We’ve been exploring the possibilities of pick design since day one, always asking what else is possible and what more can be done to provide an improved playing experience. Tortex® Picks embody that pursuit—their bright, crisp attack and grip-enhancing matte surface are the result of a special treatment process painstakingly developed by Jim Dunlop more than 30 years ago. But we continue to ask what more is possible with Tortex Picks.

One way we’ve explored that question is through the expansion of available shapes. That’s because using a different shape can drastically change how a pick feels in your hands and interacts with your guitar strings. Today, Tortex Picks come in 11 different Tortex Pick shapes, more than any of our other pick lines. Here’s what each has to offer.

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The bright and timeless color palette of Tortex® Picks is just as important as their feel and tone. For countless players, the color of their favorite Tortex Pick gauge is part of their identity. Jim Dunlop first introduced color-coded gauges at a time when player choice and quality control were limited in the pick business.

For gauges, you were stuck with Light, Medium, and Heavy. Consistency was questionable not just from company to company—it was also questionable within individual companies themselves. Starting with Nylon Picks, Jim doubled the number of gauges available and noted the gauge right on the pick, in millimeters, to prove to players that he was serious about providing them with reliable options. Overnight, Jim established a new standard for player choice and consistency. Today, we take it for granted that a pick you buy today is exactly like the one you bought last month, or last year, but we can thank Jim for setting that expectation.

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Like long hair and a bad attitude, Tortex Picks are part of the fabric of rock ’n’ roll. Musicians worldwide have come to rely on their snappy attack, textured surface, and superior durability, and the turtle logo is an instantly recognizable icon to just about anyone who plays guitar. But Tortex Picks wouldn’t exist without the principle and persistence of the man who created them.

In the 1960s, Scottish immigrant Jim Dunlop brought his family to the United States from Canada and settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. He worked as a machinist by day, but during off-hours, he pursued his true calling. Inspired by his love for playing guitar—he’s been known been to strap on a Les Paul and belt out a mean version of “Kansas City”—Jim was determined to use his machinist know-how to create guitar accessories that make playing music more enjoyable. He had a knack for finding the little details that kept good products from being great, the snags that guitar players just put up with because there wasn’t anything else on the market. Jim wanted to improve on those details.

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If your music demands crystal clear notes and fluid, dextrous picking, get yourself a pack of Primetone Sculpted Plectra. Made with Ultex® for superior tonal definition and durability, each pick is burnished by hand so that its sculpted edges glide smoothly off your strings like a broken-in pick.

We developed these picks to have the elusive sound of tortoiseshell, and this is the closest we’ve ever gotten. Because tortoiseshell was infamous for being slippery, we gave every Primetone pick a grip with enough traction to give plenty of control but low-profile enough so you can still shift it easily in your hand. If you prefer a smooth surface, all models except the Jazz III are available in non-grip form, which have also been designed to have a slightly warmer tone.

The beveled edges were inspired by guitar players’ high mileage celluloid picks, whose edges have been worn into a natural “sweet spot” bevel that makes playing practically effortless. Some players even go as far as using emery board or sandpaper on their picks to get the same effect.

We decided to save you all that time and effort and just sculpt that sweet spot right onto the pick so you have it straight out of the package. Each pick’s edges are hand-burnished to further break them in and then inspected by one of our pick technicians.

We asked a handful of Primetone Sculpted Plectra players a couple of questions about why they’ve made the switch. Here’s what they had to say.

How does the Primetone Sculpted Plectra affect your technique and the way you play?

Tosin Abasi (Animals as Leaders; AAL Jazz III XL Grip): It’s really the perfect combination of material, shape and dimension. The beveled edges make picking feel fluid and unobstructed.

Zach Blair (Rise Against; Triangle Grip): I play hard, so I need a pick I can depend on not to break or wear down. I know that Primetone picks will stand up to everything I put them through.

Scott Fore (Former National Flatpicking Champion; Small Tri Grip and Smooth, Standard Grip and Smooth): The grip and bevel allow me to greatly vary my tone with subtle changes in the pick angle, and the beveled edge allows a greater string to pick contact area, which gives a much fuller tone. The grip surface prevents the pick from unwanted movement, but I also like the non-grip picks. Their darker tone allows for a big, fat, clear tone on even the brightest of guitars. Perfect picks for all styles of playing. The Ultex material doesn’t get scratchy or noisy from wear, which is another great benefit.

Jude Gold (Jefferson Starship; Editor, Guitar Player; Standard Grip): They have the classic vibe of celluloid picks, but they don’t break and they don’t slip or get sweaty, especially with that center grip. The beveled edges give you a bit of that comfortable, broken-in feel, and I love that. A broken-in pick has songs in it.

How do Primetone Picks open up your tonal possibilities?

Tosin Abasi: When the pick glides off the string, it produces a beautifully full and articulate tone. You can hear it even when the guitar isn’t plugged in.

Zach Blair: I’ve come to expect a certain tone out of the Primetone pick, one that’s dark and well rounded. It’s affected my playing and overall style immensely.

Scott Fore: The Primetone picks offer the best tonal possibilities of all pick materials available, even the revered tortoise picks. They sound full and clear, producing an open, balanced tone from the lowest note to the highest note.

Available in six shapes.

STANDARD

With a beveled edge, the tried and true Standard shape gets the smooth, quick release of a well-worn pick. The standard’s shoulders are also beveled for players who like to turn their pick around for a different sound.

TRIANGLE

The Triangle shape gives you three beveled edges and a wider gripping surface for greater control. Great for bass players.

SMALL TRI

The Small Tri is a shape that’s been gaining in popularity. Like the Primetone Triangle, the Primetone Small Tri features three beveled edges, but its smaller profile really lets you choke up and dig in with greater control.

JAZZ III

The quick-release Primetone edge enhances the Jazz III’s famous control, speed, and precision. Only available with the low-profile Primetone grip.

JAZZ III XL

Get the Jazz III XL shape’s tight maneuverability and laser-guided, lightning-fast tip with the hand-burnished beveled edges and flexible, snappy attack of Primetone Sculpted Plectra.

SEMI-ROUND

The warm and mellow sounding Semi-Round shape features three beveled edges and two different playing tips so you can easily change up your attack and your sound.

When guitar-driven rock ’n’ roll took over the music scene in the mid–1960s, the era’s trailblazers were equipped with Herco’s original nylon pick. By the end of the decade, nearly every guitar player was using them. Their smooth feel and warm sound appealed to the pros who were recording hit records and playing on the world’s biggest stages, while their widespread availability made it an easy choice for anyone wanting to learn to play rock guitar.

The list of greats who have used Herco picks over the years is extensive, and it includes Jimmy Page, Joe Walsh, Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson of Thin Lizzy, Pete Townsend, David Gilmour, Don Felder, Tommy Bolin, Rory Gallagher, and Gary Moore. The popularity of those picks endures today, with some artists—such as Keith Urban, Steve Jones, Gene Simmons, Billy Duffy, Troy Van Leeuwen, Don Felder, Eddie Van Halen, Wilco, Queens of the Stone Age, Nikki Sixx, and Madonna–having their own custom molds.

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