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Eric Johnson: “This Is How Much Your Guitar Pick Affects Your Overdriven Tone”

(Image credit: Scott Legato/Getty Images)

Eric Johnson is one of the most fastidious tone tweakers around, obsessing over every component of his gear, from strings to batteries.

In a new interview with Total Guitar, Johnson hits on a subject we’ve discussed quite a bit around these parts: the effect your guitar pick has on your tone. While your choice of pick can affect both clean and dirty tones, Johnson focused on the latter.

“A lot of your tones come from the type of pick you use,” he says.

“It’s really interesting; you can get 10 picks from a music store, and if you’re using enough distortion, each one will sound totally different. It can make you think you’re playing a totally different amp!

“When you think about it, the pick hitting the string is what initiates your sound. When you are using overdrive or fuzz, you have to find out where the threshold is, otherwise no matter how flawless your technique is, it can sound kinda trashy.

“The idea is to determine the threshold on your pedal or amp overdrive to where you can go as far as you can before the sound starts pixelating—which can make your technique sound bad.”
You can read the entire interview at Total Guitar.

Johnson has just released his latest album, EJ, which is his first-ever acoustic effort. You can hear the album tracks “Wrapped in a Cloud” and “Once Upon a Time in Texas” below.