At the end of the day, Eddie Van Halen is going to sound like Eddie Van Halen whether he’s playing a $100 Strat, or one of his signature guitars. We guitar players lust over gear, and while we should probably spend that time on playing or practicing, it’s natural to want “just one more pedal” or guitar.
Choosing a guitar pick never was a personal thing for me. I found out what Kirk Hammett of Metallica was using, and for years that’s what worked for me — the Dunlop .88mm green Tortex pick. I still think these are fantastic everyday picks, but one day I wanted to see what else was out there.
I reached out to a couple bigger manufacturers who sent me some picks, and some small manufacturers as well. There are countless pick makers out there, and I’m sure you’ll let me know who I missed! In this post I’m going to go over four different companies that I have experience with, and what their picks have to offer. Let’s get picking!
Howling Monkey Picks
The first people I reached out to were Howling Monkey who are out of Rochester, New York. I was interested in how they handmade their picks from Tagua material, which is a nut! I also liked the look of their handmade pistol grip.
When I got my standard sized Howling Monkey pick, it came in a very cool pouch, and was a unique green with hints of brown. The pistol grip was fantastic, and I used the pick for weeks. It was the first pick I tried after switching away from a Dunlop pick. You could instantly tell that this was handmade, in a good way, and was a nice change from “big brand” picks.
The standard pick has a great feel to it, never slipped out of my hands because of the grip, and was a good thickness so I didn’t feel like I was going to lose control while playing.
After a couple of weeks I am seeing some slight chipping on one of the edges, which is concerning, but overall I can see myself buying one of these picks again in the future.
The picks come in a number of different shapes and colors, and Howling Monkey has a lot of cool merch with their fun monkey logo on it. If you’re looking for a step up from your everyday pick, and don’t want to break the bank, try a Howling Monkey.
Check out Howling Monkey at HowlingMonkeyPicks.com
Next, I reached out to Gravity Picks in California who were nice enough to send me 2 variety packs — one with bevels, and one without. The picture I took doesn’t do these picks justice. You have to see them in person to really appreciate how when light hits them, they basically glow at the edges.
Aesthetics aside, Gravity Picks has a huge selection of pick and grip styles. If you’re a fan of a regular sized pick, they have you covered. More a fan of a Jazz III style? They make one of those as well. I wasn’t a huge fan of their bevels, but their picks overall feel great in the hand. I feel like that has a lot to do with the acrylic material they’re using.
I had a good time using their thick pick variety pack. These picks were a joy to play with, and have lasted for weeks. Some of them have even been through the wash and have survived.
Gravity makes some picks super pointy, and others more round. It depends on what playing style or guitar you’re using, but there’s a pick here for every occasion. Some of the rounder ones are perfect for strumming along on your acoustic, while some of the pointer picks are perfect for quick lead playing.
Go physically see one of these picks in person, hold it and see how cool the material feels, and start playing some riffs! They even have a custom shop where you can put different text on your picks, and some really beautiful looking display cases to house your entire Gravity collection.
You can find Gravity Picks over at GravityPicks.com
Red Bear picks
Red Bear picks have changed my playing completely. These picks aren’t inexpensive, and it’s because they’re made by a small operation (just 2 people) in Utah.
There are a couple of fun things I love about Red Bear the company. The first is that their online shop opens up once a week, and whatever picks are for sale, once they’re sold out, you have to wait until next week to see what else will be available. It’s always exciting to see what style or colors will show up. Take a look at their website, and you’ll see just how beautiful these picks are, and they look even better in person.
The second thing is that Guthrie Govan, my favorite guitar player of the last 5 years, has a signature pick from Red Bear. I’ve been fortunate enough to purchase 3 Red Bear picks, and these are the best picks I’ve ever used in nearly 20 years of playing guitar.
So far I’ve tried the Guthrie Govan signature, the Style No. 9 in heavy gauge with speed bevel, and a Big Jazzer in Confetti. All of these picks’ bevels are incredible, and have changed my playing for the better. 2 of the picks have holes for grips, and that’s helped them not slip out of my hand when playing for a long period of time.
The thickness and material that they’re using makes them seem indestructible. I’ve been playing with all 3 for a couple of months, and haven’t seen any real signs of wear. The thickness and construction lead to an amazing tone, whether I’m playing electric or acoustic.
The material, according to Red Bear is nearly identical to using a turtle shell pick. And while the picks are in the upper 20 to 30 dollar range for each one, these picks seem like they’ll last for years. Red Bear has a customer for life — thanks for making such a great product!
Check out Red Bear at RedBearTrading.com
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Jim Dunlop picks
I can’t finish out the review without bringing up my original favorite pick manufacturer, Jim Dunlop. Dunlop not only makes great picks, but makes tons of great effects pedals, including the Crybaby Wah, the entire MXR line, and lots more.
The green Dunlop Tortex is one of the most common picks you’ll see guitar players use. Dunlop was nice enough to send me a variety pack of their regular picks of all different shapes and sizes, and another pack of signature series picks.
You can’t go wrong with with any of the Tortex picks, or their Jazz III (another legendary pick that tons of players use). In the signature series pack I was able to try out Kirk Hammett’s signature pick, which is a modified Jazz III in green that Kirk’s said has changed his entire playing.
I also tried Tosin Abasi’s (from Animals As Leaders) signature pick, which was kind of underwhelming for such a great player.
If you’re looking for more grip, you should check out Dunlop’s Nylon picks, which are almost impossible to lose when you’re playing. The gauge is important here, and they come in a wide variety depending on what your playing style is.
With Dunlop, I suggest getting one of their variety packs, and seeing what you like best. They’ve made such a wide variety, that you’re sure to find something that works for you, at a pretty great price point.
You can find Dunlop picks at JimDunlop.com
What guitar picks do you use?
Many of these pick manufacturers let you purchase a variety pack so you can try different shapes, gauges, and bevels on your picks. That’s one of the best ways you can find what pick works best for you.
Whether it’s the everyday Jim Dunlop Tortex’s or the boutique Red Bear picks, you have to choose what works for your playing style. What picks do you use? Let me know by reaching out on Twitter or Facebook.