If I learned anything at Summer NAMM this year, it’s that there are more types of picks in this world than I ever imagined. The expo offered a plethora of picks, ranging from your standard flat pick to intensely designed 3-D picks.
I’m sure some people will always prefer the classic simplicity of a standard guitar pick. Others will gravitate toward picks meant for banjos and mandolins. However, if you’re someone who struggles with keeping your grip on picks or just wants some more playability options, then some of the less traditional pick designs just might get your attention. Here are some of the picks that I had the opportunity to check out at Summer NAMM 2021.
Star Picks – Cleartone Strings
These picks feature a star-shaped cutout, hence, the name “Star Picks.” The cutout allows for a more consistent grip on the pick, making it easier to maintain your finger position on the pick while playing, sweating, and shredding. Having the star cutout in the middle of the pick not only digs into your fingers for better grip, but also gives you a frame of reference if you need to reposition your pick in your fingers without looking.
3D Picks – Anatomy of Sound
Another design tactic for making consistent pick grip easier is to design a three-dimensional pick. These picks from Anatomy of Sound are injection molded and hand finished, resulting in a unique heart-shaped 3-D contour. Unlike most other picks, the contour sort of “leads” your fingers to rest along the crevice naturally. The edges are much thicker than your typical pick (because of the contour), but narrow down to a point. They’re available in a variety of designs and material textures to match different playing styles.
Premium Plectrums – Bog Street
The company motto sums it up: “We’re totally overthinking the guitar pick. It’s about time someone did”. These picks look wild at first glance, but you can quickly see the thought that has gone into the design when you start to play with one. The hole in the center of the pick gives a quick reference point for repositioning the pick without looking at it. The textured, embossed pattern around the whole improves grip. And lastly, you can quickly match pick to playing style by rotating the pick to use a different corner – one of which is thinner than the others.
Mandolin Pick – Rowdy Pickers
Available in stores, and http://www.rowdypickers.com/
These plain and simple 96mm mandolin picks are exactly what you’d expect. They get the job done, are made of a classic tortoise-style plastic, and you pick strings with them. The stiffness and size of the pick make it easy to grip, and the glossy texture ensures it plays quickly across the strings. While Rowdy Pickers used to offer a variety of all sorts of their own picks, they’ve narrowed it down to this tried and true model.
ProPik – Deering Banjo Company
ProPik lines include all sorts of style aimed at banjo players. Thumbpicks, fingerstyle picks, and clawhammer picks with split wrap options give players plenty of options to match their individual playing style. ProPik was recently acquired by Deering Banjo Company, making it an easy one-stop-shop for banjo players.
Fred Kelly Picks
Fred Kelly Picks offers such a variety of colors and styles that you can’t help but smile. This family-run company all started from trying to create a thumb pick that brought a combination of speed and precision they couldn’t find elsewhere at the time. As they continued to get positive feedback, they created more and more custom pick designs – resulting in a huge spectrum of picks, each one having its own unique playing characteristics.
[Marcus Wadell is Digital Content Director at MakingMusicMag.com. He attended the Summer NAMM Conference in Nashville on July 15-16, 2021]