The relationship between the stringed instrument and guitar picks or plectrums in general goes as far back as recorded history allows us to see,
and they don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon.
Over the generations, their appearance have come in all shapes, sizes and materials yet have always served the same purpose,
to strike the strings of an instrument in order to produce sound.
The Lyre was a harp style instrument that was popular in Ancient Greece and Mesopotamia, the first depictions of it dating back to around 3000 BC.
It is thought to have originated in the Middle East, and it was used both for music and for storytelling.
The instrument was typically made from wood, with strings that were plucked or strummed.
The sound of the lyre was said to be evocative and melancholy, and it was often used to accompany poetic recitations.
The instrument was also associated with the god Apollo, who was said to be an accomplished player.
In addition to being a symbol of Apollo, the lyre came to represent harmony and balance, due to its pleasing sound.
The instrument remains an important part of Greek culture today, and it is still played in traditional settings.
The plectrums of this kind were crafted from carved wood, goats horn, and animal bones and were flat or round in shape.
The plectrums were used to create many spectacular and idiosyncratic sonorities and techniques including but not limited to:
harmonics, buzzing, string stopping, portamentos, tremolo, and creating microtones.
Not only that, but they were latched onto a leather string that hung from the lyre, which means they never worried about losing their picks!
The Ancient Greeks truly were advanced!
The Oud is a traditional stringed instrument that has been used in Middle Eastern music for centuries.
Its is wooden, hollow, and pear shaped. Think of it as the Renaissance lutes big brother.
One of the most distinctive features of the oud is its sound, which has been described as "otherworldly" and "haunting."
It is non-fretted and derives its distinct aura from the usage of microtones, something us westerners are daunted by because our ears are not accustomed to deciphering such tones.
The unique sound of the oud is also generated by the usage of a plectrum. The plectra are (in most countries) called Risha, meaning feather.
Initially eagles feathers and quills were used to pluck strings, but nowadays plastic and wood materials are used more.
The plectrum is used to pluck the strings of the oud, and the specific way in which it is done produces the instrument's characteristic sound.
There are a few different ways to hold a plectrum when playing the oud.
The most common is to hold it between the thumb and first two fingers, with the point of the plectrum protruding from between the index and middle fingers.
This grip gives the player good control over the plectrum, and allows for a wide range of picking techniques.
Another way to hold the plectrum is to hold it between the thumb and first finger, with the point of the plectrum protruding from beneath the middle finger.
This grip is often used for fast, intricate picking patterns. Its unique sound has made it one of the most popular instruments in the Middle East.
Today the Oud is widespread across the Mediterranean, The Middle East, and Northern Africa.
The first recorded use of a guitar pick as we know it dates back to the 13th century, when an instrument known as the vihuela was played in Spain.
The Spanish vihuela was a plucked string instrument with a wide, flat body and a long neck, it is thought to be the predecessor of the modern guitar.
It was used in Spain during the 15th and 16th centuries and was particularly popular in the courts of the nobility.
The vihuela was similar in size and shape to the modern-day guitar, but it had a shorter neck and only five strings.
It was played with the fingers or with a small plectrum, and it was often used as an accompanying instrument for singers and dancers.
The Spanish vihuela fell out of popularity in the 17th century, but it has been revived in recent years by some contemporary musicians.
The vihuela was strummed with the fingers, but picks were sometimes used to produce a brighter, more percussive sound.
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