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Picks Review


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Picks Review:

 

Using and choosing picks is highly personal. No one can give a generalised review. My review is based upon what I am used to and the techniques I use. My use of picks is confined to electric guitars only. I never use them on acoustics.

The techniques I use.

 

Lead: predominantly alternating up & down, AKA speed picking. Hammer on/pull off. Basic sweep (not the shredder type). A personal Staccato version of economy picking.

Exceptions: I do not tap.

 

Rhythm: Various kinds. Specifically jazz (light touch) rock & blues (light touch to hard attack) ska (quick & muted upstrokes) Soul (fast and fluid).

 

Gibson Wedge (triangular) Medium & Heavy £0.60

These are what I am comparing everything else to. I have used these picks for 20 years. The mediums I use on 10-46 gauge strings and the Heavy on 11-50 and upwards.

Shape: Triangular with 3 playing edges. I actually use 6 playing edges. I use the proper edges for lead and the ‘flat’ in-between areas for rhythm playing. The index finger rotates the pick to the desired position in play.

Grip: Average. The size is fairly large & this helps. There is a minimal impression of the name on one side only. The gold lettering wears away after only an hour or so of playing.

Sound: Neutral. Neutral is good.

Playability: The gauge size choice allows for a minimal amount of flexing. This is deliberate and is a good compromise between lead & rhythm playing. It also enables easier control of picking volume.

Other: Gauge sizes are light, medium & heavy. There is usually some variation in batch sizes. This can be a small nuisance.

 

Chicken Picks

Tritone III Series Bermuda III (one x 2.7mm thick & one x 2.1mm thick) about £10 for the pair.

Shape: Triangular with 3 playing edges.

Grip: Embossed with the Chicken Logo & gauge size each side, the grip is very good. The material itself is not entirely smooth so this helps also.

Sound: The pick adds some scratchy white noise to the sound due to the surface texture. It looks smooth enough to the eye but the extraneous sound is unmistakable. For this reason it would not suit clean sounds such as Jazz or Country, but is ok for Metal and higher gain tonal colour.

Playability: It’s very good for alternate picking (also called speed picking) with scant lag (latency) between strokes. The picks have a pronounced curved bevel at the edges.

Other: Of the two gauges I initially preferred the 2.1mm, but after living with them for a few days, I became more used to the 2.7mm. Now I find I no longer have a preference between the two.

 

Stagg

Elliptic shaped picks 88.mm thick. Six pack £3

Shape: The ‘elliptic’ name is misleading. The ellipse shape is triangular rather than eye shaped. Not exactly a misnomer, but not what you might expect. (Stagg make a plethora of budget priced stuff from classical string and wind instruments to gig bags and stage lighting).

Grip: Pretty good. There is surface embossment to help.

Sound: neutral.

Playability: These are ok for everything except fast picking. There is some resistance iN string contact resulting in latency. I don’t know why this is. The point of contact looks clean enough. As an experiment I took one and filed on a left handed bevel in the same proportions as a Blue Chip pick. The difference was negligible.

The Stagg picks are not bad at all. Ok as a standby. Best suited to rhythm playing.

 

Blue Chip TAD 40 1.01mm thick £22.21

I have already given a thorough review of the TAD 40 previously on this board (Blue Chip Picks).

Shape: Triangular with 3 playing edges.

Grip: No texture to assist grip, and the makers claims for a ‘tacky grip’ are IMO, specious.

Sound: neutral.

Playability: Good for lead and rhythm. Slightly better than my benchmark Gibsons. The pick I have features a left-handed ‘speed bevel’. Right-handed & non-bevelled are available. This is nothing more than the way a pick wears at the point of contact with the string. Look at the edge of a well worn pick to see what I mean. So the pick is ‘worn in’ already. I suspect this does give some advantage.

Other: This is a good pick. It’s better than most. Is it worth its very steep price? No, it most certainly isn’t.

 

Tortex by Dunlop USA

Shape: Triangular with 3 playing edges.

Grip: Similar to Gibson with minimal raised lettering on one surface. This will wear down with use.

Sound: Neutral. The material used is a synthetic representation of tortoiseshell, which was highly regarded by players of yesteryear. I can’t find anything special about it.

Playability: Reasonable. Better for lead than Stagg and not as good as Gibson. The differences though are very small.

Other: These are popular picks.

 

Ultex by Dunlop USA .88 thickness

Shape: Triangular with 3 playing edges.

Grip. As Tortex.

Sound: Slightly bright. Probably due to the material which is hard and surprisingly rigid.

Grip: Similar to Gibson with minimal raised lettering on one surface. This will wear down with use.

Playability: Good for lead. Average for rhythm. Initially I thought these inferior to Gibsons, even after a couple hours of use.

However when I returned to Ultex (after using V Picks and Chicken Picks) I found I had adapted to them (in some way) and actually found them a tad better than the Gibson. No doubt this was due to having become accustomed to rigid picks.

Other: The Ultex material is very hardwearing and should last for ages.

V Picks V-Pick Medium Pointed, 1.50mm £3

Shape: Triangular with 3 playing edges. Grip: average to good. At 1.5mm (the thinnest I found) they are chunky enough to hold confidently. However this is offset by the size which is smaller than I prefer. Sound: Bright and clear. This is due to the polished edges which impart no extraneous noise when drawn across the string. Playability: For lead, surprisingly good. This is partly due the pointed tips. I had not used pointed tips since my late teens when I made my own picks from thin acrylic sheet. This heavy acrylic took days to get used to, but paid off dividends in speed and clarity. The V-Picks have the least latency (or ‘lag’) in alternate picking. The edge bevel is less curved and more acute than the chicken picks. Unsuited to most kinds of rhythm playing. Other: I now find that I want to use this pick in my critical lead work, but in my band I am the only guitarist and play rhythm also. I have yet to find a good way to swap picks within songs. The biggest problem with V-Picks is that they are easy to lose. I lost one with a couple of days of using it. It is because they are transparent. Coloured ones are also made by ‘V’ but only in other styles. Tusq PQP-0488-G4 (.88mm thick)

Shape: Triangular with 2 playing edges. One of the three edges has a larger, blunter radius. I assume it is not designed to be a playing surface (or could it be for rhythm?). It seems an odd design choice.

Grip: The grip is average and little better than Stagg or Tortex. The small improvement is down to the embossed surface.

Sound: slightly bright. Again, the brightness seems attributable to the rigidity of the material. It is almost as rigid as Ultex.

Playability: Lead: There seems to be some ‘drag’ against the string. Probably due to the material and its finish. It is not pronounced, but it’s there. This is a shame because everything else pointed to this pick being great for lead. Sadly it’s mediocre.

Other: Tusq is of course the same material that is used for a guitar nut. They are said to be ‘self lubricating’. I can only assume that the material itself is the ‘lubricant’ (like graphite?). I have personal doubts about this claim but am happy to be proven wrong.

 

Conclusion:

I’ve collected quite a few picks this year, and spent about a week with all of them. It has been worth the time (of adapting) and the expenditure too.

 

There can be no ‘winner’ because everything described here is entirely subjective. However I will be using V-Picks from here onwards for all my critical lead work. I’ll try a few others V’s too.

 

I will also persevere with Dunlop’s Ultex as I suspect they may replace my favourite Gibsons in time.

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