The folks at Blue Chip Picks, whose line of composite flatpicks have hit the mark with some of the top guitarists and mandolinists in bluegrass music, have now released a line of thumbpicks for banjo players.
The pick material is riveted onto the blade of a metal thumbpick band, and I must say that after playing with one for a short time, the pick struck me as quite comfortable, and produced a very nice tone.
Blue Chip has a patent pending for the pick material, which they describe as follows…
They are made of a specially formulated composite material that will withstand very high temperatures and is extremely wear resistant. It contains special lubricants which make the picks very fast off the strings.
Many users of the flatpicks have agreed that these Blue Chip picks capture both the feel and tone of tortoise shell, without the wear and maintenance issues associated with shell – not to mention the fact that these are easily available and 100% legal.
Among banjo players, they have the hurdle of overcoming a traditional resistance to metal thumbpicks. Those who especially favor the way a shell picks feel around the thumb will miss that with these picks, but some experimenting with thumb attack should allow them to get the same tone.
Metal bands, of course, are much easier to shape, and won’t tend to expand and “open up” from the heat of your hand. Pickers who are more accustomed to the lower cost of plastic thumbpicks may balk at the $40 cost per pick, but that would not be high for shell, and higher quality fingerpicks can sell for nearly this amount.
Blue Chip offers two different pick blade styles, each available in a large and medium size. One style is designed to largely mimic the blade size and angle of a National ¬Æ pick, and the other – designed in cooperation with JD Crowe -has a wider, shorter blade.
You can find additional photos and more details on the Blue Chip Picks web site.