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Pick Your Pick

Picking

Being new to guitar I need to figure out my likes and dislikes.  So far when making decisions on things like strings, picks, guitar setup, and just about any other decision that need to be made (outside of which guitar and amp to buy), I’ve always asked “what do you recommend” since I couldn’t really make an informed decision.  But that’s a bad way to go about things.  I need to figure out what **I** like.  That’s why I like to do A/B comparrisons like this one and the one I did on my recent string comparison post.

Last week I received a box of picks from Dunlop.  It contained just about every pick they make.  Before these picks arrived, I had only purchased whatever pick they had in a jar at the checkout line of the guitar shop I was at.  To be honest, I think I’ve only bought about 5 picks since I started playing.  I’ve accumulated more by (unintentionally) pocketing picks at stores when trying out gear.  I really didn’t think the pick was that big of a deal and I alway used the “normal” size and shaped pick.

With so many picks in the box from Dunlop, I had to narrow the selection down.  The two that I was most interested in trying were the Jazz III and the Ultex picks because I had recently read about both of them over at Guitar Noize and The Guitar Column respectively.  I tried out the other picks in the box and quickly eliminated picks I didn’t like for one reason or another (too thin, too thick, shape, size, etc).  It didn’t take long to realize I don’t like thinner picks or picks that were too thick.  I like picks that are 1mm.  And much to my surprise, I preferred the smaller Jazz III shape.  So, to round out the test picks I included the Eric Johnson Jazz III, the Ultex Jazz III, the Tortex Jazz, and the pick I had been using, the Dunlop Celluloid Classic in medium.

Here are my thoughts on the different picks:

Jazz III

  • Thick, Darker/Warmer sound
  • Flatter sounding, almost like going from reverb to no-reverb
  • All the Jazz III’s have protruding text on them which really helps with grip

Jazz III Eric Johnson

  • Has a different tactile feel than the Jazz III… more plasticy and thin feeling
  • Can’t tell a significant difference in sound from the standard Jazz III… just a bit brighter.

Ultex Jazz III

  • Satin like texture,  almost like tortex picks but creamier
  • Grips well, has an almost tacky feel
  • Even warmer/darker than standard Jazz III
  • Feels good against the strings

Tortex Jazz

  • Does not have the protruding text and doesn’t grip as well as other the other Jazz picks
  • Brightest sound of all the Jazz sized picks
  • Smooth silky texture without the tackiness of the Ultex

Ultex

  • Doesn’t have protruding text, but still has good grip
  • Silky and creamy texture.  Gets tackier as your fingers warm up.
  • More open and brighter sounding than the Jazz III variations
  • Has a slight hollow sound, almost like minimal reverb is turned on

Celluloid Classic

  • Feels cheap compared to the others
  • Doesn’t grip as well
  • Brightest sounding of all the picks

So, my final conclusion as to which pick I’m going to use from now on: The Ultex Jazz III.  I like the warmer tone I get with it and I like the fact that it gets a bit sticky as your fingers warm up.  I generally hold the pick pretty loose and with the picks I had been using, they would end up moving around in my fingers quite a bit.   I’d often end up playing with the back or side of the pick.  With the Ultex Jazz III, the pick pretty much stayed put.  Also much to my surprise, I liked the smaller Jazz III shape.  It just seems to have a better feel to me.  Now when I pick up a normal sized pick, it seems quite large.

If you’re looking for a more open and brighter sound, I’d highly recommend the Ultex regular shaped picks.

Here’s a video so you can hear the difference between the picks.  The picks in the video are in the following order:  Ultex 1mm, Eric Johnson Jazz III, Ultex Jazz III,  Jazz III, Dunlop Celluloid Classic Medium and a Tortex Jazz 1mm.  You’re not going to hear a huge difference on computer speakers, but if you’re listening through a decent set of speakers you should hear the differences.  Head over to the new Dunlop online store to see their whole pick selection.

Guitar: Gibson Les Paul Goldtop ’57 Reissue
Amp: Vox AC15CC


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12 Responses to “Pick Your Pick”

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  1. Retro Hound says:

    I read that picks make a difference in some book (wish I could remember the name, it’s really good) but even before that, I bought a handful of picks at the music store. They were 5 for $2 or something so I got a variety without knowing anything about them having an effect on the sound. I really kind of like this very small pick probably like the last one in your video.
    .-= Retro Hound´s last blog ..Country Times =-.

  2. Retro Hound says:

    Also, how did you get Dunlop to send you a whole box of them? And is this part of the Dunlop Tire company?
    .-= Retro Hound´s last blog ..Country Times =-.

  3. FLGuitar says:

    Herco Gold Flex 50s are great picks and cheaper the more you buy. Neil Young seems to have liked them for decades!

  4. Robert says:

    My favorite right now are the Dunlop Ultex 1.4. They are really rigid like real tortose shell and last a long time. (I also resharpen the tips occasionally) Another thing I’ve tried and like is after reading that Brian May always used a sixpence, i tried using a quarter. Has a really unique sound and works in some instances. I also saw on fleabay a while back, someone selling quarters that were ground to the shape of a standard pick, so I figured I’d try that too. Works great!
    Right now I’m really interested in trying some of these -> http://www.v-picks.com/

    It seems lately tho that I mostly fingerpick and also strum a lot with just my nails. I clip my nails on my right hand with an angle on the left side up to a sort of pointed tip and works great for travis style picking and also clawhammer style. I’ve tried a few thumbpicks and even made my own from some heavy copper sheathing, but I like the naked thumb better. 😛

  5. Cadillac Eddie says:

    I like the Dunlop Tortex brand for rhythm playing, they hold up pretty well, but for leads and solos, I like these:

    http://www.picksandstones.com/ they’re smooth and have a great mild / dark / bright sound…all rolled into one! Plus they’re hard to break, and don’t bend!

  6. The V Picks are great, crazy, but great: http://www.v-picks.com/
    Steve Cholerton´s last blog post ..R10BatchMail Testimonial

  7. Scott Conner says:

    I’m partial to Ultex Jazz IIIs myself. The new Jazz III Max Grips are nice, too. I can’t go back to using a regular pick.

  8. Dunlop is really great. This guitar is really amazing.
    Carmine Flores´s last blog post ..Impotence and Natural Herbs that Help Men Improve Their Erection

  9. Mestre says:

    I like 1mm Dunlop nylon picks (the black ones). I compared them to Tortex, celluloid and other kinds of stuff and I liked them more. They give a nice bright sound but it´s quite muscular as well. I´ve also used smaller and bigger gauges of Dunlop nylon picks but for my tastes 1mm is just the sweet spot. By the way, I used Big Stubbies (I believe they are made of metacrylate or somewhat resembling) and I hated the annoying clip, clap sound they produce. So well, just give a try to those Dunlop nylon picks and maybe you´ll like them more than Tortex (to me it sounds kinda cold/sterile). To me they sound more organic or alive, but of course all this is very subjective. Oh, and it´s worth trying this little trick: you can smooth a little bit the edges of any pick with a fine grit sandpaper and the sound will be improved. Picks often have rough edges and mould marks, so if you get rid of those imperfections they will sound better. That´s my two cents on guitar picks, hope it´ll be useful for you. Keep on rocking!!!

  10. Matt says:

    It’s all about nylon picks. Great grip and nice moderate attack. I can’t remember offhand, but I think I use brain picks.
    Matt´s last blog post ..Spectraflex Vintage Guitar Cable Review

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