Pick Quest, Part 1

Picks from Dunlop, Clayton, and D’Andrea Reviewed

A prestigious MacArthur Genius Grant was awarded to a violin bow maker from Boston last year. It’s common knowledge that good violins are expensive, but some may be surprised to learn just how much professional violinists spend on their bow alone — anywhere from many hundreds to thousands of dollars. It stands to reason though; the bow is what draws sound from strings and wood, a crucial link in the connection between artist and instrument — not far off from the role played by the much humbler guitar pick. Funny then that many professional guitarists, by stark contrast to violinists, opt to draw sound from their strings with a $0.25 piece of plastic.

Over the past year or so I’ve been on something of a pick quest, exploring the range of both budget and boutique alternatives on the market. Picks are a simple, comparatively cheap, and surprisingly effective way to tweak one’s guitar tone, whether acoustic or electric.

Clockwise from upper left: Clayton Ultem, Dunlop Ultex, D’Andrea Pro Plec, Red Bear Tuff Tone, Wegen TF

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He shook it like a Harlem queen

A melancholy ode to the King, and one of my favorite Gillian Welch tunes. I have a soft spot for acoustic folk duos, having played in one in college. Welch’s longtime partner David Rawlings is a superbly tasteful lead player and producer. You pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the records in the Welch/Rawlings catalog; last year’s The Harrow and the Harvest is a great place to start.

Album and gear reviews are coming, once I find a spare moment…