I love guitar picks. Over the years I experimented with literally dozens of picks, and my guitar drawer is filled with them. I really need to give away my regular medium and heavy picks — as I don’t use them any more. If you like them, they’re fine, but if that’s all you ever used, you owe it to yourself to try different shapes and materials. Picks are perhaps the most critical gear in your guitar arsenal — probably similar to what kick pedals are to drummers — because it’s the point at which you contact your strings. The shape and feel of the picks can greatly affect your playing.
My own picking journey is probably a common one. Started out with the standard picks — heavy gauge — then from there went to Dunlop Jazz III when I heard Eric Johnson was using it. From there I spent a few years using Jazz – derived picks. Once I got used to the smaller picks the regular ones seemed really clumsy. Most recently, I was using Dunlop Jazz Tone 205, which is rounder, thicker Jazz shape pick, and was really liking that.
Then came the Dragon’s Hearts.(DH)
The sample picks sent to me rubbed me the wrong way at first. It was big, for one thing. And what about that ridge on each side of the pick? It didn’t feel very natural to me. But the rigidity of the material felt very present and confident, plus the pick’s three different picks were fun to experiment with. So I kept trying — play with the familiar Jazz shapes for a while, and then pick up one of my Dragon’s Hearts. It slowly started coming to me, what this pick offered.
There are three different materials used for Dragon’s Heart picks — I will not belabor the same things already described on the web site, but they all have this smooth, organic yet solid feel in your hands. “Organic” is a funny term to use for picks, as the material used for DH is as artificial as most other picks. But there’s this pleasant density that you feel while holding the pick that just inspires confidence. Other picks feel lightweight in comparison. It’s not actually heavy or anything, though, so don’t worry about it slowing down your picking or fatiguing your hand.
The uneven, asymmetrical shape is another thing that strikes you as odd at first. D’Andrea Shark Fins come to mind as another pick that offer multiple playing tips, but can’t think of any others. The three tips (I’d call them sharp, standard, and round) all are designed well so that if you spent time with them you’d fine each of them useful in its own right. In fact, the key value these picks offer lies in three different, actually-useful tips.
If you were unaware of the best practice of picking lightly — DH will make you learn it. Incredibly rigid and dense, if you hit strings hard with this thing at the very least you’ll make the strings go out of tune, if not break strings. But picked lightly, the ridges on the sides create a small distance that the pick can glide on strings, giving each note a bright “zing” and clear definition. If you were hoping to for smokey, smooth tone there are better picks for that. DH is all about strong note definition — complex chords ring out brilliantly, with a pleasant amount of brassy splash preceding the crisp “crack” of the note.
And the real bonus here is that you get to vary the sound and feel thanks to the pick’s three edges — right in the middle of a song, if you want. I figured out that if I actually held the pic with the logo facing away from me — so that if you’re using your standard tip, the sharp one will be on the left. This allows for easy rotation to bring the sharp tip for the in-use position, allowing the sharp tip a shallower angle to brush the strings than the other way of holding. The sharp edge offers even more crisp note definition than the standard tip but this shallow angle allows you to still use it with a light touch. The round edge is very useful for fast strumming where sharper tips get in the way.
So in essence, you get three picks for the price of one Dragon’s Heart. While I believe the majority of us will spend the most of playing time with the standard tip, I can see myself rotating to the other edges just for passages that require a different attack or feel. Couple that with the brilliant, articulate sounds it produces, and you may find that you can’t go back to ordinary picks. Most conventional picks may come across as artificial in your hands, flimsy in feel and muddy in sound.
That being said, few things in life are one-size-fits-all and I can suggest a couple of variations for Mr. C. Whitney to consider. I can see a thinner variation where the sides don’t feature quite as pronounced triangular shape, and a smaller variation with the same shape for an easier transition to the Jazz crowd. I found the tonal variations between the three different material very subtle, though there is a varying degree of brightness from Hardened (brightest) to Original to Pure (mellowest, though still more articulate than conventional picks).
All in all, I can whole-heartedly recommend Dragon’s Hearts to discerning guitarists who are looking for state-of-art brushes to paint their canvases. It’s a deeper tool than most others, as you can spend your time developing touches for all three of the tips, not to mention subtle angle variations you can employ to take advantage of its triangular edge. Because of its vast range of expressions perhaps it’s not the easiest picks to grow into, especially for inexperienced players — but once you learn to appreciate its unique features, you may find that nothing else really offers what Dragon’s Hearts do.