When you walk into an instrument shop, or explore the vast world of online instrument sales, you might find yourself looking at many instruments at wildly different price points. At Sylvan Music alone we have guitars ranging from $120 to well over $10,000 and everything in between. So customers commonly ask, "what makes an instrument expensive?" and "how much do you have to spend to get a 'good' instrument?".
Well, to answer the first question we must look at a variety of factors. One of the largest being the materials used in the construction of the instrument, whether the body/neck are laminated or solid wood, as well as the type and quality of that wood. The quality of the hardware and, on electric instruments, the pickups and electronics, also factor into the overall price. Another factor in determining the price of an instrument would be how and where it was made, guitars made in the United States tend to cost more than those made overseas, and those made by hand tend to cost more than guitars made primarily by machine. Yet another factor in price can be the look of an instrument, relic, inlay or binding options, or simply the name on the headstock.
As to whether all those things that make an instrument so costly really matter to you or whether pricy instruments are worth every dollar they cost is a question that really only the buyer can answer for themselves. For many people that answer is yes, but just because an instrument is expensive doesn't always mean it's the best for you. Really great instruments can be found at most all price points, it just might take some looking. It’s yet another great reason to come in to Sylvan Music and try some instruments out, you might be surprised by the price of what you your fingers and ears like.
What is a “Blue Chip”?
No, we’re not talking about those delicious blue corn chips from Trader Joe’s or an A-list stock option. Blue Chip is a pick manufacturer based in Knoxville, TN, and the picks they produce are highly prized, particularly among tone aficionados such as mandolin Jedi Chris Thile, jazz guitar guru Julian Lage, bluegrass guitar heavyweight Bryan Sutton, and the list sails on into the blazing, slightly bronze tinged Americana sunset.
If you’re used to spending spare change for picks, and losing them just as quickly, an investment in a Blue Chip pick - and make no mistake, it certainly is an investment at almost $40 each!- might seem a stretch.
As a lifelong lover of sweet acoustic flat-picking tone, and having gone through a twenty-five year long path through dozens of Fender Mediums, a slightly less embarrassing number of Dunlop Jazz III’s, to a single purple Dunlop “Little Stubby” I used for years until it was no more than a small plastic circle, not dissimilar from 50’s depictions of UFO’s.
Those days were behind me following a chance encounter with a man in Berkeley, California in 2012, who lead me to the wonderful Wegen pick I used until the day I purchased my first Blue Chip.
It was on my first trip to Nashville, Tennessee in 2014 when I stumbled across a guitar shop that carried these famously infamous - or perhaps infamously famous - Blue Chip picks.
I sat for thirty minutes that day, switching rigorously and attentively between my worn-in Wegen and this five-times-the-price, worth it’s weight in gold, pick of destiny, as legend might tell it. In the end, however, the shootout did indeed lead to a clear and decisive winner, and I have never looked back.
I’m on my fourth Blue Chip today. That’s four picks in five years, the BC LG Jazz being my particular shape and size of choice. I use them everyday for about a year and some months before I start emotionally preparing to buy a new one.
I have never lost any of my Blue Chip picks, though there have been many close calls. I gave one to a friend some time ago, and the other three I still have at the time of writing this blog post. I use one, so does my partner, and we have one current backup in a safety deposit box at a local bank. Generally, my primary pick is either between my thumb and index finger of my right hand, or safely tucked into a separate fold in my wallet.
That all may sound like a lot, but let me tell you, these picks are the real deal and well worth both the investment and the extra bit of small-object-awareness required to keep track of such a lightweight and often mysteriously jumpy, evasive invention.
The sound and feel are distinct from any other pick I’ve tried, and lasts far longer just as their website describes. For more information about Blue Chip picks, check out their website http://bluechippick.net, or come into Sylvan Music and experience them in person.