of testing them and every fresh input can help keep your motivation at the highest level.
The worst case: You will discover your new favorite pick!
25. June 2022 1 Comment
Playing the guitar is fun and requires numerous hours of practice. Sometimes guitarists find themselves developing pain in different parts of the body such as their wrists, back, neck, forearm, and/or fingers.
Guitarists underestimate the dangers of injuries. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, in recent surveys, nearly three-fourths of professional musicians reported past injuries and pain that affected their playing.
Every guitarist I know underestimates the risks and frequency of injuries caused by playing an instrument. As with many repetitive activities (like sports), you can prevent some injuries by understanding the root cause. Being aware of this is the only way you can commit to your guitar practice and have a worry-free (and pain-free) guitar-playing routine.
In this article, we will cover the following topics:
Disclaimer: This article is not medical advice and is not a replacement for diagnosis or treatment by a qualified medical professional. Our goal is to advise you of some preventive methods to help you avoid injuries in the first place.
Playing the guitar, there are many sources of injuries that can be overlooked.
In most cases, the pain caused by playing the guitar starts from a combination of some of these reasons:
In chapter 3, we will discuss how to prevent injuries and pain caused by guitar playing and will explain some “best practices” related to these reasons.
Guitar injuries are serious because they can take guitar players out of the game permanently. There are many examples of these tragedies along with the history of music and their reason is always the same—underestimating the signals that your body sends to you.
If you are experiencing pain in some of the following areas, your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong. In that case, going to the doctor is the best option. If you want to learn how to prevent these injuries, go to chapter 3.
Most injuries can be categorized as RSI or Repetitive Strain Injury. RSIs are often long-term injuries that won't go away easily. These are directly associated with specific activities that involve repetitive movements. Guitar learning is all about repetition.
If you are experiencing pain in any of the following areas, our recommendation is to take a break for a few days and visit the doctor to ensure things aren’t more serious than they seem on the surface.
2.1- Pain in the forearm when playing the guitar:
Unlike what many guitarists think, forearm injuries are not only common for the fretting hand but also for the strumming one. If your hand position is tight, your forearm muscles are likely to tighten up too.
Putting too much pressure on the fretboard or holding the guitar pick with too much tension can develop into tendonitis.
Tendonitis is the inflammation of the tendons—the tissue that connects muscles and bones together and is involved in the function of moving your body properly.
Symptoms are pain, swelling, and motoric problems like limited hand movements. Many guitarists describe it as “the forearm feels like an old rubber band".
2.2- Pain in the hand area when playing the guitar. Wrists and fingers:
We are not talking about fingertips pulp pain known by every beginner guitar player without calluses. Those develop over time, making guitar playing comfortable at some point.
The main issue in these areas is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that not only affects guitar players, but also any kind of activity that involves fast, precise, and repetitive finger and hand movements like pianists, hairstylists, video gamers, etc.
Again, the tendons are involved as in many movement injuries. The flexor tendons that go from the fingertips to the forearm can be easily stressed.
Symptoms are pain, weakness, or motoric problems like limited hand movements.
2.3- Pain in the elbow when playing guitar:
The famous "tennis elbow" is also a guitarist's nightmare. Technically, this is also an issue that concerns the tendons, and its correct name is "lateral epicondylitis."
The main symptoms are pain when gripping the fretboard or pain on the outside edge of the elbow.
As in most problems related to the tendons, the first symptoms are very subtle, and this can be ignored by ambitious guitar players who want to add some extra practice to their daily routines. If you are starting to feel this, the best way to prevent it is to have a rest for a couple of days and visit the doctor if the pain persists.
2.4- Pain in the back and shoulders when playing the guitar:
A lot has been said about posture, and this has a simple reason. Good posture habits can save you from experiencing lots of pain.
The problem with playing the guitar is that you need to position yourself in a bad posture to actually see what your fretting hand is doing properly. When you focus on the movements of your hands, it is very easy to forget what the rest of your body is doing, and you might slouch or sit with your back curved with no tension on it.
Back pain is dangerous because everything here is connected. So symptoms can appear on the shoulders, lower back, upper back, neck, and in other areas. This depends on many individual factors.
Fact is, this can be prevented by practicing good posture and holding the guitar closer to you as we will discuss in chapter 3.
This problem is very common among ambitious beginners that want to scale their skills fast.
A combination of three things causes the pain:
On an Instagram survey we performed with 455 participants, 64% reported having had some injuries in the past. This means almost two-thirds of the guitarists that participated have experienced some pain or lesions. You are lucky if you are amongst the 36% injury-free guitar players.
Simple actions can make a huge difference in your playing and help you avoid injuries and pain when playing the guitar:
3.1- Warm up before playing the guitar:
Playing at even semi-intense levels is stressful on the arms, hands, and the back and shoulders, just like a gym workout would be. So you need to treat it as a sport.
Warm-up can be something as easy as stretching your fingers or starting off your session by playing some techniques that aren’t as demanding as your current guitar level.
The cool thing about warming up is that once you start playing, your muscles are already prepared to deliver their best performance.
We have summarized our seven favorite warm-ups HERE.
3.2- Proper guitar technique, posture, and guitar position:
I am a big fan of self-learning. I have used self-learning techniques for foreign languages, technical skills, software, and cooking. However, in guitar, and especially in terms of avoiding injuries, I cannot repeat it enough: get a teacher.
A professional experienced teacher can help you not only develop your skills and define your learning path but also avoid and correct bad posture, too much finger tension, wrong guitar position, and other bad habits such as slouching when playing the guitar.
My recommendation if you do not have a teacher:
Sure, it will cost you some extra money, but it will prevent future problems that have a higher impact on your life than a couple of bucks.
3.3- Play guitar with less tension:
Typical tension areas are the forearms, fingers, and back.
What I did to avoid this is playing simple chords and phrases that I knew well and, while playing, concentrating on other areas of my body: is my back straight? Am I placing too much tension on the fretboard? Am I holding my guitar pick correctly? Can I avoid turning my neck and looking left?
Some hand tension can be avoided by holding the guitar pick properly. If are experiencing this, you can check our article How to hold a guitar pick.
3.4- Breaks and time management when playing the guitar:
There is a rule of thumb amongst experienced guitar players; 50 minutes practice, 10 minutes rest.
In the 10 minutes, you can check harmony and music theory, study some tabs or just stand up and move around to reduce your overall body tension.
This has two advantages:
3.5- Do not play the guitar through pain:
If you experience some sort of pain while playing the guitar, this isn’t normal. Stop playing immediately and take a break, then evaluate whether you should go to the doctor or the physiotherapist.
3.6- Play sport:
Having good musculature in other areas of the body helps a lot when playing guitar:
The combination of these aspects make playing sports a great alliance when it comes to guitar playing.
3.7- Use a lighter guitar for practice if you play standing up:
This is only logical: the less weight you put on your shoulders, the less stress you will have to handle. Some professional guitarists use light guitars for practice or even guitar stands and only use their performance guitars for their performances.
This is especially useful for guitar teachers that usually spend their whole days with a guitar in their hands.
3.8- Massages and ice for guitar pain relief:
If you treat guitar playing like a sport—and with sport, I mean high-stress levels caused by muscular movements in some areas of the human body—then you need a cool down.
Massaging your forearms and hands or using ice and cold water to reduce possible swelling can be a very simple additional routine to include in your daily practice. Furthermore, it is proven that such techniques reduce the recovery time, resulting in better practice results the next day.
This can also give your skin a break. If you are dealing with sweat problems when playing guitar I recommend you the article: 10 ways to avoid sweaty hands when playing guitar.
Nearly three-fourths of professional musicians reported past injuries and pain that affected their playing.
Some of this pain disappears after a few days of rest. However, some injuries caused by guitar playing can be very harmful and in the worst case, they will kill your guitar career.
There are simple actions that can prevent you from injuries, such as warm-ups, good posture, breaks and other common-sense actions. The good thing is that these actions are simple and do not take much time. Even better, these actions increase your learning speed.
My advice: Reflect on your routine and consider every chapter of this article as a checklist for avoiding a guitar tragedy. Good luck!