I’m going through a phase where I have been playing with a flat pick more frequently than is usual for me. I’ve done this before, generally during a period when I’m concentrating on jazz or blues soloing, which I am again doing. Although the last time, I was also spending attempting to learn mandolin. One side effect is I also begin to consider whether there are better picks than what I’m using. This might, in part, be a diversion to keep me from actually practicing. It’s also a personality thing. Some people try one or two picks, find one that works, and never look back. That’s not me.
Buying picks online is less expensive than purchasing new guitars, which I’ve done a bit of this past year. I ordered nine different picks I thought I might like and tried them. This is my review.
Before I ordered picks, I searched online for others who have already reviewed and compared flat picks in blogs or news articles. I discovered the reviewers had unstated, but clear preferences as to what constituted a good pick. The problem was, their preferences were not the same as mine. I’m no different in having preferences that might be very different from yours. That shouldn’t be a problem for either of us. But to make sure you know where I’m coming from, here are the things I’m looking for in a pick.
When I began playing guitar in the early 1960s my favorite pick was a Fender thin teardrop-shaped pick. That continued to be my choice of pick for the next few decades, although I used picks less and less over that time. I mention my favorite pick from my high school years to point out how my preferences have changed. I can’t stand thin and flexible picks now.
The next criteria are my tone preference compared to what is more popular among guitarists. I like warm or dark guitar tones. Because of that, I play closer to the neck than the bridge, I am more likely to use a neck pickup than a bridge pickup, and I’m a fan of flat wound strings (though I’ve recently gone to wound round strings on all of my electric guitars). And, of course, I like the sound of my finger and thumb skin on the strings over that of a pick. Another adjective I like to apply to the sound I’m looking for is round tones as opposed to sharp tones.
This brings me to pick shapes that work for me. The keyword is round. Rounded point and rounded edges give me the rounded tones I’m looking for on guitar.
There is an unbelievably large number of picks being sold. Even if you eliminate picks that seem to be identical to every other pick except perhaps for color and manufacturer, there are still a lot of choices.
Some of the features which differ among picks are the material they are made from, the thickness and stiffness, the size and shape, modifications to improve the grip and comfort, and how the point and edges that contact the strings are formed (sharp or rounded point, beveled or rounded edges).
My preferences prior to this experiment.
The last time I went through this type of exercise I found my favorite pick to be a Dunlop Jazztone 207. It has a rounded tip, rounded edges and is thick and stiff. It doesn’t make much if any extra noise when picking the string. I wish it had a better grippy surface and perhaps it could be slightly larger. But it has been my favorite for maybe fifteen years or more.
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Before I discovered the Jazztone 207 pick, I used several thicknesses of Dunlop Gator Grip picks, settling on the thickest at 2mm. I was using the pick for playing blues on a Stratocaster. The Gator Grips are textured so they won’t slip out of your fingers. The tone was nothing special, which is why I changed to the Jazztone pick. I still have most of the two dozen (12 each) picks I got back more than a decade ago (probably closer to 15 to 20 years ago). The best thing I have to say for them is their not terrible. They were a great pick in the before-times when I wanted to go to a music store and try out some guitars. I didn’t care if I lost the Gator Grip picks or left one behind at the store.
Another Dunlop pick I tried was the Tri Stubby. It is a triangular pick made of Lexan polycarbonate, a very hard plastic. I have the 3.0 mm version but they make thinner versions as well as tear drop shaped Stubbys. For me, the point is too sharp and the tone too bright. I did try shaping the point to make it rounder and that helped, but this will never be one of my favorites. That said, holding the pick is quite comfortable for me.
A pick I tried but initially didn’t care for from my past experiments is the Wegen Gypsy Jazz Pick. It’s the one in the top left corner of the first image in this post. I’ve owned it as long as the others I’ve just described, meaning more than a decade but after trying and rejecting it, I ignored it until last week. Now I’ve decided it is almost as nice as my Jazztone 207 pick. It is very thick. The edges are beveled. Ridges on both sides help grip the pick and the front side has a depression for your thumb. It is definitely not for everyone.
I can’t find Wegen picks on Amazon, but you can purchase them directly from Wegen or from a number of online string merchants such as Strings by Mail. Although I have not tried the following Dunlop pick, it appears to be similar to the Wegen Gypsy Jazz.
One other specialty pick I want to mention is the Wedgie. I doubt anyone is going to want to use this as their primary pick. It is made out of rubber and results in a very muted tone. I purchased it for quietly practicing mandolin at night so I wouldn’t disturb my wife.
Part 2 will be a review of the 9 picks I’ve ordered this week.