Still hell-bent on finding my ideal pick, I have yet another review for you southpaws today. Recently I grabbed a sample of boutique picks from a new company based right here in Scotland – RJL Guitars. These picks are very unique in that they are made 100% from carbon fibre.
I was initially drawn to these plectrums because you know, they look badass! But upon trying them out the advantages of a pick made from carbon fibre quickly became apparent. Read on to find out what I thought.
RJL Carbon Fibre Picks
Or carbon fiber if you live across the pond… There are a variety of different sizes available, but I much prefer my small, pointy picks so I grabbed a selection of Jazz and Jazz+ models to try out.
I’m not too sure on the exact thickness of these picks, but with a ruler and my dodgy eyesight they look to be around 0.4mm – very thin! However due to the particularly strong nature of carbon fibre, these picks are in fact very rigid. It’s quite an unusual feeling to hold such a thin pick which has the flex of one that is two or three times its thickness. You can throw your usual pick size measurements out of the window with these little guys.
Carbon fibre is also a very lightweight material. When throwing it around in your hand you barely notice that it’s there, they really weigh next to nothing.
Each of the picks have one of three different designs cut out of them, contributing to both aesthetics and grip. The Omega shape’s design also gives the pick more flex when you hold it further to the back. This allows you to have a super thin pick which can behave like both a thick and thin plectrum depending on where you hold it. I believe you can also have custom designs added to the picks for a small fee – very cool!
The Jazz model is just a little shorter than a standard Jazz III from Dunlop. Couple that with how thin it is, and this becomes a very diminutive pick indeed. The Jazz+ is very slightly longer than a standard Jazz and I personally preferred this one’s more substantial size over the smaller Jazz.
When you first start to use these picks they are quite rough against the strings, presumably due to the interwoven carbon fibre strands. However after some time spent playing they begin to smooth out and after 30 minutes or so just glide over the strings.
As many of you will know I am incredibly fussy when it comes to grip, and luckily these picks are some of the best I’ve found. The glossy top and bottom coats are fairly sticky and the custom designs just help to keep the picks from slipping. Because the picks are so light they will actually stay attached to your finger for quite a while before falling off if you open your hand. Top marks for gipability – yeah, I just made that word up.
I didn’t make this video specifically to demo the picks, but I did use one in it. As you can hear I was really able to get quite a dynamic sound from the 50’s Squier Strat.
Black Finger Syndrome
They sound like the perfect pick so far right? Well there is one small disadvantage to using a pick made of carbon. Over time, playing with one of these you will get a small build-up of very fine black dust on your thumb and forefinger. The degree of dust will depend on the way in which you hold the pick. I like to really choke down on the pick which results in my fingers hitting the strings and picking up a fair amount of black. Other people I’ve spoken to have had next to no transfer at all, so it’s really down to the individual and their playstyle.
The amount of dust will also lessen after you’ve played a pick in – around 30 minutes or so.
The good news is that the dust wipes of extremely easily, so don’t let this put you off. What you lose in 5 seconds washing your hands you gain in beautiful tones and killer looks. An advantage of the carbon dust is that it actually self-lubricates the strings, giving them a longer lifespan!
They’re lightweight, grippy and produce a very tight, but dynamic sound. For a boutique pick they’re also very affordable at only £2 GBP each. They won’t become my main picks because I can’t quite get on with the black dust, but they will certainly be a useful addition to my growing arsenal of picks.
Also, how awesome is it to tell your mates that your picks are made of carbon fibre?! I believe that RJL will soon be releasing a range of Kevlar based picks. I’ll be following that one with great interest as those should come without black dust issues ;)
RJL Guitars is a relatively new company and their website is still very much a work in progress. However it is fully functional, so check out the site below to see the full range of picks available.
For more information:
RJL Guitars Website