I was recently sent a sample set of Dunlop Ultex Sharp picks to test out. The set consisted of .73, .90, 1.0, 1.14, 1.40 and 2.0 sizes. Now, personally I’ve been a Jazz III user since I was about 14 years old – my guitar teacher introduced me to them and I was pretty much hooked. Over the years I’ve become very used to that tiny pointy little pick, to the point that I tend to feel a little bit lost if I’m using a regular size pick.

Part of the charm of the Ultex Sharp range for me (and obviously the reason they’re called Sharp) is that even though they’re larger than the Jazz III, they have a similar sharp point. For me this shape adds accuracy and definition to fast-picked passages, and gives you more control and note separation in chord work, especially when using a clean sound. I also use the Big Stubby picks in a 3mm gauge every now and then, so I’m not averse to using a larger pick from time to time.

The Ultex Sharp is designed to mimic the feel of an actual vintage tortiseshell pick from the Dunlop collection. It has a matte feel that practically clings to the fingers in a way I’ve never really felt in any other pick, and it has a seamless contoured edge which I find keeps the sound more uniform from pick to pick while also making it more comfortable if you really clamp down on the pick with a firm grip, which I tend to do when playing thrash rhythm.

I play with a very light touch and I tend to prefer thick picks, so I first reached for the 2.0 and my Ibanez RG7620 7-string. The first thing I noticed was that pinch harmonics on the low B string were a lot easier. For some reason I’ve always felt a bit clumsy doing those Zakk Wylde pinch harmonics on the low string, whether it’s E or B – yet if I’m using my 7-string and I play one on the E string, it sounds fine. So I immediately appreciated the Ultex Sharp for helping me over that little hurdle. There also seems to be a very immediate attack which is crucial for faster techniques, especially sweep picking. The level of dynamic control is really quite outstanding, and I really enjoyed setting my amp up for an edge-of-overdrive sound so I could use different picking strengths to alter the character of the gain.

The 2.0 felt a little cumberson for me so I tried the other thicknesses. I quite liked the 1.40 and 1.14. After a bit of testing I settled on the 1.14 as the preferred pick for my playing style (and 1.40 for bass). At that thickness the pick is still rigid, which I prefer, whereas the thinner sizes have more give, which I like for strummed chordal work but not as an all-round pick. If you pick harder in general you might prefer the softer gauges. Incidentally, try flipping the pick around and using one of the rounded edges instead, SRV-style, for a nice smooth pick attack that is especially good for taking a little edge off bright single coils.

By the way, Steve Turner dropped by the house yesterday (awesome Ibanez J Custom 7-string in tow) and he was using Ultex Jazz III picks. After I told him I’d been using the Ultex Sharps he gave me one of his Ultex Jazz IIIs and I was able to directly compare it to my regular Jazz IIIs. It feels a little more rigid and much more comfortable due to the almost-impossible-to-drop texture. In fact, I’d probably go for the Ultex Jazz III over the Max Grip Jazz III just cos I’m digging the Ultex material so much.