Heavy Repping! loves an underdog. Ever since I can remember I’ve sought out games, records and guitars that other people didn’t consider in the hope of finding undervalued gems, to give the secret things that were left behind another chance. Odd overdrives, fuzzes, amps and more litter my life history, operating on the basis that the little guy is always worth a look, and that there’s something special hiding behind that unopened door.
Nowhere is that more true than with picks, especially now. In these artisanal days of lone makers creating endless, beautiful boutique picks and me reviewing them, I thought it would be prudent to demonstrate that it’s not all vacuum-sealed steel and aerospace compounds in plectrum land and give you my top 5 upstarts from the cheap seats. Here, then, are my current Top 5 giant killers.
Jim Dunlop 500 1.5mm
It’s easy to say ‘well of course Dunlop blah blah’ but the fact remains that Jimmy’s gems are so popular is because they are good. The reason HR! uses a 73 as the test pick is because of its universal popularity, and this lavender lad has been in the hands of so many players that it gets taken for granted. Robust, properly bevelled and pushing out a balanced, muscular sound, it’s not quite as fast as the eternal Jazz III but it’s better for chord work, thanks to it’s strident slopes and larger surface area.
Pick Geek Extra Heavy
I actually found this pick in a rehearsal room – it was the only one in there, and I took this as a sign that fate had decided we should meet. You can buy Pick Geeks in bags of a hundred, but the Extra Heavy one is really worth investing in. As previously stated in my separate review (here), this is an extremely good pick for the money, with great grip, good highs, a very familiar shape and, in addition to notes made in that review, stiff longevity. For the heavier-pick lover, this is a must, so make sure you try one sharpish.
Mathas Jazz Junior
The most expensive plectrum here, the Junior is, as stated, a version of the Jazz, albeit a very, warm, slightly sneering version of that world-beating pick. Gigantic compared to the III and slightly larger even than the also-brilliant XL, the Junior is Delrin-ian defiance, a stiff-voiced, handy bruiser of a plectrum that you can comfortably rely on night after night. I don’t imagine that the SHRED OR DIE ethos Mathas professes would have done this intentionally, but for broad, sinewy acoustic work this plectrum is the club sandwich. Top stuff.
Such good value it’s almost sinful, the unusual design of the Coarse pick has had the same effect on every player I’ve shared it with. As stated in its independent review (here), everyone’s got a favourite side, and after gigging with this on acoustic, I can report that not only is the balance and grip superb, but it’s full of genuinely individual character as well. The metal tin is the ticket for keeping your other treasures in, while the raspy throat of this boomerang-shaped blazer is not something that you shrug off lightly. One design, one thickness, two completely different tones, and all the charm in the universe? You’ve got yourself a champ.
Iron Age Standard
Wait a minute you say, Iron Age making a plectrum that isn’t 6 feet thick and made of human bone? I agree it’s unlikely, but this thing is great. It came as part of the order of my Parthenon Series Jazz, and I was truly astounded that such a thin plectrum (I reckon it’s 1mm) could have the presence and cut that it has. I’ll be completely honest and say that I’m not 100% sure what it’s made from and I wouldn’t like to guess, but the grip and shape are terrific. Shorter and sharper than a 351, the brand with the sword and wreath has turned out a boss everyday pick with poke way above its price bracket. Advance!
Of course, this is just a selection of many, many options – I could have done a top 20 just of Dunlop – but if there’s any you can think of, drop me a line at email@example.com and I’ll have a look.
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