Gabor Szabo – Picks
by Jimmy Stewart

There was something a little unusual about the technique Gabor used for his picks and something different about the way he used the pick. He liked to use a medium-gauge Gibson, what was then called the Star Pick. I’m not sure whether it was developed with input from Les Paul, but it was called the Star Pick and I don’t see those out on the market now.

Gabor played with the round side of the pick, instead of the point. On the bandstand, he would have probably five, six to maybe ten picks sitting on top of his amplifier. Periodically, through the performance, he would change picks, so it had just the right feel. He always carried these picks in a hard-shell pick case.

This material the Gibson Star Pick was made of was celluloid. I used the same pick myself. Prior to playing with Gabor, I had found that I could take that point off of the pick by rubbing it on a carpet and it would heat up the material and would round off the edges. I showed this technique to Gabor to reshape his picks and he started to use it. It was a lot of fun to see the two of us looking for a rug in the hotel room or the dressing room so we could reshape out pick!

For some reason, that type of pick — the celluloid medium Gibson Star Pick — created a rich tone. That’s one of the reasons why we used it. Many players use many different styles of picks. But Gabor really liked that pick and he really felt at a disadvantage having to play any other gauge of pick other than the medium. That just seemed to weld into that power package in his right hand.

He was able to change the angles of the pick to create the beautiful sounds that he created. I think that’s another reason why that pick worked for him. There were times he would angle the pick so there would be more of the pick in between the string and the adjacent string. Other times, he would make it perpendicular to the string. Of course, with his other techniques that he used — the tremolo and some oscillated picking and some wrist picking — created all those feels. The result was a great artist with a great individual sound.

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