Reinhard from New Jersey writes:

Dear Pete:

This is difficult to articulate in an email, so I hope you understand what I mean.

Often, I will inadvertently pick a string, not with the ‘pick’ part of the thumb pick, but with the part that wraps around my thumb. This is especially so, when I play in front of others and am a bit nervous. To remedy the problem, I put a little piece of tape on my thumb and that part of the pick. It is not an ideal solution. My question is; are you aware of a commercially available thumb pick that wraps farther around the thumb? Perhaps so that the ‘wrap around’ part tucks underneath the thumb print area?

Thanks in advance for your response, and thank you for all your wonderful videos. I enjoy them all especially the Blue Grass Jamming Video. A few months ago, I was in Columbia, South Carolina and visited Bill’s Pickin Parlor. It is a laid back place for local talent to do their thing and reminded me of the ensemble in your video.

Sincerely,

Reinhard Pratt

Thanks, Reinhard. The problem you have is pretty common. All banjo players hate when that happens!

I came up with a pretty simple and complete solution to the problem some years back. That is to use heat and pressure to curl the very end of the curling, “grabbing” end of the pick, turning it inward at a bit of an angle.

curled-thumb-pick.jpg
With the pick curled in at the end, it will never stick out enough to catch anything. Additionally, the slight grip from the in-turned end into the thumb actually acts against the pick rotating, which can happen in summer when hands get sweaty. So that little twist on the end of the pick is an improvement in two ways. I think thumb pick makers of the future will catch on to that some day, and make picks like that to begin with.

To do it yourself, you need just enough heat to soften the plastic, applied right to the part you want to turn. I find that heating needle nose pliers a few seconds in boiling water does the trick quite well. Heating the pliers ends directly with a flame might get them too hot, where they’ll actually melt the plastic on contact, rather than just making it pliable.

It’s probably a good idea to practice the technique on a pick that you don’t care much about, until you get the hang of it. After a bit of practice, it will take just a few seconds per pick, and you can but that little extra curl in a handful of picks in about the same time it takes you play a song or two. Be careful of hot surfaces!

Try it, it works. Bothersome problem, easy solution. Then start picking again!

Pete Wernick