For Fans of Flatpicking Guitar Magazine
Hi William - I'm a bit behind on this discussion but have spent time on similar quests for the optimal pick. I've been really happy with Dunlop XL Jazz III series. Make sure you order the XL version since the standard series requires Munchkin-sized fingers to actually grab. The XL Jazz III also has lots of relief in the printing so they are easy to grab and hold onto. Most of the time I play a Martin D-35 with D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Custom Light strings (.011-.052) in the purple package. This pick is definitely stiff and has a nice sharp edge so it doesn't sound chunky like you are picking with a piece of chalk. You can also turn it a few degrees along both radial and rotational axes and get a variety of sounds.
Well, it's been about 10 months since I posted this discussion item and I sure do appreciate the suggestions and opinions that everyone has shared. I have been using a Wegen TF120 for several months and I really like it. I like the size and grip, the firmness, and warm clear tone it produces on my Martin flat tops. I'm more of a strummer than a picker, so that affects my pick choice for sure. I may move up to the TF140 for a little more stiffness, but probably will stick with the Wegen TF for the foreseeable future.
But I'll still try new picks from time to time and I'm sure I'll eventually move on to another pick as my playing skills evolve. My teacher and friend, Steve Blanchard, says that a good picker can play with anything---even a coin. I think that's very true. It's helpful to have the right tools, whether it be guitars, picks, or strings. But in the end, great musicians make great music because they have something to say in their music not because they have great gear.
Thanks again for all your great comments!
When I first got started, I got one of the Steve Kauffman Homespun tapes where he recommended a medium pick, so that's what I've always used. However, now that I am reading these posts and trying to really improve rather than just strum and noodle, I'm going to step up the Wegen bluegrass pick - considerably heavier. My concern isn't with single-note runs, so much as with strumming. I've messed around with a Fender Extra Heavy and I can't make my D-28 ring like I can with a medium gauge.
I'm still using the Wegen TF-120. I have yet to find anything that produces a better tone on my Martin acoustics, and the last so much longer than standard picks do, they're worth the price.
I started playing electric guitars in an alt-country band and I use the Wegen on these guitars, too. It takes some time to learn how to use such a heavy pick on an electric, but I find that I can lighten my touch and they work just fine. Having a stiff pick like the Wegen actually allows me to have more dynamics (soft to loud) by varying my attack which has worked well for me. I feel more in control with a pick like the Wegen.
But to each his own. Like I said in the beginning---it's largely a matter of personal taste.
I got my Wegen Bluegrass Picks and started using them - and I can really see the difference - very happy I made the switch!. With the beveled edge, this forces me to maintain the correct grip rather than the way the medium pick was moving in my fingers. Secondly, I realize now that the medium pick was twisting when I made my way across the stings, something the Wegen simply will not do. It is both cleaner and faster. I am also keeping my pinky posted to pickguard consistently now, which I did not always do with the lighter pick. All in all, a superior product for flatpicking.
The one area I'm still working on is the strum pattern on Gospel numbers like "Old Crossroads" or "Mansions for Me". I can't get the up - down pattern going unless I lift my pinky and free float. Downstrokes exclusively are not a problem - the pinky stays down, but anything that requires and up-strum is still not working unless I break contact with the pick guard completely.