Clint Henderson of Dragon’s Heart Guitar Picks makes some heady claims for his unique shaped plectrums: “Plays faster, lasts longer, solid grip, improves playing consistency, take your skill to the next level.” Mr. Henderson convinced me to check them out (my apologies to him for taking so long) and here are my conclusions.
Just The Facts
First the facts: Dragon’s Heart Guitar Picks are formed from specific grades of polyamide-imide often used in aerospace applications as replacement for metallic alloys. The material’s low friction coefficient can contribute to playing speed. Its high erosion resistance is likely to help Dragon’s Heart Guitar Picks endure hours of stringed instrument play.
The pick is thicker than usual, but incorporates a precision bevel, designed to let it play as easily as a thin pick while offering some advantages of a thicker pick. Each Dragon’s Heart pick has three playing edges: a lower edge offering a standard point, a sharp right upper lobe, and a rounded left upper lobe.
Dragon’s Heart picks are offered in three different mixtures of polyamide-imide and fill. The company states that the Polyamide-Imide with 30% Glass Fiber Fill “Hardened” version provides 1500 hours of playing time and a bright tone. The Polyamide-Imide with 12% Graphite fill “Original” version is said to offer 1000 hours of playing time and the fastest action. The “Pure” version is, as its name implies, 100% Polyamide-Imide and good for 1200 hours of picking.
The Sound of One Hand Picking
I confess it took me a while to get into these picks. The claim of instant picking super powers initially put me off. A pick can, at best, incrementally improve your playing ability. No pick will turn you from an average player to an accurate, consistent speed demon overnight—only hours of practice will achieve those goals. Still the picks remained on my desk, and I kept coming back to them.
One of the secrets of guitar gear, understood by all too few players, is while a particular pick may not instantly improve your playing, it can instantly change your sound—almost as much as a different pickup or speaker.
The Dragon’s Heart picks sounded significantly different from the Fender picks I normally use; and the various materials did sound subtly different from each other. When played with the standard pointed end, they all imparted an attack that was grittier than my usual Fender Heavy. More interesting was the three different edges gave me three different sounds and feels by merely shifting the pick around. I found the overall tone closer to Tortex than plastic, but I preferred the feel of them to Tortex.
You Had To Be There
I was going to add audio clips, but the differences in picks barely came through the recording. I offer Nick’s well-done video as evidence. If you can hear the difference between his Fender Medium pick and the Dragon’s Heart picks, you have better ears than I do. The recorded difference between them and my Heavy was even less pronounced, and the difference between the various Dragon’s Heart pick materials subtler still. That said, there IS a difference—it is just much more obvious when you are in the room than on a recording.
The more I played with the picks, the more I liked them. They had a sure grip, thanks to the stylish dragon engraved in the surface. They added beef to my tone, as compared to the Fender Heavy, though at higher gain levels that beef, or midrange thickness, mitigated the clarity of the attack, and notes picked with the Fender were clearer. It seemed very much like the difference between light and heavy strings or, for that matter, light and heavy guitars: at low volume clean settings, heaviness in strings, guitar bodies, and picks translates into a “fatter” sound. At higher gain and/or volume levels, that “thickness” can turn into murkiness, and lack of clarity. Of course, it is often merely a matter of using the right setup for the right situation, or modifying some amp settings to compensate.
I ended up being sold on the utility of the U.S. of A. made Dragon’s Heart picks. They soon felt comfortable regardless of the edge I used, and slid slickly across the strings, with no resistance. I am not quite ready to forsake my Fenders; they seem to let the sound of the string and of the individual guitar come through a bit more than the Dragon’s Hearts. Still, I plan to keep playing with this cleverly designed plectrum, especially in situations where I need a thicker sound and some easily accessible variations on my basic tone.
I am also ready, willing, and able to recommend you try them out. At $9.21 each they are not cheap, but, assuming you don’t tend to lose picks or flick them to the audience during shows, one pick will last a long time. For $25 you can check out one of each type. They feel and sound close enough that you may like them all, in which case you will have close to 4000 hours of pleasurable picking in your future.