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The banjo reviews database is here to help educate people before they purchase an instrument. Of course, this is not meant to be a substitute for playing the instrument yourself!

7055 reviews in the archive.

Picks: Blue Chip Thumb Pick

Submitted by 5-String on 12/10/2014

Where Purchased: Manufacturer's website

Overall Comments

These thumb picks come in 3 sizes for your thumb (small, med., & large), and in 2 blade lengths. Picks with the shorter blade length are designated as the "J.D. Crowe" version. Initially, I ordered one medium and one large J.D. Crowe thumb pick, not knowing which size would best fit my thumb, and the pictures currently available online can be a bit deceiving with regard to size.

First of all, the price for these picks, $40.00, is ridiculously high, to put it politely. However, at this time they do offer a 30 day return policy, should you order the wrong size, or otherwise not be satisfied.

The picks arrived in a clear plastic tube with blue rubber caps on the end, which was then packed in a padded envelope.

I do not consider my thumbs to be particularly large, but the medium sized pick is too small for me to use comfortably. I would recommend ordering the large, unless you have thumbs of exceptionally low girth (children, petite ladies, etc.). I measured the circumference of my thumb, at the point where I wear a thumbpick, to be about 2 5/8 to 2 3/4".  The large pick fits me perfectly. Also, the stainless steel loop is not very flexible compared to a plastic thumbpick. So, for those people that tend to wear their pick further back on their thumb, by pushing the thumb further through the loop, stretching it open, a larger size BlueChip would be advised. The loop is fluted out on both ends so there are no sharp edges on which to scrape the thumb.  

My preferred thumbpick for the past decade or so has been the large, Fred Kelly Slick Pick. I liked this pick for the following two reasons. First, the blade is very short compared to other thumbpicks on the market. I have never been able to train my thumb to not brush the banjo head when playing with other thumbpicks that have longer blades. The Slick Pick solved this problem. Second, the tone of the Slick Picks seems to match that of my fingerpicks much better than any other thumbpick. For example, if I played a series of notes with another thumbpick, I could more easily tell, by ear, which notes were played by the thumb, and which were played by my fingers.

The tone of the BlueChip pick is more clear than that of the Fred Kelly pick. There is no "pick noise" whatsoever. Also, it produces the same tone, no matter what angle I strike the strings. When I play a Scruggs style "roll" my thumb tends to stay at one particular angle relative to the strings. However, if I play a "single string" phrase with my thumb and index finger, my thumb tends to rotate to a slightly different angle relative to the string, but the tone remains the same. This was not the case with the Fred Kelly pick.

Finally, I had to send both thumbpicks back because even though I had ordered the J.D. Crowe version with the shorter blade, the blade was still way too long. It was about as long as several other plastic thumbpicks that I had laying around. Once again, I found myself brushing the banjo head with every stroke of my thumb, which was frustrating and not very pleasant to hear. I compared the blade length to my trusty Fred Kelly pick and found it to be about 5/32" longer. So, I emailed Matthew Goins at BlueChip Picks and asked him if he could make a custom pick that was the same as the J.D. Crowe, but with the blade shorter by 5/32". He replied that it would not be a problem. I returned my picks and my new one arrived about 2 weeks later. Note that there are no refunds on custom ordered picks.

Overall, the blade is just the right length for me. It is more comfortable to wear, since it does not squeeze my thumb like the plastic, large Fred Kelly pick. Also, the loop wraps all the way around the thumb and touches the top of the blade, *almost* eliminating the problem of snagging a string, which happens often enough with other picks, including the Fred Kelly picks. (I can confirm that, if you are really tired, sloppy, or lazy, it is technically not impossible to still snag a string.) The tone is noticeably more clear, and matches that of the finger picks better, in rolls and single string style. The bottom of the pick is not flat. There are two rivets that attach the blade to the stainless steel loop. If using a very steep-angled brush stoke, with the blade almost parallel to the strings, these rivets will snag the strings. This type of stroke is very rarely used by most players, and the problem can be mitigated by brushing at a slightly smaller angle. The price is very high for a thumbpick, but I've used the same Fred Kelly thumbpick for at least a decade, never having lost it, so I was willing to fork over the money to give it a try. Overall, I am extremely satisfied with everything about the product, except the price (rating 9/10). I would highly recommend a BlueChip thumbpick, if the price is tolerable.

There are three pictures related to this review on my profile page. One shows the packaging. The other two show a top view and a side view of my custom ordered BlueChip pick next to my Fred Kelly Slick Pick.

Overall Rating: 9

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