For many banjo players, the gold standard of picks are vintage National fingerpicks, particularly ones like those from the 1940s and ’50s that Earl Scruggs and others used to make bluegrass music history. While old Nationals can be found for purchase in varying conditions online, often for upwards of $100, several current-day pick companies have created their own versions, marketed to players who enjoy well-fitting picks and a smooth, balanced tone. Deering Banjos is one of the latest companies to throw their hat in the vintage-style ring with the introduction of the ProPik Heritage Fingerpicks.
These picks, made of nickel and retailing for $14 per pick, are modeled on the set worn by Scruggs for the 1950 recording of Pike County Breakdown, and later given to Dobro legend Tut Taylor. According to Deering, the blades of the picks are individually buffed and angled backwards to make them feel already broken in. After shaping the picks to my fingers and playing them for about a week, I found them to be a high-quality product and consistent with other reproduction styles already on the market. The effort that Deering made to shape the picks helped them to have little-to-no pick noise and to play incredibly smoothly. The picks have obviously been beveled and polished well, making them enjoyable to use.
The Heritage Fingerpicks are just one of three new styles introduced by Deering this summer; also just released are the Progressive Fingerpicks and Super-Tone Thumbpick. The Progressive Fingerpicks are an updated version of ProPik’s single wrap pick, with three progressively larger holes around the finger to help make them more secure. They do definitely grip well! The band gets narrower as it wraps around to the blade, which is a feature added for comfort, according to Deering. However, for someone used to traditional-style picks, they are a bit hard to get used to simply because the band fits so differently. In comparison with the Heritage Fingerpicks, they are not as smooth or as beveled, but are a less expensive option, at $7 per pick.
The Super-Tone Thumbpick, selling for $35, will be enjoyed by players who like the feel or adjustability of a metal band. The pick consists of a solid nickel band and a blade made of Peek plastic. Peek is visibly thicker and denser than most other plastic thumbpick blades. This is exciting news for the banjo world, as it presents yet another option for a comfortable, reliable thumbpick. The pick is shaped in such a way – with no square edges – that it glides across the strings just as smoothly as high-quality metal fingerpicks, leading to a consistent sound from the first use.
All in all, the new picks from ProPik are fine options for both new and experienced players, especially those who like to experiment with sound and tone. The price point is comparable with other brands that offer similar styles, with the Super-Tone Thumbpick slightly less expensive than competitors, and the Heritage Fingerpick just a bit more costly than other reproduction picks on the market. Another neat option from ProPik is their $5 metal pick case, which is lined with felt to help protect your picks. The case is durable and large enough to hold plenty of picks yet still fit easily in your pocket.