*UPDATE* 4/29/15 - JB Corzo line, Strum n' Comfort Sharktooth and Pisano models, ChickenPicks Bermuda III - Added to this post below...
About 6 months ago, I discovered that there was such a thing as a boutique guitar pick. I've been playing guitar for 15 years and I'm a huge gear nerd so I have no clue why it took me so long to find out that these picks exist. Anyway once I started testing some out, I quickly became obsessed. I've purchased at least one model from literally EVERY boutique pick maker out there that I know of, so I figured it'd be useful to post some reviews and links to where you can purchase them.
Keep in mind that I'm using these picks to play guitar in a loosely labeled "jazz" setting. I also use these picks to play blues and funk and while some work well for certain genres and not so well for others, I'm mainly rating these on their ability to play with speed and produce a good tone. I love picks that are outfitted with speed bevels, which are slightly angled edges on one side of the pick that help it glide smoothly off the string. I rated each pick out of 10 to help give an overall idea of where each pick lies in terms of my satisfaction. If anybody has any specific questions I'd be happy to answer. Lastly, and most importantly, all of these opinions and ratings are completely relative to my preferences and are totally subjective.
Bermuda III (9/10) - I had been annoying ChickenPicks creator Eppo Franken for a while about getting a jazz model made. He had been designing a pick similar to the Jazz III for a very long time and finally released it last year. The main difference that the Bermuda picks have is a pointed tip. It certainly achieves the same sharp attack that the Jazz III is known for. Aside from the tip and a smaller overall size, it's the same as the other ChickenPicks...which is a good thing. If you like the normal models, it's worth checking out the Bermuda III.
(9/10) - I bought a "try-out" set that had both sizes and a few different thicknesses. Chicken picks are very unique because of the thermosetting plastic material that they're made out of. It's unlike any other pick material that I've tried and feel wonderful. My only criticism is that they're a little short on variety. They only offer a normal size and a smaller size and then a few thickness options. Not to fear though...I've spoken with the creator and he said there will be more models soon.
Corzo Models (9.5/10) - JB has released a new line of picks made out of Corzo...which looks and feels like bone but has a warmer/darker sound. The Corzo line also sports a few new pick shapes in addition to the original JB models (351 and Jazz III shapes). There's a medium sized teardrop, which is slightly larger than the typical mini teardrop shapes that a lot of companies make, and my newest favorite JB model, a large jazz shaped design that's just about as big as a 351 and includes grip holes. This model is great for players who like the typical Jazz III shape but want the feel of a larger pick. Not much more to say about these...bottom line: the Corzo produces a warm sound, a bit darker than celluloid, and the new shapes are great. Like all JBs, they're offered with bevel options. Definitely worth checking out, especially at their affordable price.
2mm Jazz Sonic Bevel (9.5/10) - I absolutely love these picks. They're made out of a tortoise shell polycarbonate plastic that is hard to find due to its apparent flammability. The speed bevel, or "sonic" bevel as JB calls it, is absolutely perfect...it's a little more dramatic than most speed bevels and makes for a super speedy piece. Add a very musical tone and awesome playability and you have an amazing pick.
2mm 351 Shell Sonic Bevel (9/10) - All the features and playability of the Jazz model above but in a classic 351 shape.
*Note: I've tried all the Jazz models with all different tips and while I can't say enough to review them, I do highly recommend trying them out.
Strum n' Comfort
Sharktooth/John Pisano Signature (9.5/10) - I had been turned on to these by Gilad Hekselman and at first sight, I was a little discouraged by the flat, non-beveled edge. Pretty much every boutique pick brand I've tried has placed a good amount of value on a beveled edge to help create a smooth and speedy attack. The unique feature with these picks is the shape...one side is slightly scooped out and resembles the shape of a shark tooth. At first I thought it was nothing more than a gimmick but I was verrrrrry pleased to see that the shape really does offer a function. The scooped side produces the same sort of smooth speed that a bevel would offer. Pair this feature up with a nice warm sounding pearloid material and you've got a fantastic pick. It may just be because they're still brand new to me, but this is my current favorite pick, hands down. Highly, highly recommended.
John Pearse Picks
Fast Turtles (8/10) - These are really great picks. I love how they feel in my hand. They're nice and thick (close to 3mm) and the thumb divot makes them super comfortable. The rounded tip makes them very fast and provides a very round, dark tone. Out of all the picks I've tried, these affect my tone much more than normal. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's personal preference.
Studio & Jazz Flatpicks (7/10) - These are nice for rhythm playing since they're thinner but can still handle single note lines. I like the offset shape too.
Django Button (8/10) - Super fast and warm, round tone. The round shape glides over strings but can darken your tone a little too much. I never thought I'd like using a button shaped pick but I ended up liking it a lot. Try it...you might be surprised.
Wood/Bone/Shell Picks (6/10) - I ordered a mix of ebony, coconut shell, buffalo horn, rosewood, etc. Aside from being comfortable to hold, I found absolutely nothing special about these picks. Not bad, not good, and not worth buying.
Classic (7/10) - I bought a bunch of variations of the Classic shape that differ in size and thickness. My favorite is the 2mm Big Mini. They feel nice and have good tone but just fell a little short for me. I expect a boutique pick to be a pleasure to play. Gravity picks aren't much different from some picks you can find at a local music store aside from being way more expensive.
Red Bear Trading Company
(9/10) - Although I own 5 different models, I decided to write one review because they all fall under the same description. These picks are awesome. Besides looking fantastic, they're very comfortable and have wonderful tone. They offer a bunch of different models. I own a Classic, type A, type F, Lil' Jazzer and a Big Jazzer (probably my favorite). They also offer different thicknesses from light all the way up to gypsy jazz which is super heavy. I have right handed speed bevels on all of my models and I highly recommend getting them put on yours. On top of this, their customer service is fantastic. I've gotten personal emails from both Rick and Monica (the owners) that catered to any specific request that I had. Highly recommended.
Twins (8/10) - I love the way these picks are designed. One side has a thumb divot and the other has deep rivets to help with grip. They also have beautiful large speed bevels. They have a great fat tone but aren't quite as speedy as I'd like. I highly recommend trying these out.
BigCity (8.5/10) - Nice and tall with great speed bevels and holes for grip. These felt similar to the Twins model but had a little more speed for me. Very, very comfortable and nice tone.
Blue Chip Picks
Jazz 80 (8.5/10) - I saw the BlueChip picks site a long time ago when I first discovered boutique picks. I saw their prices and moved on. After months and months of collecting different high end models, I decided it was time to see what could possibly make a pick cost $50. I initially ordered the Jazz 60 LG (1.5mm) to save money but it was just too thin. If I was gonna spend, I might as well get something I could use. I exchanged the Jazz 60 LG for a Jazz 80, which is 2mm and a normal Jazz III size. This pick is really nice...speedy with good tone...but for $50?? I was expecting something that stood out from all the picks I already had, and this doesn't. I found out that the reason for Blue Chip's high prices is because the plastic material that they use is $1,000 per sheet. It's super durable and lasts forever. I even read a customer who said they were melting metals at super high temperatures and decided to test their Blue Chip...it didn't even start to melt. So bottom line: these picks play just as good as some other high-end beveled picks, but their super durable material warrants the added cost.
*Note: Blue Chip customer service was pretty helpful in my exchange and didn't charge me for the additional shipping. Also, the site's explanation on bevels is a little misleading...they WILL put a speed bevel on a jazz pick.
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Results 1 to 30 of 59
03-17-2014, 10:09 AM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
Boutique Pick Reviews (BlueChip, RedBear, V-Picks, etc.)
Last edited by bluewaterpig; 04-30-2015 at 01:13 AM.
03-17-2014, 10:36 AM #2
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
However they will melt - or at least burn - if you put them to a flame. I've tried it. Perhaps "melt" is the wrong term, but it will render that edge of the pick useless.
I tried V-picks several years back but I found their tone a bit too "glassy" for my taste.
03-17-2014, 12:25 PM #3
Rub each side of the pick on your carpet to get the point back again.“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
03-17-2014, 12:30 PM #4
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
Reviews Continued (#2)
I forgot one of the boutique picks I had ordered and wanted to include the review. I don't have any additional room in my original post, so I'm posting it here...
Gravity Picks (#2)
Sunrise (9/10) - Gravity Picks were the very first boutique picks that I tried. Their model options have been a little limited, and I've previously tried, and reviewed, the Classic model (reviewed above in group #1). I emailed Chris, owner of Gravity Picks, and begged him to make a few new models, specifically something based off of the typical Jazz III shape. There must've been a bunch of people who shared the same request because he finally created the new Sunrise model (and also now offer their picks in fatter gauges). While GP doesn't offer a ton of models, they do offer a lot of options. Just about every pick can be made in one of four sizes, pointed or rounded tip, different colors, up to 4mm thick, with or without a grip hole, and has the option for a master finish (an unbuffed, slightly rougher edge).
I was very skeptical of the Sunrise but I couldn't be more pleased. It's super fast and offers a surprisingly warm tone...even the pointed tip doesn't get too bright. I've tried 3 and 4mm and I'm very happy with the 4mm thickness. The slanted oval grip hole is a nice feature too. There isn't a whole lot to say about this pick other than it's really, really awesome. It's my current default pick. If you tried a Gravity pick before and wanted something geared a little more towards the typical jazz pick, you need to try a Sunrise. Highly, highly recommended.
Mini Wood (4/10) - A few months ago I was referred to Dugain picks. I read a description saying that these picks were unlike anything else, used by top musicians, and guaranteed to be the best pick you've ever played. Naturally, I had to investigate. These picks are handmade by Jean-Charles Dugain out of materials like bone, wood, metal, stone, etc. I ordered a "mini" model. What was peculiar was that I was unable to select the material it was going to be made out of. I requested ebony, but received an email a few days later from someone who told me "Monsieur Dugain" was very busy and would select a material when he was available to make my pick...weird, but ok. Then I noticed on the site that it said a bunch of top guitarists were ordering Dugain picks, including John Mayer. Now of course, I could totally be wrong, but I've never seen or heard anything about John using Dugain picks, and I follow his gear like an obsessed gear nerd. I've spoken with John's tech Rene Martinez about a dozen times before so I decided to ask him...he told me he never knew anything about John using the pick and had never heard of Dugain picks himself. This is really beside the point, but I'm including it in my review because my overall experience with Dugain picks can be described in one word: weird. I ended up paying about $20 for the pick including overseas shipping. More than a month later I finally received my pick. It was not made of ebony, but instead it was made of a wood called bubinga. So it came time for my big playing test. This is one of the worst boutique picks I've ever spent money on. The finger divots were oddly placed and made it uncomfortable to play. I'm sure they're comfortable for some players but I tend to choke up on my picks, and the divots made it very hard to hold the pick the way I wanted to. It didn't enhance my tone, it deadened it. It did nothing for me. Maybe I'm missing something, and I'd love to hear if any others who have tried these found them to be good picks, but these just really missed the mark. Save your money.
Phat Jazz (8.5/10) - Let me start by saying that I hate metal picks. I think they're a gimmick used to fool beginner players to spend money. Metal creates a super bright, shrill, harsh tone that nobody could like. Even people that make metal picks must know it fails in the tone department but making a pick out of metal sounds like a cool idea so they keep doing it.
That being said, and I'm sure you know where I'm going with this since I already posted my rating, this pick totally surprised me. Just holding the pick left me kind of dumbfounded. It feels extremely light, almost like it's hollow but it isn't. The tone it produces is brighter than plastic, but not by much. I like using it on my Telecaster through a Fender amp to get a glassy tone. It also sounds nice through a jazz setup to get a little more clarity when the amp/guitar tone is set pretty dark. Naturally, it retains the best part of a metal pick: speed. It slips between the strings in a good way. At $11 it's relatively inexpensive compared to other high end models. I definitely advise checking out a Zenfire pick.
(www.GuzzGuitar.com or www.DjangoBooks.com)
Guzz S3 (8/10) - The makers of Guzz picks write that their picks are the "first in the world" where you can use all 3 sides...we all know this isn't true and has been done for a while. Even though that kinda pissed me off, I do like the pick. Each side is very usable and it produces a nice sound. Nothing amazing here, but it's a solid pick that has nice speed and nice tone.
Last edited by bluewaterpig; 06-18-2014 at 07:04 PM.
03-17-2014, 12:39 PM #5
I like poly carbonate picks, I cut a triangle from a sheet of poly carbonate, shape it on a grinding wheel, when I like the shape I then buff it on a buffer wheel. Poly Carbonate is very tough and doesn't sound clicky like most plastics.“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
03-17-2014, 01:24 PM #6
Blue Chips were ok, for bright acoustic guitars... the mellow the sound somewhat.
Red Bear are AWESOME- my favorite acoustic pick, probably work well on electric too, but I haven't tried that yet (for whatever reson)
I really like Lollar pics for electric- they are made out of pickup bobbin material. Very unique, and hard to describe the tone, but it's great. They don't last long tho. I don't think they are on the website- I just called and ordered some after receiving one with a Lollar pickup I had ordered.
03-17-2014, 06:31 PM #7
Since no one has scoffed at us yet for buying expensive guitar picks, I'll admit my favorites are Blue Chip KS 60 and BC Jazz 50/60.... and the older Red Bear No. 9 w/o speed bevel. The thicker Jazzers with speed bevel don't work as well for me (thin tone on lower strings).
I used Wegen twin jazz 2.5 and 3.5 for a while, but after getting BC and RB found their (wegen) attack too noisy or "chirpy." I do also really like the feel and dark sound of John Pearse Fast Turtles. Thanks for the thread... picks can make a significant difference in tone and articulation.
03-17-2014, 07:30 PM #8
- Join Date
- Jan 2014
+1 for Chicken Picks. I agree that they're limited in size options, and I find them a tad too bright on my jazz archtop, but they make an acoustic flattop just sing loud and proud (if that's what you're looking to do), more than any other pick I've tried thus far.
03-17-2014, 07:36 PM #9
- Join Date
- Jun 2009
Vernon - if you haven't tried it yet, you should try a KS60 without speed bevels. I think it sounds quite a bit better than the regular KS60.
03-17-2014, 07:43 PM #10
- Join Date
- Feb 2009
- Salt Lake City
03-17-2014, 07:57 PM #11
CoolVinny, the KS speed bevels are pretty subtle and never seem to get in my way, unlike some of the thicker Red Bear jazzers. If I could grab one cheap on ebay I'd give it a try. Thanks!
03-18-2014, 01:17 AM #12
- Join Date
- Jul 2010
I've used carol Kaye's picks available through her site forever. For bass and guitar. I can't seem to get used to anything else except maybe some d'andreas recommended by jimmy Bruno.
03-18-2014, 06:01 AM #13
Choice of pick is so personal and one can't really be sure to like what others recommend. FWIW, I have tried many, many picks, including expensive boutique picks, but I always come back to Dunlop Jazz Tone 205 and D'Andrea Proplec 358 for electric guitar (depending on my mood and the setup, including the amp, I may want a more or less audible attack) and Dunlop Ultex 1.18mm big triangular for acoustic 4-to-the-bar rhythm strumming. They work very well for me, and they are not expensive. I have a box full of them and I believe my stock will last the rest of my life."But if they all play like me, then who am I?" (Lester Young)
03-18-2014, 06:18 AM #14
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
Thanks marcwhy, I love to see boutique picks I haven't yet heard of.
Forgot another one, so I'll add it here.
SikPik Twisted Picks
(7/10) - Quite possibly the most unique pick I've come across yet. I had very little expectation that these would feel good. I can honestly say that they felt way better than I expected...nice and speedy. However there are a few times in a real playing situation when this pick got caught up and pretty much "malfunctioned". The other problem is the tone production...thin. I could be wrong, but I would guess these picks are much more at home in a metal/shredder setting. SikPik would need to develop the current design a little more in order for these to be able to be used in all musical settings.
03-18-2014, 09:11 AM #15
Here's a thin polycarbonate pick I made a few years ago, I'm using a thicker polycarbonate pick at the moment. They're easy to make yourself.“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
03-18-2014, 09:48 AM #16
- Join Date
- Mar 2011
It seems the KS60 is a wide favorite. I've never been a fan of mandolin style picks because the super dull rounded edges don't give me enough articulation. You guys don't find the rounded edges to be in the way of getting a nice clear tone? Keep in mind I'm talking about a jazz guitar application where picking single note lines is the main function.
03-18-2014, 10:02 AM #17"But if they all play like me, then who am I?" (Lester Young)
03-18-2014, 10:11 AM #18
03-18-2014, 10:21 AM #19"But if they all play like me, then who am I?" (Lester Young)
03-18-2014, 10:40 AM #20“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
03-18-2014, 11:22 AM #21
Maybe it's me or the way I hold the pick or how much I practice but it's rare that a pick makes it through a week for me. I couldn't justify $30/pick. When I find a pick I like, I usually buy a couple gross of them (144==1 gross) because manufacturing changes as do the specs.
For example, I exclusively use the 346 (rounded triangle) style picks in medium. Used to get them from fender but they changed the shape a few years ago to way more rounded than previously and I switched over to d'andrea who also recently changed the shape.
I'm now using the Clayton Acetal picks in .63mm which is a bit thin but IMO produces the best tone of any pick on the market and they're inexpensive. I bought a couple gross but may buy a couple more.
The acetal picks are very slick and do not drag at all against the string which makes them easy to play fast tempos. They also have a great tone for digging in and using rest strokes and they really bring out the acoustic properties in your instrument.
You can hear the acoustic sound of the pick on this recent clip I did where I was 10 inches away from the microphone and using this pick.
03-18-2014, 12:16 PM #22
I've pretty much settled on the D'Andrea pro-plecs for most situations, except for acoustic archtop where I prefer a little more oomph of the John Pearse Fast Turtle.
I've tried the Blue Chips, and found them unimpressive.
Where I'll spend the bigger bucks on picks is for gypsy jazz playing...there you really need a Wegen, Dugain, or Moustache, at least 3mm...the sound really depends on it.Jeff Matz, Jazz Guitar:
"Of what use is a dream, if not a blueprint for courageous action?"
--Adam West, as Batman, 1966.
03-18-2014, 10:01 PM #23
Great reviews! Thanks.
I have a few favorites, some boutique, some inexpensive. Sometimes I'll use specific ones for specific tunes. They all have their own quality tone-wise, but which one I choose is a lot about which one feels right at the moment.
Here's a pic of the plectrums in my toolbox. A short(er) list would be the Red Bear Lil' Jazzer and No. 9 (old specs), the BC Jazz and the (very) inexpensive Traynor.
03-19-2014, 03:50 AM #24
maybe of interest -
03-19-2014, 09:19 AM #25
Where is that accent from?
03-19-2014, 01:55 PM #26
you mean the video? The guy is Norwegian...
03-19-2014, 02:10 PM #27
Boy was I off! I was guessing he was from some remote part of Britain, maybe some obscure corner of Scotland. By the way, he is the first jazz player I've seen willing to pay $75 for a pick. That sounds outrageously high to me.
03-19-2014, 02:16 PM #28
03-19-2014, 02:36 PM #29
03-19-2014, 05:20 PM #30
regarding pricing - I tend to agree with Morten. Personally I dont use designer picks, but if that stuff actually improves tone, then its cheap. Any stomp box costs significantly more, not to mention guitars and amps.