“…Yeah, don’t it make you wanna twist and shout when you’re inside out”
— Nelson (Spike) Wilbury
Maybe this has happened to you. It’s a humid summer evening and hundreds of friends and fans in lawn chairs and on blankets dot the hillside before you. They are singing along with your songs (your songs!!!) between swigs from their plastic water bottles and occasional checks for important text messages. You and your band are sharing a tight “single mike set-up” (and a lot of tic-tacs) when, at the moment you step up to the microphone for your instrumental break, all perception of time and space seems to twist and distort….
The humidity and your nervousness causes your pick to squirt from your fingers like a wet bar of soap. High above the stage, in the bright stage lighting, amid the circling moths and mozzys, the plectrum pauses periododically on the pinacle of its path before plummenting into your instrument’s soundhole. This starts a chaotic chain of events that can only be described as tragically unnecessary.
In your haste to continue without losing a beat, you lift your instrument to look inside and in doing so, knock the microphone from its stand. The loud boom and squeeling feedback sends babies crying, veterns ducking, and seniors clawing for their hearing aids. You begin violently shaking your upside down instrument to free the pick when you whack Larry in the head just as he reaches down to retrive the mike. He spralls into Curly, who along with his upright bass, tumbles backwards off the rear of the stage into the bed of his pickup truck. The old Ford, having been mostly neutral to these preceedings, begins rolling down the hill mowing down the hastily vacated lawn chairs of the folks who ironically, had been sitting back there so that they could leave early to beat the traffic.
Maybe that didn’t happen to you. Maybe it didn’t happen to me. Maybe that was a lot of windup for a simple tip that isn’t even my idea. Many of us have lost picks to the blackholes that occupy soundboard space. There seems to be a magnetism accompanied by a “giant sucking sound” that bends a pick’s trajectory. It may be the same gravitational distortion that causes dropped toast to land buttered side down or that that draws little Timmy to the old well while Lassie is occupied repairing the tractor.
When a pick falls into the soundhole our first reaction is to turn the instrument upside down to let it fall out. We tip it and shake it but the fugitive usually hides somewhere on the wrong side of a top brace. We resort to violent shaking hoping the pick will jump over the obstruction but by then Curly has fallen off the stage and everyone has gone home.
So, finally, here’s the tip.
Press the pick against the back with a pencil eraser.
As soon as the pick falls in, resist the urge to turn the instrument upside down. Instead, hold it flat and look into the soundhole. There’s a good chance that the pick is still in the area and hasn’t bounced over any back braces. Being mindful of those around you (except Larry who didn’t come today), gently rock the instrument until the pick is under the soundhole.
Press the eraser end of a pencil against the pick to hold it firmly against the back directly under the soundhole. Then invert the whole works over your head so that the pick is now over the soundhole. Release the pencil so that the pick can fall out.
Hold the pick against the back while inverting the instrument. Remove the pencil to allow the pick to drop straight down.
If you are still having trouble or are dealing with a small soundhole, roll a piece of masking tape backwards and stick it on the eraser to snag the pick.
Perform the above procedure as often as needed.