As part of my quest for the ultimate Jazz-style pick, I stumbled upon Winspear picks which looked like nothing I’ve ever seen before, so they immediately peaked my attention. Most models share the same general idea: very sharp tip, sharp edges and tapered design which starts fairly thick and tapers down to razor thin at the tip. Differences between model come down to material choice and pick size. You can order a more conventional flat version that doesn’t taper down, but flagship models are all tapered.
- UHMWPE (Ultra-high-molecular-weight-polyethylene): very soft and smooth feeling, with little flexibility at the very tip of the pick where it’s super thin. Resembles nylon but a bit stiffer, more durable and feels much smoother. Smooth surface makes warm tones without much overtones or complexity. All models with “Icegrip” in their name are made out of this material.
- Ketron PEEK 1000: super hard material. My initial reaction is that it resembles bone, both by feel and toughness. Probably the hardest plastic materials I’ve ever seen. Should resist wear and last a long, long time. Doesn’t flex at all and produces sharp and rich tone with a lot of grit. All models with “Sandstorm” in their name are made out of this material.
I got to try few of smaller models which are closest to Jazz III size: Icegrip Shiv IV, Sandstorm Shiv IV and Sandstorm Shiv XL. Both Shiv IV are the same size, slightly larger than Jazz III, measuring 28mm long and 23mm wide. Shiv XL is closer to a regular sized pick and measures 32mm long and 25mm wide. Icegrip model I tried is 4mm thick and both Sandstorm models are 3mm thick. Although it sounds like a lot, due to tapered design it doesn’t feel much thicker than regular 1.5mm Jazz pick. Also, tapered design helps with grip and ergonomics of the pick because the force you put into gripping the pick gets focused towards the tip, where all the interaction between the pick and strings happens.
Icegrip Shiv IV
The closest to Jazz III in size and tone. As said before, due to smoothness of the UHMWPE material, they are fairly warm with less overtones. Very silky/velvety touch with decent grip. There’s no picking noise at all, no clapping or scratching sounds.
Sandstorm Shiv IV
My initial reaction to this pick was that it’s Dunlop Stubby on steroids. It’s the most precise pick I’ve ever tried. The tip is super sharp and still stiff, so you can move around the strings without losing precision because of flexing or extra material on the tip. Unlike Stubby, it’s much more comfortable to hold, grips much better and sounds louder. The downside is that because it’s so stiff and sharp, regardless of how you pick, there is a fair amount of scratchy noise when picking wound strings. When playing electric guitars with distorted tones, it can be used to make the distortion sound more aggressive and mean. On acoustic, it’s amplified and less pleasant. Read below what I did to modify the pick to suit my taste.
Sandstorm Shiv XL
Pretty much the same as Shiv IV, but slightly bigger, this would be a better choice for someone coming from a standard sized pick and wants to experiment with sharper, stiffer picks.
Trying to tame the scratchiness, I sanded some of the tip off and used a fine nail file to recreate a smoother V bevel around the tip. The result is amazing. It’s much smoother sounding now while still retaining clarity and precision. After the mod, the pick is approx 1.5mm shorter than before and the tip is a little less sharp, but still very nimble. It grew into being one of my favorite picks, all it took was some sandpaper, a nail file and 10 minutes of work.
These are very unique and interesting picks and I recommend checking them out if you use or are curious about pointed picks. Also, Tom, the creator of these picks, is a great guy to deal with. Check out his website www.winspearpicks.com.