So this part of the tone quest journey is about to hit an hiatus. I have now tried over 150 picks of all different shapes and sizes, material and texture. I have most definitely decided that the smaller ’jazz’-style picks are the ones for me, and this is where my focus has been these last several weeks.
Those that have followed my blog posts will know that I acquired a number of ’Pick Packs’ along the way - a Dunlop Selection, Phillip McKnight Heavy Selection, and the Timber Tones Jazz Plectrum Selection - these were all instrumental in getting me to where I needed to go. Along the way, I have tried all number of specialist and exotic picks - no endangered animals though of course, in fact the only animal related picks have been water buffalo horn and bone and abalone shells. The vast majority of what I’ve played have been different types of plastics and resins / polymers. I have roughly ended up assigning the picks to three different groups (as below) - Everyday | Specialist | Exotic.
Some of these picks had to be acquired via eBay and shipped from the USA (e.g. Dragon Hearts). There were several more I wanted to try - like the Stone Works Picks - they do great Jazz-style picks, but their pricing, shipping, custom charges etc. make it cost-prohibitive and Andertons only stock the regular size. I would also like to try hard rubber, ceramic, glass, silver, steel and aluminium at some stage but for now I think I am covered. All in all I have a great selection of around 38 core picks which I alternate with throughout the week. Some obviously get more use than others, but all have distinct tonal and playing characteristics and I deploy different ones for different purposes - lead playing vs strumming, hard attack vs smooth mellow etc.
It’s a shame that so many of the specialist and exotic picks are American, and not in UK circulation - some can be reasonably acquired via Ebay, many cannot. We do have a couple of great homegrown makers in the shape of Timber Tones and Hawk Picks - the former of which I already have several, and the latter which I have a few Tonebird 7s on order from.
The above concentric visual starts with the 4 picks in the middle and moves out in 3 layers as follows; picks detailed from 12 o’clock position and in clockwise fashion:
These were the 4 pictured for a long while, but I have added two more - a Graph Tech Tusq Tear Drop Warm (yellow) and Tear Drop Deep (grey) - both are 1.40mm thick, heavily graphite impregnated polycarbonate compounds of sorts and make a delightful chiming noise when dropped onto a hard surface - particularly the Warm ones - both of course play beautifully too and sound just like their names indicate.
Generally on a day-to-day basis I will snatch one of these picks to play most regularly, occasionally swapping out for Specialist and Exotic varieties when I want to achieve a particular tone or effect. There are two other varieties of Dava Jazz Grips that also fall into this category - the Delrin (green) and Nylon (red) - both at 1.50mm thick.
The idea behind Everyday picks is that they are generally affordable and versatile - multi-tasking, can carry a variety of playing styles including fast picking and strumming.:
These are usually more expensive than the Everyday ones, and not quite so versatile - they are typically great at one particular thing - a certain tone or playing style. There are a few additional ones to those pictured - namely the Dunlop Jazztones - 204 and 205 varieties (2.00mm Polycarbonate), and the yet to arrive Hawk ToneBird 7s 1.40mm (material not specified).
A number of these picks are hand-made and/or hand-finished with specialist bevels - in smooth or rough textures. The V-Picks for instance are smooth, while the Gravity Picks are slightly textured (Master Finish) - both are made of acrylic.
The one key exception here is the phenomenal Dragon’s Heart pick which has three different playing surfaces, it differs also in being larger than Jazz-size - close to regular, but its odd shape works really well for me and feels great, it is much easier for me to hold and manipulate than regular size picks for whatever reason.:
These are all from the Timber Tones Jazz Plectrum collection - the material is in the names of each. It’s great to go from the woods - which are generally lighter and softer of touch, to the medium hard touch of bone, horn and shell, onto the glacial hard touch of the metals. The metals are the most expensive picks, the others are still generally pricier than the Everydays, but often less than several of the Specialist Picks.
In terms of deployment, these are largely single purpose, although the softer wood picks give you a softer sharp attack, with excellent strumming abilities too. In feel and in texture they are quite different to the plastics, but as mentioned, not nearly so versatile. With some of the plastic picks you can get markedly different effects in how you hold and angle the pick and how you hit the strings. The Exotic Picks have less overall ability but still achieve some quite wonderful tones, which are quite different to those made by the other materials mentioned above.:
NOTE - The picks are not identical in size, they have been largely aggregated for sake of the visual, and the above image is a close approximation and closely represent ratios - in real terms the Dunlop Primetone Jazz III is the smallest by a tiny margin. and the Tusqs (not pictured) are very slightly smaller still. The Chicken Pick Shredder and Dragon’s Heart Picks are slightly larger - which I have tried to indicate too.