My Pick Journey: The Easiest, Cheapest Experiments with Big Impacts

What picks do you use?

It’s not the most glamorous piece of gear, but that question seems to set off most serious guitarists.  It’s a very personal choice and everybody has stories about their own preference and experiments.

I love experimenting with picks because they are the easiest piece of equipment to swap out yet it has a big impact on both tone and playability.  You don’t have to stick to one kind, either, so you can have an arsenal of them for different applications.

My pick journey started like any other, with those regular teardrop picks.  Right away I noticed their impact on tone and playability.  Thick ones produce bassier tone and are easier to play single-note runs.  Thinner ones are brighter-sounding and easier for strumming. So I had both medium and heavy and used the former for acoustics (I play a dreadnought — plenty of bass!) and heavy for electric.

Fender 351 Medium

And then I read about Eric Johnson using Jazz III — so I had to check those out.

Jim Dunlop Jazz IIIIt took a little bit to get used to the smaller size, but I can see where this one is better suited for faster, more precise single-note picking.  It’s hard to strum with it, though, and these are very thick — gave my tone a round, almost muffled tone.  So I played these for electrics but acoustic still stayed the regular medium picks.

Then Jim Dunlop got smart and started making the Jazz shape with different material and thickness.  For a while they made green and purple shaped Tortex picks, which I really loved — but I don’t see them on their web site any more.  Now they appeared to be just various gauges of Tortex Pitch Black Jazz III:

Jim Dunlop Tortex Pitch Black Jazz IIIThese are now my go-to picks for electric, and they are fabulous!  Playability of Jazz III, but the tone’s livelier thanks to thinner gauge.  I use the 1.14mm gauge, which is still thick enough where it doesn’t bend much for picking, which makes it easy for runs.  It does take a little getting used to for strumming but now I am comfortable with it.  And finally, these wear out very slowly — so I don’t have to buy many at once.

But I am always experimenting.  I still keep the regular medium and heavy for stand-by (used for acoustic strumming and single-note runs, respectively, when I’m recording), and I also have Fender 451 shapes.  You can’t tell from pictures but these are basically smaller sized ones of the regular picks.  Now that I’m used to smaller picks in general, standard picks can feel clumsy at times — but these are nice, more strummable than Jazz but not cumbersome, either.

Fender 451 Medium


So in my pick “tackle box” I now have Gibson standard medium, heavy, Fender 451 medium, and most importantly, Jim Dunlop Pitch Black Jazz III.   I always carry a few in my wallet, too — you never know when you need to play the guitar!  😉


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