On my guitar playing journey I’ve used, like most of us, a lot of different picks over the years. Here’s what I’ve found…
I should just say that plectrums are a personal taste, what works for one player may not for another, this is just what works for me.
When I was a kid, I started using whatever plectrums I could get hold of. I had the usual .73mm Dunlops, some 1mm Fender branded picks and a few other random ones that people gave me. But the one that I remember using the most was a Gibson branded wedge style medium pick. I don’t know where I got it, or why for that matter because its a massive pick, much bigger than a ‘regular’ plectrum shape. Something about it though seemed to help my playing. Maybe it was because it more rigid than other plectrums I had, or just because it was so big it felt easier to hold on to with my tiny child hands, I don’t know.
After the Gibson pick I moved back to regular .73s for a while. Mainly because that’s what was always available at my local store and they were always knocking around in the music room at school. I then found that Lucky 13 did a range of these picks which I thought looked really cool, and as I was used to the size and feel of the regular ones I bought a bunch of them.
When I started looking into plectrums seriously a fellow player turned me on to V-picks, and gave me one for free (thanks Jonathon), a medium pointed, I think. I’d heard various things about them so gigged it for a good while. I really liked the tone it gave and actually recorded a load of acoustic material with it. I liked it so much I took the V-pick with me on one of the cruise contracts I was doing and used it for all of the my work. Until…I lost it!
After losing the V-pick I was back to trusty old .73s, but I couldn’t revert back to using a flexible pick after the rigidity of the V-pick. So I hit the guitar forums to see what other players were using and one pick kept coming up, used by all the biggest names, the Dunlop Jazz III. Now I’d tried a Jazz III pick years ago, the red one, but found it just too small for me to hold on to and control. And this is where I found the Petrucci signature Jazz III. Slightly larger than a regular Jazz and completely rigid, I took to them right away.
The problem with the Petrucci picks is that they can be, or at least were when I was using them, difficult to get hold of. You usually had to order and have them delivered, which you can’t always do on tour. So I started looking for an easier to get alternative. As I’d quite taken to the Jazz shape and size I bought a Jazz III variety set with about 10 various Jazz picks in it, and in that set was the Jazz III 2.0. The thing that struck me most was the tone of this pick, It had a really great attack and produced the ‘scrape’ sound that I love when hitting a string. The size also felt great, smaller than the Petrucci but fatter in the middle.
The 2.0s were a little easier to come by but my local music store didn’t stock them. They did however have some D’addario Nylpro Jazz picks, which the owner said were ‘excellent’, and as I needed some picks pronto I thought I give them a try. They sounded great, very similar to the 2.0 and have a coating on the top of the pick (the bit you hold) that really helps you hold on to the pick. But I actually found that after half an hour on stage this can become quite slippy, also the raised logo and text actually started to hurt my finger after prolonged gigs, so I went back to the 2.0s.
And Dunlop Jazz III 2.0 is what I still play today. They sound great, are the perfect shape for me, easy to hold onto through a gig and are becoming easier to find in local music shops.
I guess the best advise I can give, would be to try as many picks as possible. Be subjective about them. Which feels the best? Which sounds the best? And then pick the one that works for you. You may need different picks for different applications, depending on what you’re playing, this is exactly what guitar legend Tim Pierce does.
Honourable mention – When I was trying out a bunch of Jazz III picks I also tried the Animals As Leaders signature Jazz III. This is an awesome pick, has a very similar sound to the 2.0s but is a flexible .73mm. It’s too flexible for a lot of my work, but for funk or clean work it sounds great. I’ve actually found myself using it mostly for acoustic work which it excels at.