An essential tool for most electric guitarist, and many acoustic players as well, is the guitar pick. There´s almost as many preferred picks as there are players out there, and it all comes down to taste in the end. But I´ve made a few guidelines, without any "rules", that might help you out when it comes to decide which pick to use:
1. Thickness: The thickness is a topic which is discussed frequently when guitarists meets. "You can´t play fast with a pick that soft" is a common statement. That is a truth with modifications. You don´t need a superthick pick to be able to play really fast alternate picking, but you can´t rely on a superthin pick either. It mostly comes down to you being able to handle your kind of pick well, but I wouldn´t recommend a pick that´s thinner than 0.73 mm. And to be able to play really fast alternate picking, we´re talking Yngwie-fast, you probably would be able to be more precise and tight with a pick that´s at least around 1 mm thick. But you don´t need a 3 mm thick pick to play fast, and to get one of these isn't a guarantee for you to play fast. And while on the subject, there´s no guarantee that your acoustic guitar will sound great while strummed with your softest pick - it all depends on you. If you can handle your pick well chances are that most guitars and most styles will sound good. Try out some different picks, thick and thin, in different styles, then settle on the one you seem to be able to play well with. And when you´ve found the right thickness, don´t mess around. Instead, try to get as good as possible with your choice of pick.
2. Shape: There´s the standard shape, but there´s also some other shapes of picks. For example, the one that Kerry King of Slayer plays with is a triangle, where every side is identical. King likes it this way because if he damages one side of the pick during a song, he can flip it and play on with one of the other sides of the pick. I´ve seen some guitarists that uses coins instead of picks, round ones that are really thick. And there´s more shapes of course, like the sharkfin (which at least looks pretty cool), teardrop and the Tenacious D "Pick Of Destiny" devilheaded pick. So if you´re not satisfied with the standard shape, check out one of the more crazy ones. Maybe one of these will be the guitar pick for you!
3: Material: There´s also a variety of materials used in the guitar pick industry. Nylon, wood, plastic, stone, glass and even carbon fiber is used to produce different types of picks. Try out a couple of these materials and you´ll find the one that´s right for you. Of course they all will provide different attack and sound from your instrument, specifically on an acoustic but also on electric guitars. Back in the day pick makers often used tortoise shell, but of course this material was both rare and expensive. And a bit weak, as tortoise shell picks could easily break. But later on, cellulose would prove that it was just as good as tortoise tonalwise, and even better when it came to durability. Good news for the turtles! Also, cellulose is a cheap material, so this was also good news for the customers. So if you´re thinking of going back to the roots and get one of those tortoise shell picks, think again. It´s better for both your wallet and for the turtles if you stay away from their shells!
4: Special picks: Some musical genres comes with their own picks. For instance many fingerpickers prefers a thumbpick instead of their thumb nail. The thumbpick gives a little different feel and hand positioning than playing with your thumb, but the result is often sweet. So if you want to play fingerpicking in the classic folk/country-style, try out the thumbpick! Gypsy Jazz is another genre where the player requires a thick pick to really get the tone that the style demands. A typical pick for this kind of style is the Wegen Gypsy Jazz Guitar Pick (which is 3.5 mm thick!), but there´s players in this genre that uses different kind of picks. The most important thing is that the pick can provide you with the possibility of playing really heavy. No-one really knows what pick Django Reinhardt, the grandfather of Gypsy Jazz guitar, used but it´s believed to be a thick one with a really worn down edge.
<---The Wegen Gypsy Jazz Pick
That said, many genres has a typical pick, like the red jazz pick, but this often comes down to tradition or some famous guitarist that used a certain pick back in the day. To play in this style you´re seldom forced to use the same pick as everybody else, you should use the pick that you are comfortable with. Now go out there and dig down in your strings with your favourite pick!
The Dava Control Pick, my favourite --->
A common issue when it comes to effect pedals is the powering. Sure, you can use separate power supplies to each pedal, but if you´ve got a bunch of them this will lead to problems with the mobility of your board. Each power supply would need it´s own power jack and force you to invest in a lot of big power switches. Plus, this would take up a lot of space.
Another solution is to use batteries, but hey, that´s not a very good solution in the long run. Many pedals eats batteries as the cookie monster eats cookies, and even when the pedal is not switched on, it will feed on your batteries as long as the input cord is attached in the pedal. It´s a real waste to use batteries in the long run, but in some occassions it comes in handy. When I´ve got small gigs at small clubs with tiny scenes, and really short suondchecks, I´ve found it dumb to plug in a giant pedalboard which would take up more space than available onstage. At these circumstances I usually get out three necessary pedals (most often some overdrive, delay, flanger, chorus or a booster) and get them running on batteries. This makes quick scene loadings possible and doesn´t use up that much space onstage. The only downside is the risk of kicking around pedals when they´re not attached to a board, and of course the sonic possibilities gets smaller with less pedals. A really important thing here is to have fresh batteries in your equipment, so your great sounding overdrive pedal won´t run out of steam in the middle of the gig, leaving you with a thin, clean sound when you need to rock like a hurricane.
The best option is a power supply which can power a lot of pedals without any fuss. There´s a big market for this type of equipment and before you run and get the cheapest one there´s some things to think about, What kind of pedals do you own? Do they run on different voltage? The most common for guitar pedals is to run on 9V DC, but it´s not likely that every pedal you own does this. For an example the Boss BF-2, an old, great sounding flanger pedal, needs and 12V ACA adapter to get going. And there´s other pedals that needs as much as 18V or 24V DC. Some pedals comes with their own adapters and shouldn´t be used with others, and if they´re expensive ones it´s not worth taking a chance and plug them into something else. When it comes to my Hughes & Kettner Rotosphere, I use the original adapter, just to be on the safe side. Hooking pedals up with wrong power can damage them, or even worse, destroy them, so be sure to read what they need to work. Most pedals however can be hooked up to a power supply if you just do it right. Be careful and plug them in to the right kind of voltage and you´ll be fine. The bottom line is: you will probably need a power supply which can power up different kind of voltages, so don´t get one that only serve 9V DC pedals.
Then there´s the issue of ground loops. Ground loops creates noise, and if there´s one thing guitarists don´t want it´s uncontrolled noise coming from your amp. To avoid ground loops you´ll need a power supply with isolated outputs. Power supplies that uses this solution isolates every output so each pedal will run on it´s own without connecting with other pedal´s in the chain. It´s like the solution I talked about earlier, to have a lot of separate adapters to each pedals and then connect them to the same power strip, but without having all those big adapters cramming up space. Instead all the power cords will go neatly into your power supply and save you a lot of space and weight.
There´s solutions to most issues if you just get your facts straight. I own some pedals which I´ve had to do some research with to get them to work with my power supply, but in the end I´ve been successful. Two examples is the ProCo Turbo Rat and the Janglebox. Two awesome sounding pedals but without the standard 9V DC voltage. The Janglebox needed a special cord to hook it up with my power supply, the Turbo Rat needed a adapter cord to get it on board. So I got these parts and now we´re all happy. Nowadays nearly everything is on the Internet, so if you´ve got a problem or a question - Google it! The answer will probably be out there at some forum.
So, which power supply will meet all these demands? There´s probably some more out there, but I found the Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 to be a real friend. Isolated outputs, different cords for different voltage and switches between 9V and 12V. It can power 8 pedals and also have some specials, like the "sag". This is a thing that could, if you want, simulate the sound of your pedal when it runs low on battery. Some pedals sounds really great when sagging, and therefore this feature could be interesting. But the best thing about this product is that it can power up most pedals and does so without adding any unwanted noise due to ground loops. It costs a bit more than certain other power supplies, but you´ll get what you pay for. In this case you´ll get a great power supply which, if proper used, won´t let you down.
You´re about to head into the studio and record that awesome piece of music that you´ve wanted to put on tape for so long. But wait, have you prepared yourself? Is your equipment ready? Are you ready? Here´s some pointers for you:
- Gear: No matter what genre you´re playing, you need to make sure that your gear is well setup. For a classical guitarist, your guitar and your nails are extremely important. Don´t change strings too close to the session, they need some days of playing to really sound good. Be sure that your nails are perfectly polished and look after them as if they were your babies. When it comes to jazz music, the guitar is of course also important. Make sure it intonates well and change the strings in time before the studio session. But also, are you using any effects? Chorus? Delay? Nail the settings on your effects at home and try them out at rehearsals so you don´t waste time struggling with them in the studio. The same goes with your amp settings. I´m pretty sure that you want to use your own amp while recording, so make sure you know how to get the the sound you desire out of it. For a pop/rock-guitarist, the same rules as earlier stated applies. In some cases you might not use your own amp, and this can be scary. But if you´re going to use a studio amp, ask what kind of amp it is. Do you know this amp? If not, check around some Youtube clips and try to find information about the amp. Now´s the time to be even more meticolous with your effect pedal settings, and if you´ve got some extras that you first wasn´t going to use, bring them along to the studio. Hopefuly, they won´t be needed, but sometimes one of them saves the day. The case might be that your great distortion pedal won´t synch well with the amp in the studio, and maybe, just maybe, that old crappy pedal that you keep in closet sounds great with this kind of amp. But your main focus sholud always be intonation - if your guitar isn´t in tune, no amps or effects can save you.
- Rehearsal: Set the song straight on rehearsals. If you don´t cut it here, you won´t cut it in the studio. Make sure the parts comes in the right order, that everybody knows what to play and when to play it. At home, practice your parts so you know how to play them with ease. You don´t want to mess around in the studio, this costs money and makes everyone else uncomfortable. If you play your parts great at home, then you can focus on feeling in the studio without having to struggle with the notes. If you´re going to use a metronome, decide what tempo. If you´ve got the oppurtunity, do a demo at home first. After doing so, you´ll know if your ideas will work together and if everything sounds right. For a jazz player who´s about to improvise a solo, preparation is also essential. Sure, you shall improvise, but it´s not sure the day in the studio will be your most creative day ever. Make sure you have some backup plans, some licks and and ideas, they will come in handy if your inspiration in the studio falls out. Also, know the form, know the chords and know the feeling of the song. You don´t want to be stuck behind a paper of sheet music in the studio, you want to be able to communicate with your bandmates and make great music together. For a classical player, you need to be able to play the piece you´re about to record without mistakes. As stated before, if you don´t cut it when you practice then you won´t cut it in the studio. Instead, know the piece outside in and be able to focus on the dynamics and articulation when recording.
- Health: Take care of yourself. Eat well and sleep well the days before you´re about to record anything. You´re going to record some music that will be on tape forever, so of course you need to be in good shape. Don´t waste expensive studio time, use it well by come in with a fresh head and a fresh body.
These ideas might seem too easy to ignore. Still, musicians do ignore them. "Ah, I´ll be alright, I´ll cut the part in studio". No you won´t, not if you´re not going there well prepared. A recording of a song is something that will accompany you for the rest of your life, isn´t that fact worth spending much time preparing? Your preparations might be the difference between a great recording and a half-assed recording of a piece of music. So of course you should put down a lot of work before the session, that is if you want a great result. And don´t we all?