The perfect ukulele pick?

First, an awful disclosure: I use a pick to play the ukulele. Now if you still haven’t canceled me, you may be interested to hear that I may have stumbled into the best combination of strength and softness for a ukulele pick. Kind of like a Japanese sword in reverse.

The Japanese katana owes its legendary performance to being made of two metals: hard but brittle steel for the edge, soft but resilient for the body. This way, the shock received when the hard edge strikes something diffuses through the body of the sword, which doesn’t break as a sword made only of hard steel would. A ukulele pick has the opposite problem: it should have a soft strike, but then it needs to retain some stiffness in order to produce a good volume. Plastic guitar picks give good volume, but they click a lot and are too inflexible. Felt picks are soft, but they are also too thick, “grabby” on the strings, and come apart easily.

A while ago I published a review of what I thought were the best ukulele picks in the market. I still use those. The Mick’s pick is my favorite for soft songs while the “brushy” Dunlop is best for fast strumming on a banjolele. Both get better with age, too. But I still wanted more, so I ordered a pack of super-thin (0.38 mm) Dunlop nylon guitar picks to see if they would work well while being super-durable. Verdict: they are soft enough and they still make good volume, but they are very “clicky” since the pick itself acts as a sort of soundboard. Some playing styles tolerate this well, but most don’t.

So I thought, can the clicks be muffled somehow? How about sticking some cloth or felt on the thin nylon pick? Here you see the result of experiment #1, which was successful for a change. The black fabric on the pick at right is adhesive velcro, loopy side, coating both sides of the pick. Because it’s also made of nylon, it glides over the strings easily and is very durable. The glue is also very strong, especially if you sand the pick a little before sticking the velcro on it. Scissors are enough to trim the extra fabric so it follows the contour of the plastic underneath. The clicks are gone, and the stiffness has increased just a little over that of the original pick. Perfect for loud fast strumming.

The picture was taken after hours of constant use, so I’m confident it will last. If it doesn’t, it’s easy enough to make another. Total budget: $0.30 per pick in packs of 12, plus maybe $0.10 for the piece of velcro. I think you can buy the loopy kind just by itself.

Make your own and let me know how it goes for you.

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