For a long time, jazz musicians have elected to use horn as a medium for plectrums. There’s plenty of reasons for this – the tonal properties of such a material are predisposed towards jazz of many types, especially gypsy jazz, and while there’s lots of options available for your downstroking needs, one German company has decided that they’ve got the right stuff.
Founded in 1918, Thohr are experts with the horn. I know this because every single plectrum that they sent me – and one comb – was perfectly finished. I’ve no idea how easy or hard horn is to work with, but even if you shape it with your bare hands while not paying attention these picks are impeccable, so we’re off to a good start. The shapes range from an oblate rounded tip to a semi-rounded, slightly pointy job to a traditional teardrop and this, their take on the Jazz III. Save for the difference in thickness, the Thohr and its nylon brother are identical, right down to that gently blunted tip.
Going up against the Little King is a tough gig, especially when the pick is so small, and differences aren’t immediately apparent. The real differences came to light when I put the Thohr next to the Jazz XL, which shares a tip and material with its little brother. This was extremely surprising, and the difference carried over to the III as well – despite their initial similarities, the nylon sounded nasal and a bit quacky next to the rounded, potent bloom of the horn, and once I heard that it was impossible to un-hear. Truly, the Thohr was more sophisticated, mature and graceful, something that perpetuated when I switched to the thinner models of the same pick.
It’s fast, too, and even my lumpen hams were able to get good speed up. What this pick would do in the hands of a Larry Carlton or a Jimmy Bruno is too much to think about, but I don’t think they’d be slowing down. The grip was extremely impressive, with the ridiculously polished horn grasping my fingers like a fancy limpet. That same polished surface does mean a fairly noticeable chirp, and while this is a massive drawback when playing with overdrive, I’m pretty confident that any company founded in 1918 that makes combs first and plectrums second would be thinking about gated fuzz over flatwounds and playing sitting down.
If you’re more of a Pass than a Satriani, get a Thohr. Yes, it chirps like a bird’s nest and is made of dead animal but for jazz, it’s amazing. My Eb6maj13 colleagues agreed that while its application is limited to that most sophisticated of disciplines, it is genuinely blazing, so if this sounds like you, contact these German horn-masters and get phrasing.
- 3mm thick
- African Cattle Horn
- Made in Germany
- A parping 7.5/10 (8.5 if you don’t use drive)
- Price Per Unit: 13.90 Euros (approx. $16)
- Staggeringly finished jazz weaponry