Sweep’n Maniac!

May 12, 2008

Dear Dude,

I have been working on my sweep picking for a long time now. What pick gauge thickness is better for sweep picking? 3.0 or 1.0?


Sweep’n Maniac!

Dear Sweep’n Maniac,

Sweep picking is the new black, but if your not just running up and down the neck as fast you can (and actually doing something musical), it can be a really cool and useful technique. Many people don’t realize how much pick density, hardness, and size can affect your playing. So, to answer this question I just had to ask a few shredders I know.

First things first, I use the Jim Dunlop 1.14 (although mine are provided by In Tune guitar picks) If you’re not into numbers it’s the dark purple pick Dunlop makes. I have used this hardness pretty much since 1996 and really cannot play with any other gauge. I would rather play live with a penny as a pick than use a thin pick. I just don’t get the control I want, I just can’t rock with a limp pick.

But, don’t just take my word for it. One quick phone call to my main man, (and co-guitarist of Darkest Hour) Kris “Weenie” Norris, reveals a slightly different outlook. Surprisingly, Kris uses a very thin .66 gauge pick. To a dude like me that feels like a piece of paper, but believe it or not I have seen Kris melt some frets with that little flimsy thing. However, Kris still suggests a heavy pick for sweeping even though he uses such a thin gauge. He attributes his wrist problems and chronic pain to his decisions to go against his own advice and still use a thin pick.

Kris and I agree that the harder the pick the better the control, even though we both actually use two different gauges. To settle this I had to call the only other dude I knew who could put this question to rest. And that’s no other then Mr. Devin “Fucking” Townsend. Now if you don’t know who Devin is, well he’s a sick ass producer, shredder extraordinaire, and (even Kris would agree) a badass motherfucker on the guitar. Devin’s advice is to go the middle road. Too thin and you don’t have enough control. Too thick and there’s not enough give. He suggests the Dunlop Green .88 picks. He likes the real big kind, not the old standard size picks. Dunlop calls it the “triangle pick.” Now I tried to jam with this pick once but it felt to me like I was playing with the top of plastic coffee lid.

Now, even though we all actually use different gauges, we still agree on two main points. One, the harder the gauge pick the better the control. Two, don’t use too hard of a pick gauge or the pick will have no “give.” If you’re not sure where to start, go with the standard size Green .88 picks. It’s a good middle road. Now you can play around with hardness after you get used to that (If you want more give go a bit thinner, if you want more control go harder). My personal feeling is stay away from anything harder then 2.0 unless you really feel it. In the end you need to feel what’s right for your playing and try every size and thickness. Once you feel the pick that’s the right thickness, you’ll know it right away. It just will feel, right

The Dude

Caught in a Mosh

May 6, 2008

Dear Dude,

What should I do if I’m in a situation where the other guitarist in my band and the drummer present a new riff and I think it fuck’n blows? It’s like a ton of random notes, not appealing sounding at all, and definitely not catchy or melodic, which is what we are going for. I tried to say I didn’t like it but they keep saying WE LIKE IT. Seriously it doesn’t even go with our music at all!

Caught in a Mosh

Dear Caught in a Mosh,

Inter-band politics and song writing is something you almost can never get away from. Music is art and art is expression. It’s not unreasonable for someone to get emotional about his or her music. No matter what type of band scenario you’re in, you’re probably going to have to deal with something like this. So don’t fear it. This kind of tension is what writing music is all about, and it’s from this tension great riffs, songs, and records have been made. Its not easy for most people and even some of the biggest and sickest bands go through this all the time.

The first thing you need to do is search yourself. Do you really not like the riff/song idea or is there something else going on? Being in a band can be like being in perpetual high school. There are all sorts of little inter-band dynamics that can cloud both your and your band members’ judgments. So make sure you are pure at heart, and not thinking from that place in your brain that is still pissed cause the other guitar player can play the solo to Crazy Train better than you.

Next, ask is there something I can change in a slight way to make this riff not only more smoken’, but also more me? I have noticed that when this problem usually occurs the dude who thinks the riff sucks, doesn’t like the fact that there is none of his own ideas in the riff. It can be rough justice to face, but sadly, often true. Maybe add some sort of harmony, maybe you don’t like the chord progression, or maybe the riff should be faster or slower. Chances are if you are all into the same bands and clear about what type of band you’re in, there should be a way to tweak it and make it better.

Ok, what if the riff/song idea in question really does suck. In that case, what do you do when you’re presented a riff that “blows?” It’s important to be tactful, respectful, and most of all clear as to what you think is not working. When you’re working in a group situation you have to be able to work with other people, so make sure you hone in on what doesn’t work for you. That way you can work as a team to make the idea grow, or explore other options. A common misconception is that you have to make all these decisions right away. It may not hit you right away what isn’t working, so don’t be afraid to take your time while you’re writing. This doesn’t mean never commit, it just means if you need some time to come up with the critical feedback that is going to help push the song, that’s ok. So maybe keep the riff in the song as a placeholder just remember not to let it sit there too long. Bands often times don’t like change because it involves more work.

Its important to remember a band is a team, a gang, and a collective of individual voices singing together. You need those band mates and they need you. Who knows how many bad riffs I would have pushed forward if it weren’t for my band mates. Work together and find a way to communicate with your fellow bros. No one wants to be in a band with people who are unhappy with the music they are playing. No one wants to be in a band where the members are afraid to say they don’t like something. No one wants to be in a band that isn’t honest and real to what it is. So keep your band honest, communicate clearly, and be willing to share the burden of song writing. I promise it will be worth it for everyone involved when you write that first kick as song.

The Dude