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What Is a Banjo Pick?

When playing live shows, banjos are typically amplified using a microphone, but electric pickups can also be installed.
A banjo pick is used to pluck the strings of a banjo.
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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A banjo pick is a device that is used to pick the strings of a banjo. Typically used as a trio of picks, the picks are commonly worn on the thumb, first and second fingers of the player's picking hand. The most common materials used in the manufacture of a banjo pick are metal and plastic. Many banjo pick manufacturers coat the metal picks with a cobalt substance to quiet the noise that the pick makes when contacting the strings. Banjo picks are typically a one-size fits all product and are sold in small, medium and large sizes.

A banjo is plucked and not strummed like a guitar, and this mandates a different type of pick than is typically used on a guitar. The banjo pick fits onto the tip of the finger and allows the player to pick the strings in a rolling motion with one pick being assigned to an individual string. In the event that the banjo is strummed across all strings, the thumb pick is commonly used to do so. Occasionally, a banjo pick will be used to play a guitar when the player is attempting to create a unique type of sound. Some manufacturers create a rough surface inside of the pick to enhance the player's ability to keep the pick on his finger even while perspiring heavily.

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The most common arrangement of picks for many players is to use a plastic thumb pick in conjunction with metal picks used on the first two fingers. The metal picks are typically coated in a cobalt material. The cobalt coating is intended to allow the metal picks to slide over the banjo strings with ease and eliminate the scratchy sound created by the metal-on-metal contact between the strings and the picks. This cobalt coating will wear off of a banjo pick over time, requiring re-plating or replacement of the pick.

Along with diameter size choices, the banjo pick also comes in a long and short version. The short version is designed to fit over the very end of the player's finger while the long version covers more of the finger. Many players choose the short banjo pick due to the greater range of movement the pick affords the finger, however, some players choose the long banjo pick due to the greater retention of the pick on the finger. This is made possible by placing more of the finger inside of the pick to attain greater skin contact with it.

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