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Thread: Tortoise shell pick alternative

  1. #26
    Registered User grassrootphilosopher's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    The tortoiseshell pick demands an asessement of what one is looking for in a pick. As a "user" (when it comes to recording or playing in exclusive settings) I understand the point of "sound". Tony Rice (in his 80ies Homespun instruction video claims that he) uses TS made of crude chips of TS that he whittles down in size. Norman Blake (also in his Homespun guitar instruction video) claims to use TS for mandolin but does not get the sound he likes with this material playing the guitar. So to me the tone you try to get is not necessarily linked to a certain material even though one may be able to generalize.

    To sum this discussion up:
    - Some have claimed the Blue Chip pick to be a worthy substitute for TS.
    - Some have given a shout out for Wegen picks (Michael Wegenīs website: https://www.wegenpicks.com/)
    - Some go with Casein/Galiath picks (Red Bear, Hense etc.)
    - I would ad Dunlop Primetone picks for the mix

    What I have seen lacking from the discussion is the resemblance of tone of the mentioned picks with regards to TS.

    Having bought a Blue Chip pick (out of curiosity) I found out that using this pick does not produce a sound that comes close to TS. Not even ... Blue Chip picks are very durable. That is a definitive plus (also with regards from a price point). But If it comes down to tone I do not like them that well. That said, my son likes his BC pick while I donīt use mine.

    I have been made aware of Michael Wegenīs picks a long time ago by Kevin Lynch (Traver Hollow and caretaker of fine instruments/mandolins). It was then that I started to use them (regular teardrop shape and the "Dawg"-shape, that I donīt use anymore). I found that this material has a fairly close similarity to TS. Since the regular teardrop shape picks ("Bluegrass picks") are only made with "speed holes" and I donīt like that, this alternative to TS is coming to an end for me when I will have used up my Wegen picks.

    I came to use Casein/Galiath picks with the advent of Red Bear picks. I since have also settled on Hense picks, since they are easier obtainable. You can also get them in the US. I found Casein/Galiath a very close resemblance to TS though it depends on the thickness and shape of the pick.

    Now deceased cafe member Ivan Kelsall was very outspoken when it came to Dunlop Primetone picks. It piqued my curiosity and I gave them a try. I bought a regular triangle. I found that the triangle is a little to pointed which deferrs from the tone. I havenīt tried a different shape because I have my relieable casein/galiath picks but I would not disregard the Primetones.

    Frome a pricepoint perspective I would not discard a real cheapo: Clayton Ultem picks. Before transitioning towards Wegen picks a long time ago, this is what I used. For about 0,50 USD a piece the sound comes close to TS. You can get them at Elderly instruments (https://www.elderly.com/products/cla...ck-12-pack-516) even though I would use a pick that is at least 1 mm thick.

    To muddy the waters even more: Look at the list of picks available at Elderly and scratch your head. The amount of differet products is staggering and leaves me flabbergasted. I am glad that I am a person of limited taste and that what I like is available. I also havenīt changed my choice of mandolin strings in long years (only when they quit making the Andy Statman mandolin strings available from Homespun).
    Olaf

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  3. #27
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I've tried a bunch and Blue Chip is the closest I've found. Not the same but tolerable.

  4. #28
    Registered User DavidKOS's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post

    Frome a pricepoint perspective I would not discard a real cheapo: Clayton Ultem picks. Before transitioning towards Wegen picks a long time ago, this is what I used. For about 0,50 USD a piece the sound comes close to TS. You can get them at Elderly instruments (https://www.elderly.com/products/cla...ck-12-pack-516) even though I would use a pick that is at least 1 mm thick.
    I've used the .73mm Dunlop Ultem and the .72 mm Clayton picks for some time now on bowlback and flatback non-Gibson mandolins. They are thin enough but most importantly stiff enough to get the right "vintage pick" feel.

    It seems though many of you like thicker picks; the thing is, many materials are stiff when 1mm or more.

    I also use the most pointed shapes they make:


  5. #29

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    "refrain from discussing the material" .........really? No thanks, not in America!

  6. #30
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    -- This post violates Forum posting guidelines.
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Oct-30-2020 at 8:35am. Reason: This post violates Forum posting guidelins

  7. #31
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by MandoMaximus View Post
    "refrain from discussing the material" .........really? No thanks, not in America!
    Hi. Read the Posting Guidelines. Thanks.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  9. #32
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I use the Clayton .72 triangle as a backup to my Wegen. I use a TF100 Wegen, but I thin them down to about the thickness of the Clayton. I don't know how this compares to TS as it's been so long since I used one that I can't begin to remember how it sounded. I use what sounds good to me, and I have experimented with a lot of picks, including various thickness of BC. I like the glide that the modern material for picks gives across the strings, TC does not give that. Only your ear and mandolin will tell you what pick to use. Different mandolins will like different picks, as will different ears.
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  10. #33

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    <violates forum posting guidelines>
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Oct-30-2020 at 9:12am. Reason: violates forum posting guidelines

  11. #34

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Why is talking about tortoise (or other natural material) a violation of posting guidelines?

  12. #35
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I’m still in preference of the Wegen TF120 and TF140 along with JT’s Pix blue triangle after a few years of using those. Between the three, I get a nice variety of feel and dynamics to play with, though I’m personally not yet good enough to make the best of them.

    Regarding tone, IMO tone is very, very important but it is second to “vibe” when performing live. To see what I mean, listen to Robert Johnson. Tone mostly sucks in those recordings, but there is an undeniable vibe based on the pulse and the emotional content.

    And also regarding tone, IMO the pick material is a lot less important than how it is used. Find out what picks were used in your favorite recordings with great tone, you may be surprised at the variety of materials used by various tone masters. So, most important thing about the material used: It’s a personal matter. Find what you like most, and use it. Try to get the best vibe, and the best tone, you can get in a given moment.
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  13. #36
    The Amateur Mandolinist Mark Gunter's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    BTW, in America and other free societies, website owner has a right to control content.
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  15. #37

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Sure, we're seeing that with google, facebook and twitter everyday. But, my question is, why is talking about a "material" such as tortoise a violation?

  16. #38
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    The specific guideline is:

    Posts dealing in the sale or transfer of tortoise-shell products protected by the 1973 Endangered Species act are not allowed and will be removed. This includes picks made from "antique" shells. The purpose of this forum is the discussion of music, not the correctness or incorrectness of this issue. Discussions that start or end up on this topic are subject to being closed at the moderator's discretion.

    ————-

    Between people who are not interpreting the guidelines correctly and a few of you that look to be wanting to pick a fight for no apparent reason, some of the most recent posts have absolutely nothing to do with the question posed and we would ask that you move on or don’t participate in this discussion if you choose to be unwilling to stay on topic. The question is legitimate.

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  18. #39

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I've reread every post on this thread. Absolutely nothing about the sale or transfer, nothing. It's a discussion about picks - that have evolved over the years from various manufactures using various materials, tone, etc. Good grief

  19. #40
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    That post was removed where a member was directing people where to purchase these. All you are doing now is contributing to the noise.

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  21. #41

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    A ton of good info here. Thanks. I hope more join in with more ideas, keeping within the guidelines in mind of course. Based on price, starting with the cheapest first, I have ordered some Dunlop Primetone picks. Once they arrive I'll test them out and report back here on how they compare.

  22. #42

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I think you'll be very happy with the Dunlop Primetone picks. I agree that they feel and sound very similar to the real thing. I used Blue Chip picks for a while, but now I use the Dunlop Primetones. I don't think you can go wrong with either of those. If you don't wear out picks super quick though; the Primetones are hard to beat. Especially considering how affordable they are.

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  24. #43

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Not sure what happened to it but there was a pick sampler floating around here for a few years, not sure what happened to it. There were several pics from different mfg's, shapes and thickness. If available that would be a great opportunity to try a verity of picks.

    I used the Primetone picks for quite a while and really like them. But I took some lessons from someone and they noticed that my pick was dragging/grabbing. After they mentioned it I did notice it as well. So I think the Primetone picks would require a little work to keep the edges smooth. I did have the opportunity to try a pic sampler. I thought it was ridiculous to spend $35 on a pick, still do. But after trying a Bluechip you could just feel it glide off the strings, a noticeable difference over the Primetone. So I have found a few used Bluechip pics and like them a lot. They do seem to wear forever so it appears the only reason to replace one is to loose one. I can't comment on the original question how they compare to TS but worth a try if you have an opportunity. They also have a 30 day return on Bluechips.

  25. #44
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Quote Originally Posted by Northwest Steve View Post
    Not sure what happened to it but there was a pick sampler floating around here for a few years, not sure what happened to it.
    Mentioned on this thread. Last post was in May of this year. Maybe Covid cause some fears or need to disinfect the picks each time?
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  26. #45
    Registered User T.D.Nydn's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Ok..I totally agree with anyone that said that the old organic stuff produces the best tone,,just in a league of its own,and I have no idea why,,but despite that it isn't my favorite,among other things they tend to drag,I don't know how to exactly explain it,,,I use blue chip ,very acceptable tone but theyre slippery and greasy and seem to just glide through the strings,,

  27. #46
    Registered User Tom Wright's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I can well imagine shell has an interesting tone, at least at close range. But that is not a sufficient reason for me. I also think Fender celluloid sounds good, but it wears out too quickly. Because the main job is playing the notes I choose, the only thing that matters to me is the pick holds up through a gig. (I use Dunlop Ultex)

    Violinists used to swear by actual gut strings (sheep gut). They do have a more interesting tone, but as with the pick, no one really hears that subtlety. Pretty much zero professional violinists use gut--synthetic-core strings from Thomastik and Pirastro sound great and last longer.

    We should probably be using re-formed ebony for fingerboards. Our love of natural materials has to yield to the reality of too much demand.
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  29. #47
    Registered User Charles E.'s Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    Thanks to Mark and the Cafe for clarifying the guidelines concerning TS for me.

    I have a Blue Chip and I find it too "clicky" for me. I play the Primetone picks at the moment, 1.3 brown- small triangle.

    The Apollo picks look very interesting, may have to try one or two out.
    Charley

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  30. #48

    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    A couple of points about the TS picks. First, they do require maintenance. Constant manicuring of the edges is mandatory to maintain a smooth play. Second, the ones I used were triangle so it's like having three picks to use. When I played in groups or active jam sessions, I could easily use one pick for the entire event but then it was time for maintenance. It kinda reminds me of the old vintage British car I used to tinker with. The old saying was, 1 hour of driving equates to 3 hours of maintenance. TS picks are not for the immediate gratification crowd that wants an immediate replacement. Ya gotta wanna use them. But for me, the tone was worth it.

  31. #49
    Registered User dylanferris's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I'm curious about trying a Hense pick after reading this thread. Anyone know the best way to get ahold of one in Canada?

  32. #50
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    Default Re: Tortoise shell pick alternative

    I still have a couple of TS picks and must say they produce fantastic tone and projection. However I stopped using them years ago because I knew that I would get to the end of the road and would not feel right about obtaining more. Blue Chips don’t sound or feel anything like TS to me. I really think the Dunlop Primetones are the best TS substitute out there. They feel great sound amazing and last a very long time. I also really like Dawg picks for a different feel and fatter tone however I tend to wear the Dawgs out much faster than the Primetones. Both picks are very affordable.
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