I received the traveling pick package being circulated by Fpeay and several others this week and had a chance to give them a workout over the past 2 days.
First, I want to extend kudos to Fpeay and the other forumites who donated their time and picks to this entertaining project. I’ve accumulated a decent collection of picks over the years and occasionally enjoy experimenting with them on my modest guitar collection. When the traveling package arrived, it was like striking the mother lode. Thanks again to all involved.
I tested the group on my ’59 D-28 (EJ-17’s); ’01 HD-28 (EJ-17’s); and ’00 D-18 GE (D’Aquisto Nickel Wound TR’s). I play mainly b’grass rhythm, but also flat-pick a few fiddle tunes and hack my way thru a few jazz standards. Although I’ve been playing for 35+ years, my technique is flawed and I consider myself a hack with a moderate to heavy attack. I’m currently using Dunlop Ultex (1.0mm) teardrop shaped picks. Also shown in the below pic but not included in the traveling package are a pair of custom handmade picks from hog hoof, 1.5mm. These were given to me by Gibsonman, who got them from a guy on MandolinCafe.com. Please let me know if you recognize them and can identify the maker. I’d like to get a few more. They are the two at the top of the pic.
I measured each pick with a digital caliper to verify thickness. Here’s my take:
Red Bear “Big Jazzer) M (1.3mm)
This is a small and highly polished pick, a bit hard for me to hold at first but I got used to it, nice feel to the surface, rounded edges and a very sharp point. I would like a bit more length, as the nail of my index finger frequently brushed the strings when I used it. Although it was hard for me to control this pick at first, I got used to it pretty quickly and began to appreciate its qualities. The RB has a very solid feel and produces a noticeably darker tone than my Dunlops. However, I found the tone especially satisfying on the ’59, which is very crisp and responsive. The sharp tip did not slow down my rhythm or flat-picking as much as some other sharp picks. I felt I wanted more sparkle/treble when I used it on the HD-28V and the D-18GE, which tend to be darker. The main thing I liked about the RB is the very solid feel, robust sound and almost complete lack of pick noise. Although it has an almost glossy surface, it did not slip around in my fingers. The sample pick convinced me to look closely at the various models offered by RB and consider investing my 401K in one.
This one has a very comfortable size and teardrop shape, just a tad larger than the Dunlops I usually use. I liked the perforated body and found it very easy to hold. The point is not as sharp as the RB and there is a distinct bevel on the left side of the point when you look at it with the point up. It has a good throaty sound with a bit more brightness than the RB. I felt I could control it better than any pick I have ever used and definitely felt it was “faster” than the others. Very little pick noise, in spite of the textured surface, which appears similar to the Dunlop Tortex picks. The flat surfaces of this pick have cross-wise linear striations. Was it sanded or is this standard? The Wegen brought a more balanced sound to the HD-28V and the GE without sounding thin and brought some grunt to the ’59.
Probably my least favorite. The dramatically rounded edges made it difficult to strike the strings precisely. Also, there was an annoying “squeak” as this model came off the strings. Not my cup of tea.
Dunlop with Gator Logo (2.0mm)
This is a traditionally shaped pick, but the small size was a negative for me. The surface has a bit of fine texture and the healthy thickness produced a very warm and robust sound. Nice for the slow to moderate jazzy tunes I played. Would take me a good while to get up to speed with this one.
Butterfly T22 (Variable thickness: .83mm at the tip, 1.26mm across the body, just under the logo)
A unique design with a 1.26mm ridge running up the body from the tip. Has a great feel and was easy to control for a smaller pick. The more flexible tip made it very fast, but with more pick noise than the others, especially on the GE. Produced a pleasant jangle on the ’59 D-28, livened up the HD-28V, but sounded too thin to my ears when all was said and done.
Dunlop Ultex (1.14mm)
Traditional teardrop shape, very familiar feel and sound. Easy to hold and control, lacked the warmth of the Red Bear and the Wegen, which have more depth and growl, respectively. Having said that, it is my favorite poor man’s pick. Abig step up from celluloid.
Planet Waves (1.0mm)
Typical celluloid tri-corner. Nice enough, kind of like kissing your sister. A little on the thin side. Not in the same league as the RB, Wegen, Dunlops, or Butterfly.
Porcine Hoof (1.5mm) Not in the Traveling Package
One is a larger than average teardrop with rounded tip and the other a large tri-corner with sharp tips. These produce a sound similar to the Wegen, but lack the comfortable perforations. Both have beveled tips. I really like the solid tone and absence of pick noise. They sound a bit on the dark side, but are wonderful on the D-28. Would love to get a couple of these in 1.0mm thickness. Please let me know if you recognize them.
02/27/10: See post # 11, below, for a picture of and my reaction to the John Pearse Fast Turtle pick.
Thanks again to the traveling pick society!