Review – Tree Picks PurpleHeart Jazz

John Tron Davidson
March 5, 2019
February 10, 2021

Canada has a lot of wood. I lived in Ontario for a time, and having travelled from Toronto to Jasper, Edmonton to London, I can confirm that this is the case. Also rocks. However, in recent times, there’s been a lot of extremely gifted plectriers coming out of the birthplace of both Bill Shatner and basketball. Suibhne Guitars and Woodland Cast are doing great work, and now I can add Tree Picks to that roster.

Part of an ever-growing movement of environmentally-astute pick makers, Tree Picks are planting a tree for every pick they sell. I admire this, and I also admire the fact that the cost of planting the trees is worked into the price of the plectrums, but they still offer free worldwide shipping. Made in Calgary, Tree Picks also offer the most Canadian accessory ever, in the form of a red and black plaid flexifit baseball cap with a leather pick on the front of it. I also admire this.

When I opened the mail containing these plectrums I did so with a hair of trepidation. Wooden picks can go many ways – I’ve tested lots of them and often been a bit disappointed, especially by how thin and limp they sound. Hoping this woodn’t be the case, I nervously took this Purpleheart Jazz between my fingers, sat down with my acoustic, and went for it.

Immediately, the scratchiness became apparent. The nature of the finishing of these picks means that they have a slightly rough edge, and while that did cause me a bit of concern, as the days went by and I kept playing, this began to subside, and the true nature of these plectrums began to manifest. There’s an almost kindly tone to these, something that persisted as I pressed on. I found myself more and more drawn to major keys, to sus2 and add9 chords, and while that in itself isn’t unusual, I found my playing to be more considered, and, dare I say, more positive.

The grip is, on one side, really good. Because the wood is unsealed, I found the smooth side initially a bit slippy, while the engraved side had grip for days. This changed significantly as I grew warmer from playing, and time started to fly. I genuinely believe that picks make us play differently, as pedals do, and this one is a great example. Everything felt longer, more natural, and life had less urgency. It’s like having Canada in a plectrum.

There’s a few downsides to this sort of construction of course. In keeping the tone of the wood by not sealing it – which is the right way, I believe – this does shorten the lifespan. That initial scratching might get up your pipe, but don’t let it – it fades in a couple of days, and in truth, the upsides of these picks are significant. The softened edge of the attack brought out a truly contemplative side to my playing, and got me back in touch with my acoustic in a big way.

Time for the real chat. These plectrums are not expensive, are well-finished, deliver a warm, genteel tone and plant trees. Plus, they ship worldwide for free! If you’re reading this while learning Suffocation covers, they’re definitely not going to work for you, but if you prefer Bonnie Prince Billy to Herman Li, get some Tree, eh?

Instagram: @treepicks

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