The Peak of Pick Innovation – The Black Mountain Thumb Pick Evolves the Humble Thumb Pick Into a Mighty Tonal Force

In the world of gear, it often seems like everything old is new again. Despite the wealth of sophisticated software-driven amplifiers available, tubes still reign over much of the sonic landscape. New drive pedals seem to emerge on an hourly basis, but they often echo revered designs from decades past instead of forging unconquered ground.


Get Pricing on Black Mountain Thumbpicks

With the constant refinement and reinterpretation of pedals, amps, and guitars occurring regularly, one might think that the humble thumbpick and it’s relative simplicity has morphed a thousand times over since it’s birth in the 19th century. That’s certainly what Cole McBride, founder of Black Mountain Picks, thought as he searched for something better and more versatile than the current offerings. When his search came up empty, he took on the role of thumbpick pioneer.

Inspired by the name of the mountain McBride grew up next to, the Black Mountain Thumb Pick is a legitimately fresh take on a centuries-old design. The Black Mountain Thumb Pick combines the feel and familiarity of a traditional flatpick with a patented, coil spring-loaded thumb ring, providing an easy, comfortable fit from the moment it’s put on. For musicians that are unsatisfied with traditional thumb pick comfort and design, seeking to move between flatpicked and fingerpicked styles effortlessly, wanting greater pick control and stability, or simply looking for a fresh take on the humble guitar plectrum, the Black Mountain Thumb Pick offers a range of benefits not available in other picks currently on the market.

The flat pick portion is a modified 1.5 millimeter durable nylon pick with a beveled edge for enhanced speed and reduced drag, resulting in superb string-feel and tone on guitar, banjo, steel, autoharp, ukulele, and other stringed instruments. The overall result is a more natural, responsive playing experience for flatpickers and fingerstylists alike.

Building a Better Thumbpick

A professional guitar teacher with a roster of over fifty students, McBride was frustrated that there wasn’t a pick out there which could easily cover a range of flat-picked and finger-picked styles.

“I teach a lot of rock guitar in my lessons which involves alternate picking, but I also teach a lot of folk and blues style fingerpicking guitar as well as some classical, latin and flamenco,” McBride told via email. “I think it’s hard to find a guitar player who hasn’t dabbled in both fingerstyle as well as flatpicking traditions.

“Imagine being able to do a soft fingerstyle guitar intro to a song, and then go into an alternate picked riff, and then a fast, tremelo picked solo, finishing the song with a soft fingerstyle outro.  Imagine doing this all seemlessly and effortlessly with the same guitar pick.”

Inspired by the opportunity to shake up the plectrum world, McBride decided to have a go at building a better pick. He tested out numerous design concepts in the course of fulfilling the demands of his busy playing schedule.

“At first, I experimented with rubber bands, ‘frankenstein-ed’ different thumb picks to flat picks, melted, riveted and screwed plastic together,” McBride noted. “Then I thought of a spring.”

As it turned out, not much had been to elevate thumb pick design beyond some some different ways of shaping the tip. Nor had a coil spring, which seemed like a no-brainer to McBride when it came to maximizes fit and comfort, ever been employed.

“I googled it and nobody had done it. So I thought I better do it,'” McBride said.

“In American legend, the modern thumb pick evolved from modified sewing thimbles used by blues musicians in the late nineteenth century who were imitating the ragtime piano,” McBride said, describing the syncopated guitar stylings popular from the late nineteenth century all the way up through Great Depression era and into today. The intricate  right-hand intensive style can often fool listeners into thinking that more than one guitar is playing a song, even if the performer is solo.

“Coil springs have been around since the renaissance, and thumb picks since at least the medieval ages, but are probably much older,” said McBride. “Why nobody in the last 400 hundred years didn’t think to put a coil spring and a thumb pick together I’m not sure, but I guess it’s probably just random and there isn’t any reason for it. I personally couldn’t believe it hadn’t been done before. When I thought of the idea, I had no choice but to get it done!

“I started by using the prototypes I developed on my own during my lessons and gigs. I would tweak the design according to my observations about how it could be improved, which led to hundreds of different prototypes,” McBride said. “After about a year of doing this, I felt I had a design I thought was pretty close. So I took things to the next level and handed out prototype picks to professional players who gig regularly to get their feedback. These players were extremely helpful and informed the final design a lot, which led to more changes. The pick you see today, is an amalgamation of this entire process into a final design which represents hundreds of different prototypes and feedback from dozens of professional players.”

Black Mountain Picks officially launched in July 2019, and McBride’s tested, proven concept has quickly developed a devoted following. In less than two years, the Black Mountain Thumb Pick has made its way into more than eighty retailers in seven countries around the world. Players have also responded well to the design.

“The first comment I get from most people when they try it on, is how comfortable it is,” McBride said.

McBride has remained hands-on throughout the process. Until recently, he was assembling the picks by hand himself. Black Mountain Thumb Picks are assembled in Vancouver, British Columbia entirely from North American parts.

“Now I have friends doing it for me so I can focus on growing the business,” McBride said.

Not only is the business growing, but McBride’s innovative approach to pick design continues to push forward.

“We are currently running a pre-order campaign for a left-handed model, which is on the website, and we are committed to having them available by the end of the year, but hopefully much sooner,” McBride said.  “We have already completed the development stage for a thin gauge pick, and we plan to release this in the next few months. There is also a smaller ring size for extra small to medium sized thumbs, and a universal adapter coming down the pipeline soon!

“I think for anybody who is already using a thumb pick, it would definitely be worth trying a Black Mountain pick to see if it suits your style,” McBride concluded. “I think that the Black Mountain pick is a natural evolution of the guitar pick, and it’s going to lead to more innovation and better and better thumb picks.  I feel that this journey is not finished, and I’m glad to be on the road towards the ultimate thumb pick. I’m constantly both humbled and exhilarated by the quest.”


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