Picks are often an afterthought to most guitar players - after all, a new guitar or amplifier purchase is infinitely more exciting than picking out a tiny piece of plastic! But picks are a fundamental part of your tonal equation, affecting the sound, volume and feel of your instrument drastically. Traditionally, basic plastic picks have been the only option, and while they're still incredibly popular, there are now countless boutique and artisanal picks out there for infinite tonal options.
By far the most iconic and talked-about boutique pick maker, BlueChip Picks are handmade in Clinton, Tennessee from an extremely expensive aerospace polymer known as Vespel. Originally designed for 'hostile chemical environments', Vespel has found a second life as an incredible-sounding and feeling pick material. BlueChip picks have a wonderful feel, with tremendous warmth and articulation - they almost make your guitar seem 'bigger', and should last a lifetime. Each pick is precision machined and hand-finished, for a genuinely premium feel.
BlueChip produce a variety of shapes, from the popular TD (Teardrop), and traditional Triangular TAD, TPand STP shapes, to more mandolin-friendly SR, XRand CTshapes. They also produce wonderfully comfortable thumbpicks, as well as specially-designed Resonator thumbpicks.
If you're looking for a place to dip your toe into the world of boutique picks, BlueChip is the place to start, as evidenced by testimonials from players such as Julian Lage, Chris Thile, Mike Marshall and more. Check out the whole range here.
Charmed Life Picks are handmade one at a time in Los Angeles, California. These beautifully crafted picks are not only visually stunning, they also have fantastic tone, speed, and longevity. Ranging in thickness from .60mm, they offer high-quality boutique plectrums that suit even the lightest of strummers.
Charmed Life produce picks in a variety of materials, but the most popular are Vespel (the same polymer used by BlueChip), and Casein, a lactose protein that just happens to be the closest material in tone to traditional Tortoiseshell picks! Charmed Life source beautifully flamed Casein from Europe, for some of the best-looking and sounding picks available.
CL's Casein picks have tremendous clarity, precision and volume, and their Iridiscence pick has taken the visual appeal to the next level, with richly-coloured Casein inlaid with a Mother-of-pearl Shamrock inlay - the perfect gift for the guitarist who has everything! Check out the whole range here.
A more modern take on the boutique pick, Gravity produce space-age acrylic picks aimed at faster and more aggressive players. They have fantastic grip, with a bright and cutting tone that is ideal for cutting through other instruments. Available in up to 4.00mm sizes, their range is unparalleled, and jazz players worldwide rave about their signature 003 jazz pick. See our Gravity Picks range here.
Wegen Picks are made to order by model-maker Michel Wegen in his Netherlands workshop, from a mysterious and unknown material! While he produces a wide variety of shapes, Wegen is known for his superb Gypsy Jazz picks, which are easily the gold standard for that style. 'The Button' is a perfect recreation of Django Reinhardt's preferred pick, while his 'Fatone' and '7' Picks come in truly hefty thicknesses.
Wegen's more traditional pick shapes are equally brilliant - they have an even and transparent tone, with noticeably increased volume and output, as though somebody has turned up the volume of your guitar. They have fantastic grip too, and are considerably lighter than most other pick makers. His Bluegrass and MandolinPicks are a great choice for strummers, while the striking Yeux Noir is a magnificent pick for solo guitarists. See our range of Wegen Picks here.
While not usually known for their boutique offerings, D'Addario have produced a pair of Casein picks aimed squarely at players looking for the fabled Tortoiseshell sound. The 351 Casein pick is a smooth-feeling Casein pick with incredible clarity, great for bluegrass and solo players, while the Chris Thile Signature Pick (not to be confused with his signature Blue Chip Pick!) gives mandolin players more volume and power.
Made from tonewood offcuts, Timber Tones produce a wide range of timber picks, including Ebony, Bloodwood, Lignum Vitae, Maple and more. Each has a slightly different sonic profile, but they all have a stiff and precise feel and a natural clarity, which becomes softer and rounder as they wear in.
Timber Tones also creates a range of unusual and visually impressive picks made from materials including rare stones, shells, horn and more - each has a unique character that is fantastic for experimentation. Check out the whole range here.
Martin and Taylor
Some of the world's biggest guitar makers have also recently entered the boutique pick scene. Martin's first offering is the Luxe Contour Pick, an assymetrical, triangular polymer pick that is bright and clear, ideal for adding clarity and space to a darker guitar.
Taylor has produced some excellent picksutilising a range of new and interesting materials, including their own Thermex polymer (a warmer sounding pick with the feel of traditional nylon picks), Thermex Pro (reminiscent of Casein, with a round and full bottom end), and Taylex (a bright sounding pick which is ideal for taming the low end of a deeper-voiced guitar).
The world of boutique and artisanal picks is an inexpensive way of experimenting with different tones, and can make an enormous difference to your playing style. There's no right or wrong path when it comes to picks, so take your time, try out as wide a range as possible, and most of all - have fun!
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Dating back to the 1930's, was honed in the seedy bars of post-WWI Paris by travelling musicians, including the spectacularly talented Django Reinhardt - often thought of as one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century.
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