Greg Allen has bluegrass music in his veins. As a young man he played banjo behind his famous father, Red Allen, and later with his brothers, Ronnie, Neal, and Harley, as The Allen Brothers. The boys were at the forefront of the new bluegrass sound being developed in the 1970s, and recorded a half dozen albums for King, Lemco, Rounder, and Folkways.
No longer touring actively, Greg remains in the business as a highly sought-after banjo instructor in Dayton, OH. He has developed a method for teaching bluegrass banjo that has proved quite successful with his students, and he offers private lessons on banjo, mandolin, and guitar from his studio in Dayton, and via Skype online. Many pickers in central Ohio also trust Allen to do set up and repairs on their instruments.
Greg now also has his own line of fingerpicks, designed after a full career of playing the old five. They are unlike any others I have seen, combining a number of features from other popular picks, and a couple tweaks of his own.
The Greg Allen Signature Model Picks are made from stainless steel for a lifetime of durability. The stainless makes them very stiff and rigid, which means that it takes a little bit longer to shape them to your fingers, but once that’s done, you’ll have to mash them pretty hard to change the shape. Polished to a high sheen, the picks are extremely smooth and slick, and glide off the strings with no resistance. Perhaps the most positive aspect of using stainless steel for picks is that they won’t develop the “black crud” that can build up when finger oils on the strings react with the nickel-silver alloy used for most fingerpicks.
Instead of holes in the bands, these picks have a channel cut out along most of the band length. Given the rigidity of the material, this seemed to make them a bit easier to shape, while the use of stainless removes worries about structural integrity.
The pick blade comes to a distinct point at the end, not so sharp that you would need to worry about tearing your flesh, but far smaller than the blade ends on the prototypical National-style picks. It is possible that the combination of the stainless and the sharp end may result in a thinner tone when you first try these, but you can modify that by some experimentation with hand position and where you strike the strings.
The back of the picks each have Greg’s name and logo lightly etched, but far enough down so as to prevent any pick wear from rubbing them off.
These are much smaller than the popular Sammy Shelor stainless steel picks, and should be a viable alternative for anyone who found those a bit large for their fingers.
Allen sells a pair for $19.95, or $21.95 for a set with rubber-coated bands for greater comfort.
The Greg Allen Signature Picks are an extremely well made, professional-quality product that are well worth your attention.
See them, and Greg’s other innovative banjo products and instructional materials online.