Boutique guitar picks are a lot more expensive than the mass-produced ones you can buy in every guitar shop. But still, there are a lot more reasons to buy them than reasons not to. From supporting local (or international) small makers, to drastically improving your guitar tone. It can even be argued that using a good boutique pick saves a lot of money in the long run.
Over the past few years, I’ve been following this amazing community of boutique Plectiers (yes, there’s a name for that). I found nothing but mutual support and a warm sense of community, during rough times of social distancing and uncertainty. In this article, I want to share some of the things I learned about the world of high-end picks, and maybe provide a fresh perspective for how a pick that costs 15 times or more than your ordinary Dunlop is well worth the investment.
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Reason #1: Huge variety of materials
When it comes to boutique picks, there aren’t too many limits to materials. Just as there’s a difference between nylon and delrin picks, any one of hundreds of different materials used by boutique pick makers provides a whole different sound. Each one with its own character. A wooden pick will sound warmer than a metal one. Stone picks are relatively warm too, but their warmth gives a different character to the sound. Leather picks are known for sounding like you pick with your fingers (for obvious reasons). Other than these, there’s acrylic, resin, epoxy, glass, felt, tagua, bone, horn, carbon fiber, and there are even guitar picks made out of meteorites. Not to forget all the different species of wood, types of stone, and different kinds of metals. On top of all these, some makers create their picks using ordinary materials such as delrin, nylon, celluloid, vinyl, or materials they developed by themselves.
Reason #2: Shapes… So many shapes
Boutique Pick makers are known for taking creative freedom with their designs and making tons of experiments. As a result, you are expected to get a unique pick, with a shape that supports your style of playing. Whether you like your attack extra sharp or super clear, or just hate the clickiness of thin plastic picks – there’s a good pick made just for that. Some designs are made with comfort in mind, some for superb playability, and some designs are created just for the sake of creativity.
Reason #3: Unique and superior tone
A big part of being a musician is “finding your sound” and sounding unique enough to be instantly recognizable. So naturally, when you combine unique material and design you’ll get a unique tone. You’ll never believe how much a pick can enhance your tone until you tried a pick that was designed for the tone you were looking for. I’d even go farther and say that a pick can affect your tone no less than your pickup.
Reason #4: Ergonomics and less hand fatigue
While playing guitar is a lot of fun, sometimes it results in a painful wrist and palm. Some makers are known for making ergonomic picks to help just with that. Whether by creating it extra thick (it’s more comfortable than you think) or by designing it to “force” you into a healthier posture. Thicker or ergonomic picks can help with both easing Carpal Tunnel pain and with preventing it.
Reason #5: Consistency
One of my biggest problems with “simple” guitar picks is their lack of consistency. Every time I pluck a string it sounds too different. Now, It’s not true for every handmade pick (and I’m surely not the most skilled guitar player ever lived). But generally, I found that picking is more consistent when I play with thicker and heavier picks (6-7mm), but that’s just me. When I play a fast riff or a relatively fast piece, I don’t want to think too much about my hand posture. And that’s exactly what I get with this type of picks.
Reason #6: Best support and service
It may not sound important, but with this huge variety, you often need to ask the makers some questions before making an order. Most boutique pick makers are active on Instagram and will happily answer any question you may have. Some will even recommend a different maker if they think you’ll have a better experience with one of their designs.
Reason #7: Customization
Most Boutique Pick makers are taking custom orders. Whether you want a different grip, sharper tip, a rainbow-colored combination of resin, wood, and metal, or just your name engraved. I want to end this short point by wishing you the best of luck talking Ernie Ball into making you a red Prodigy pick.
Reason #8: Creativity inspires creativity
Just as much as picking up a classical nylon guitar won’t inspire you to play heavy djent riffs as well as your 9 string Jackson. When playing with a boutique guitar pick you’ll find yourself playing in a way that will surprise you. I play differently with titanium or wooden pick than I play with my standard fender mediums. I think a lot of it comes from the creativity involved in making handmade guitar picks. It just inspires you to play more creatively.
Reason #9: Extreme durability
While the average celluloid pick can last anywhere between a few weeks to 4-5 months, most boutique guitar picks will easily last years. Of course, there are some exceptions. Wooden picks, for example, will require some sanding after a few months. But the average high-end pick will easily last 10 times longer than the mass-produced ones.
Reason #10: They really aren’t that expensive
When factoring in their impact on tone and durability, I bet you can easily understand why an investment of even $30 for a single pick is easily worth it. Most picks cost anywhere between $5-6 to $20, so it sweetens the deal even more. Just think about the cost of changing the tone of your rig, and you’ll see that boutique guitar picks are very cost-effective.
It’s easy to get lost when first entering the realm of boutique guitar picks, but there’s a lot of information you can read online. There are tons of pick reviews on Youtube and even here on this site, in the Pick Reviews section. A quick Instagram search will also give you great results, and if you want to skip the research and go straight to buying them, Heavy Repping’s shop is a great place to buy quality boutique guitar picks straight from the makers.