The C. Whitney Guitars Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks Review

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The Dragon’s Heart Polyamide-Imide Guitar Picks (C. Whitney Guitars) Review

Before I begin with my write-up, I wanted to say that I was delighted to have an opportunity to review the Dragon’s Heart picks. I have (literally) jars of picks I’ve accumulated over the past decades of playing guitar, bass, mandolin, (the extremely occasional) banjo, and world instrument. I’m always on a quest to see what new or better sounds I can make with the instruments I have or use.

DragonsHeartPicksLogo

There are different formulas and materials and prices for the varieties of the Dragon’s Heart guitar picks. I’ve been playing the three (current) varieties of the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts. This includes the Hardened pick (70% Polyamide-Imide/30% Glass Fiber), the Original (88% Polyamide-Imide/12% Graphite), and the Pure Dragon (100% Polyamide-Imide). These picks last 3-5 times longer than the standard plastic thick pick, and have largely different sonic characteristics than many other guitar pick materials.

You can see more about all the Dragon’s Heart Picks here at dragonsheartguitarpicks.com

It’s easy to say that many pick designs have come and gone over the years. After all, musicians such as me are always trying to find a way to make music in a fresh way. Many designs become staples (such as the plastic classic 351-shape teardrop pick) and others become used as useful and interesting novelties (such as custom-ground metal coins). My experience is that even more (probably most) actually fall somewhere in between. Each and every pick material, design, and use has its legions of fans and detractors.

Dragon's Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Dragon’s Heart Pick Pure Dragon

Let me begin my review summary by saying two VERY important things. Picks have a HUGE effect on the sound of an instrument (for those who use picks 🙂 ). EVERY musician is as individual as their fingerprints – and therefore their tastes and abilities vary almost wildly. We are all different: Vive la différence!

Quick Opinion

Buy some today

The Dragon’s Heart Picks are versatile, well-made, and sonically extremely interesting. Given that Dragon’s Hearts are fairly thick and rigid, they are different in their sound, playability, and player-experience feel from standard plastic 351 Fenders or even thick Steve Clayton three-sided Delrin picks.

You can buy Dragon’s Heart Picks here at http://www.dragonsheartguitarpicks.com/store/

Dragon’s Hearts have a rigid, extremely precise feel. They have a well-defined attack (varying slightly depending on which pick edge you use – see below). They are easy to grip and comfortable in the fingers both when they are new and after they have been used for a while.

Dragon's Heart Pick Original

Dragon’s Heart Pick Original

This review is written with an open-minded approach to picks: I don’t advocate anyone to play a particular size, material, shape, or type – rather, I look at picks as a VERY inexpensive way to help one’s playing style grow. It’s easier and simpler than almost any other technique to change one’s tone. And besides, it’s just plain fun to find new territory with a simple pick change.

The short summary of this review is this: if you want more control, more sound, better attack, and durability, you just can’t go wrong with Dragon’s Heart Picks. They’re fantastic! No matter your picked instrument, give all the Dragon’s Heart varieties a try. You’ll keep them around for a very long time.

Dragon's Heart Pick Hardened Style

Dragon’s Heart Pick Hardened Style

Sound and Playing Style

You can hold your Dragon’s Heart pick in three different ways (plus a bonus fun fourth way!) to get three different sounds and playing styles.

One main “point” is a sharp, almost talon-like picking edge and surface (see what I did there? ;-)). Another point is rounded and almost circular in shape, and the third is reminiscent of the old-fashioned 351 teardrop tip. If you hold the pick just right, you can also get a combined round-tip and sharp-tip to get a two-point picking attack that’s quite a bonus – it has a very unique feel and sound.

The sharp point gives a clear and concise attack with an incredibly quick release. It requires a deft touch to go fast and a gentle hand to go slow. This edge is excellent for high-speed shreds or really high-treble jazzy rolling fast arpeggios.

Dragon's Heart Pick Sharp edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Sharp edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The “normal” style point is just as you’d expect. You get the kinds of attacks and string releases you’d expect from a beveled-edge teardrop-shaped thick pick. Very nice… intermediate between warm and clean.

Dragon's Heart Pick Triangular edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Triangular edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rounded point gives you that warmer approach with a very slow release and a moderately slow attack. It’s also useful for “swiping pick attacks” where the hand not only plucks the string with the pick but the pick is slid or swiped down the surface of the string a bit. One can truly get a sweet, warm, swishy attack and a lovely rounded-off back end of the release with this surface.

Dragon's Heart Pick Round edge

Dragon’s Heart Pick Round edge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, VERY nice… EXTREMELY flexible and easy to use for a variety of styles and sounds in one given playing session – all with one pick.

Dragon's Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Dragon’s Heart PIck Two Edges At Once

Comfort and Durability

C. Whitney Guitars’ Dragon’s Heart picks are easily some of the most comfortable thick-ish picks I’ve played in my 42 years of stringed-instrument playing. I have long, medium-diameter fingers with moderately high hand strength. I don’t sweat in my hands much – although I’ve been known to have dry hands at times. For me, I don’t want to know that the pick is in my fingers. I just want it to be an extension of my mind: from mind to hand to pick to string. Overall, when I pick up a Dragon’s Heart, it just works. It just fits. It just feels fine. And that’s a good thing.

The Polyamide-Imide picks don’t get slippery or require me to give them the death’s-grip hold in order to keep them set at the right angle when I’m playing wrapped or even plain/wire strings. This is EXTREMELY important to me because I have arthritis and joint pain: I need my grip to be the LAST thing about which I must think when playing an instrument with a pick.

When it comes to durability, the edge and angle of the edge of the picks stays consistent for a long time. I’ve not played any my three Polyamide-Imide picks for more than 1000 hours – with that said, they have held up as well or better than some of the thick “clear plastic hard” picks I use a good bit (including my gel Jim Dunlop >1mm picks).

The critical durability of the edge of the pick… It’s important to note that I am not a hard picker. I don’t bang the strings (I caress them, or at most pluck them). With that said, when I’m playing rock music I do the rare-but-inevitable pinch harmonics from time to time. I do play a HUGE variety of instruments and string materials (flatwound, half-flat, round-wound, coated, uncoated…), so I’ve run my Dragon’s Hearts through the ringer quite a bit. Now that I’ve played them quite a bit, I can say that I’m not getting the dulled edges and he numerous I have seen with other alternative-material picks by this point. I still get wear and little marks here and there, but I can assure you that they don’t cause any sound difference or playability difference for me. I suspect I’ll get the manufacturer’s approximate durability hours on my original three Dragon’s Hearts.

I’m looking forward to a long time of service from my Dragon’s Hearts. With emphasis on “looking forward to…”

Price and Quality

The Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Heart picks are a premium-price-point pick for most players. These don’t cost a quarter dollar each at your local store. That’s OK. they’re worth MUCH more. I’ve paid between $.10 for a pick and I’ve paid $12 for a pick, so I’m willing to try new stuff. These are WELL worth the money. The price is appropriate for a durable, long-view, ultra-versatile pick.

Even guitarists on a budget will find the Polyamide-Imide Dragon’s Hearts to be a bargain in the long run. As one’s playing style is enhanced by the pick’s uses, and the durability of the pick is realized, the price is actually well worth the extra money.

Quality-wise, all three of my Dragon’s Hearts felt great on all the surfaces, were well-made, and had no crazy rough parts to them in their factory bags. As I played them, the overall consistency of feel and durability between the three current Polaymide-Imide picks was very similar.

Wishes and Wants

There isn’t much in my Jim’s Wish List for these, honestly. They’re as I’ve described and I probably wouldn’t change a thing, other than maybe a version with a dragon cutout in the center for those who need a little extra grip for sweaty or oily hands. Otherwise? Great!

D’Addario Chromes Flatwound Guitar Strings Review – Still using these to this day! My favorite flatwounds

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I first wrote this post on May 15, 2009… I still use D’Addario chromes on my hollow-body electric, fretless guitar, and fretless bass. They last a LONG time and sound great! Read on…

Review in brief: D’Addario Chromes Flatwound Guitar Strings

I’ve just recently written about D’Addario XL strings in my reviews. I got some new strings in today to replace some worn-out wires on my Ibanez AF75D hollowbody electric (yes, I still have/love the great Orange Punkin AF75D… forever a fan).

I think strings are a very personal thing, and as I’ve said before, this is not a fanboy point of view. This is a real, objective writing about some really wonderful strings. At some point, I’ll cover other flatwounds… I can’t always change strings every day to write tons of reviews – so I review the things I play and count on just as much as I write about what I like or don’t like.

I use flatwounds on one fretted bass (an Epiphone EB-3 – YOW), my fretless bass, and on two Artcore hollowbodies. Flatwounds have a decidedly warm and smooth feeling to them. Although one can play them through a triple-Marshall-stack on full gain… the best use of them (for me, anyway) is to get that wonderful “mwah” warmth in my tunes.

I do have occasion to use flatwounds elsewhere – combined with good tubes and my trusty Analog Man SD-1 (Silver Mod). They really throw something different into the listener’s ears! If you have a couple of different guitars at your disposal, you owe it to yourself to try some flatwounds.

On my Fender Jazz Fretless, I love and use nothing but Fender Flatwound bass strings. On one of my Artcores (Punkin), I only use D’Addario Chromes. Why? Fender and others make GREAT flatwounds, too… but I have a method and reason for my madness.

With my D’Addario XL Chromes Jazz Light (.011-.050) and D’Addario XL Chromes Extra Light Gauge (.010-.048), I get a SMOOTH third string. In most thicker flatwound sets for six-string guitars, the third string (generally a G string {no puns here}) is a wrapped string and not a plain string.

With Fender flatwounds, the third is a little course in texture, so you end up with an odd experience: 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 feel smooth and silky. 3 grabs at your fingers. It’s a disconcerting experience for me (personally) when I’m playing. I like all 6 strings (and 4/5 on my bass strings) to feel like slippery smooth wonders. NOTE: I do like the Fender flatwounds on my Bigsby-mounted Artcore AFS75T – the not-so-smooth G string has a nice growly sound to it for rockin’ a little harder than my jazzier D’Addarios.

Remember, in my opinion, that strings and picks are integral to both the sound AND experience of playing guitars and basses… So, I go with Chromes on my feel-good Artcore AF75D.

So, where’s the review? Right here:

Quality Every single D’Addario XL Chromes string I’ve ever installed and used has been ultra-consistent and very resistant to breaking. Each string has a profoundly comfortable consistency in wrapping and polishing.

Every single time I install a new set, they feel just like the last set did when it was new. Every single time. Interestingly, with flatwounds (irrespective of brand), it seems my flats last much longer than my roundwound strings… it is as though they don’t trap as much “stuff” in them to corrode them…

In the past 5 years of playing flatwounds, I’ve not had even one D’Addario Chrome string break.

Sound Wow. Always. If you’ve fallen down on your sound and can’t get up, it’s worth the $8-$10 to try a set of Chromes! Each new set is like Christmas (or pick your holiday as your heart desires). I cannot wait to play them once they’re on! Often as not, a new set of Chromes causes me to be inspired and record a new piece or start a new piece. It’s wonderful.

Take a look at info and pricing for lots of kinds of D’Addario strings here at zZounds.com

The sound is decidedly warm and comfy, and definitely jazz-like. It can smooth out even high-gain or distortion tunes, too.

One thing, though: they’re not as brassy and bright as roundwounds, so flatwounds (in general) don’t PUNCH through the tune’s sound as much as everyday roundwounds. You might have to tweak your EQ a little and maybe turn up the volume and/or gain…

Value Flatwounds, of every brand and type, are more expensive than comparable brand and size roundwounds. Most are wound, then polished in one or more extra steps. Some are ribbon-wound. Expect to pay a little more for a set.

But, my flatwounds (particularly my D’Addario Chromes) last as long as coated strings – without having to use coated strings. On average, my Chromes last three times longer than my roundwounds.

The packaging for chromes uses fewer materials, paper, and plastic… that usually means that they’re a little “greener” than some of the other brands and types of strings I use. I like that part…

Conclusion D’Addario Chromes flatwounds are great strings. Try some. You might just get hooked! (BTW, some metal guitarists use flatwounds!)

Wishes None, really. I like them just as they are. I guess the only thing that would be bonus is if I could get them in colors :-).

D’Addario XL (and EXL) Strings – Time Proven Favorites – Great strings for many venues

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I originally wrote this review on April 26, 2009 – I still use these on 2 humbucker instruments… always great quality…

This is an opinion review, not a religious or fan-boy review… This is an experienced view of a high-quality brand and string… I play MANY brands of strings, including D’Addario XLs – I believe my review presentation is objective…

As a musician, a guitar nut, and a recording artist, I’m always exploring different things to get different sounds. I’m always trying out strings, picks, pickups, electronics, and much more… always looking to see what something sounds like or feels like.

Strings are a fundamental of music with stringed instruments. Just as a stylus is important to the audio output quality of a fine phonograph, strings affect the sound quality of an instrument. Also, the feel of strings is important to the way the musician interacts with their instrument. There are many, many things about strings that are very personal in nature…

So, what do we feel about our strings? It seems as though every musician with whom I speak has a completely different view of their strings. It’s truly amazing. Musicians, from pro to novice, all express divergent views on their strings.

Some folks are so fanatic about their strings that they will spend long periods of time going through identical sets of strings to get just the perfect string or set or pairs or sets of strings. Yet there are others who have the attitude of “it doesn’t matter to me, just make sure they’re nickel-plated 10s” or “I guess I should change my strings – they’re a year old now.”

And yet others are somewhere in between. What’s right? The right answer is, if the strings do what you want, then they’re the right ones.

So, enough about the philosophy of strings… let’s talk about a particular brand and type… I’ll write more reviews about other brands and types down the road a bit. Today, I’m going to ramble about D’Addario XL strings.

There are lots of kinds of excellent D’Addario strings. Read more about them and browse them at zZounds. I like zZounds – they’ve been great for me as a customer.

Briefly: I don’t beat my strings, nor do I pick/pluck extremely hard or firmly. But, on the other hand, I don’t have the light touch, either. Suffice it to say that I am somewhere in the middle when it comes to being hard on my strings. Also, I do like fresh strings – both from a cleanliness point of view and from a sound point of view. I change my strings when they feel icky or they begin to “darken” my instrument’s sound. I don’t like blackened rough strings or strings that are smelly and dull-sounding… with that in mind, let’s do some exploration…


Quality:
First of all, I love these. They’re super-consistent quality. I’ve opened, installed, and played hundreds of sets of D’Addario XL guitar and bass strings – and I’ve NEVER had one with a bend, a “funny place”, or with a largely unreliable sound.

D’Addario strings, in general, are extremely consistent and extremely reliable. I’ve never had one break. I’ve never had one “go dull” on me before the rest of the set. I’ve never had one feel strange when I’m playing. The quality is good and consistent.

Sound:
Here’s one of the main things about strings… how do they sound? Not all strings are the same manufacture, not all strings sound the same, and not all strings are musical in the same way.

D’Addario XLs sound generally bright, whether you’re playing nickel-plate, pure nickel, or acoustic brass/bronze strings. They have a nice growl to them that sounds like freshly wound metal – very nice. I’ve played strings from other manufacturers – strings bearing virtually the exact same specs as the XLs I’ve played. In general, the D’Addarios growl a little more, sing a little more, and produce a mellow tone when played easy on clean.

Value:
D’Addario XLs are generally priced within a half-dollar of all of its competitors. I don’t feel that D’Addario XLs are expensive or cheap – they seem priced just right… I feel as though they are the “workhorse” type of string – a brand and type musicians can count on.

They’re a great value and will please a large percentage of the string-instrument-playing population…

Long Lasting:
D’Addario XLs last a fairly long time. There are other brands and types I’ve used that stay close to “fresh” feel and sound longer than the XLs I play, but not many. I have also played brands (brands that I DO like, mind you) that don’t last nearly as long.

In general, D’Addario XLs seem to last well past average, and are consistently in the top range of long-lasting uncoated strings.

Closing opinion:
I love D’Addarios. I install them on customer’s guitars very frequently. I have a couple of guitars that get nothing but D’Addario XLs (generally 10s). I REALLY like the phosphor-bronze sets I use on my Ibanez acoustic.

I love the quality and the general sound of them. I like the multi-pack options to save some coin, and I like the way they feel even up to the time when they start to get grimy.

They’re great strings. Give them a try.

Clayton Custom Picks – An experienced review from someone who has ordered many sets

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I first wrote this on February 22, 2009 – I’ve since made four new orders for custom picks and have been pleased with almost everything about every order… good folks and good sales from time to time. My last two orders have been for glow-in-the-dark picks. They’re awesome!

Clayton USA Customized Picks Review

Most of my reviews are sectionalized, categorized, and broken down into parts like playability, value, and quick opinion. This particular review is about a service, as well as the end product. I think this particular review will focus on what I needed, the service I got, and some images of my new promotional item – customized picks!

I wanted to have an interesting way to get ready to market myself, my guitars, and my music I wanted to find a way to get people to look at my customized guitars, my services, my music, and maybe make a few dollars along the way to keep things going.

Fliers and leaflets are OK, and postings at campuses and non-competing stores work good, but simple, recognizable, and useable freebie picks seemed like a great idea. It turns out that I was right. People love them.

OK, enough about the whys and wherefores… what about the picks? They came out great! I took a custom-drawn simple paw, put the site’s name on the design, and asked Steve Clayton’s custom shop to make me 100 starter white Delrin picks (the white seems to make the text more readable – I’m going to try a color on the next batch).

I chose white, simple Fender 351-style shape, .8 or so thickness, Delrin, and black printing. People immediately react in a positive way when they see the picks. Job done!

So, how are the picks? They came out very nicely. The images and text are pretty clear, and the consistency and quality are really quite good. Out of 100 picks, I found none with errors or weird pick problems. Very nice!

The time it took to receive my order was a several days, but nothing outrageous. I wasn’t expecting rush service for 100 custom picks. However, they arrived in reasonable time and nicely packaged. They were in a simple padded package and came in a simple zip-lock style baggie. All is OK, the shipping process didn’t harm the picks or cause any issues.

Want to purchase some of your own? Go to the Steve Clayton custom site and order some! you can go here: http://www.claytoncustom.com/ (opens new window).

My first order consisted of $39 for the picks, and some nominal shipping charges. You can choose among First Class mail, Priority Mail(TM), and other, faster methods. The shipping starts at about $5 and can go higher if you need faster shipping.

As with many custom things, the economies of scale apply, if you order more picks, the cost per pick goes down. So if you’d like hundreds or thousands, your price per pick will be lower than my little 100-pick orders…

I highly recommend Steve Clayton’s custom picks. You can’t buy them at The Guitar Center (but, you could click on the little banner on my page to help me out!), but you can get them directly from Clayton.

Rock on!