Let’s start off with the guitar pick I use the most recently when playing electric guitar, the Jim Dunlop Ultex® Jazz III.
- Gauge: 1.38 mm
- Material: Ultex®
- Shape: Jazz III
- Tip: Pointy
- Price: About 75¢ a piece (I bought a bag of 24 for about $8.00)
What is Ultex®? Ultex® is Jim Dunlop’s brand name for Ultem™ resin.
What is Ultem™? It is amorphous thermoplastic polyetherimide (PEI) resin. Ultem™ is used in the Aerospace industry, Healthcare, guitar picks plus other things. It has good strength and stiffness, and outstanding dimensional stability (Ultem™ is tough stuff). Ultem™ is available in several transparent and opaque colors. If you want to learn more you can view the full lowdown on Ultem™ here.
I have several Altoids tins full of various guitar picks I have purchased on my quest for the holy grail of guitar picks. I can honestly say every pick material I have tried has given me a different sound from my guitar. This is where it really pays to use the right pick for the right job if you have to go for a certain sound on a given song. I have found for lead guitar work and a good amount of rhythm guitar work that I have been doing, the Ultex® Jazz III has been my go to pick over the last couple of years. It took me a while to get used to the Jazz III size, but once I did I have found this pick to be quite useful. The pick is a transparent amber color an has molded raised lettering on it, which gives you a good grip on the pick. I notice very little slippage while using this pick. The pick has a pointed tip with rounded edges that help the pick to glide over the strings. The pick is quite stiff for a 1.38 mm pick, more like the stiffness of a 1.5 mm – 2.0 mm pick. The stiffness allows for fast articulate playing. I have found over time the picks do wear down after quite a bit of use. They wear down far slower than many other guitar pick materials, however. Below are a couple pictures of Ultex® Jazz III picks I have used to show how they wear.
The pick above is a relatively new pick with some roughness on the side edge from doing pick scrapes. The tip is still in good shape. The pick below is a pick I have been using for many months for my daily practice sessions. The tip has rounded off, and the edges have beveled. I have since switched to a newer pick of the same type, and this one sits on my desk as a backup.
How do they sound? I would describe the sound as clear, bright and plinky sounding, for lack of a better term, when playing single note lines. Pinch harmonics are fairly easy to conjure with this pick. When playing chords you get a really smooth sound with good articulation. I read on the Premier Guitar web site in the article called The Spectrum of Plectrum, where they were interviewing Jim Dunlop, he likened the sound you get from Ultex® is very similar to Tortoise shell (Tortoise shell was a highly regarded, sought after guitar pick material. Due to some of the large turtles and tortoises becoming an endangered species. It is no longer legal to manufacture Tortoise shelI guitar picks). I keep trying different picks, but for a large portion of the material I play, which revolves around mostly Rock, Pop, Punk, Classic Rock, Contemporary Christian, and 80’s Metal. I keep coming back to the Ultex® Jazz III.
Update: I recently pulled out my nylon string acoustic guitar which is patterned after a classical guitar. I purchased this guitar many years ago when I was a teenager at a record store. I was trying various picks I had on my desk. The Ultex® Jazz III pick was by far the best sounding pick with this guitar. The sound was clear and natural. It pays to experiment until you find the sound you are looking for.