Leather picks are nothing new for plucked stringed instruments; pickers have used them for centuries on balalaikas, ukuleles, and even Gibson’s massive mandobass. Besides being a material that’s readily available and easy to work with, leather has a distinct advantage for players looking for a pick that combines some of the power and facility of a plectrum with the warmth of fingertips on a string.
Because leather is softer and more pliable than a hard plastic pick, you have to trade some volume for warmth. But warmth is the goal of SkinTone picks ($11.99 for a single, $19.99 for a two-pack, $24.99 for a three-pack), which were developed by David Novak for a student who needed a warmer tone, but had trouble adapting to fingerstyle. To give the pick a little more support and rigidity, Novak uses a single layer of Lexan polycarbonate sheet sandwiched between two pieces of premium cattle leather.
Single-note lines and strummed chords were amply warm when played with a SkinTone, and the leather’s natural texture made gripping the pick easy, even with sweaty fingers. Initially, I felt like I wasn’t as nimble with the thick, soft leather pick, but after some play time, I felt a lot more capable navigating through songs.
I could see SkinTone’s picks coming in handy for players needing an especially warm tone for recording, a softer tone for playing in quiet situations (like late-night practice when the family is sleeping), or even just a change of pace for their ears. shopskintones.com
This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.